If you have ever wondered whether your saddle might be limiting either your horse’s ability or your own performance as a rider you should think about having a test ride and trying several different saddle designs all of which fit your horse.
Plainly if the horse is uncomfortable in its saddle it will be unable to perform to its fullest potential. In many cases an ill-fitting saddle will cause pain, behavioural problems and at the very least resistance.
So it is of the utmost importance to have a saddle which is as sympathetic to the horse as possible, which keeps friction and pressure to the minimum and allows freedom of movement.
Riders are often unaware that faults in their riding can be aggravated if not caused by their saddle. This can happen with a badly balanced saddle which may then also cause problems to the horse but also with a saddle which has not taken a specific rider’s height, build and ability into account. As well as the correct size for the horse and rider, the lowest part of the seat, the angle of the flaps, the support of the knee rolls and where they are positioned as well as the width of the twist all play a huge part in helping the rider achieve an independent seat and hands, and ride to his/her full potential.
We are particularly proud of our two new dressage saddles the Elite and the Elite Pro where "We have listened to the world's elite riders and have crafted a saddle with the utmost feel and closest of contact which is still sympathetic to the horse - reducing pressure and resistance whilst optimising freedom of movement and performance." These designs came about from our close association with Vanessa Way and working with her whilst she was based at Carl Hester's yard in the UK last year. Many of NZ's top riders have adopted these saddles already and are thrilled with their new level of contact and communication
To be able to help a rider through this minefield is a very skilled job and at NSC we have made a study to help riders towards this goal both with the design of our saddles and way they fit the horse. We use many different shape trees and supporting panels as well differently constructed seats to get the “perfect fit” for both horse and rider and we know a frustration is often that it is impossible for the rider to know exactly what the specifications of their saddle are……not all Medium Wides are created equal!!
Before the Test Ride:
We will have asked you for a detailed brief of your horse as well as your height and build, the discipline you are pursuing and the level at which you are working. We often ask for a photo shot of the horse standing four square on level ground and another taken from above the croup back towards the withers. Any information you have about problems encountered with other saddles in general as well as likes and preferences you may have is also useful.
From this information we can take an educated guess which saddles to bring to your test ride. At NSC we have upwards of 250 saddles so there are plenty to choose from and the above info is a necessity in selecting “possibles” and “probables” for you to try.
At the Test Ride:
Each horse is individually assessed; we take the back profile and discuss the horse’s history. Then we proceed to trying some possible saddles on the horse. Almost all the saddles tried will be new and ALL OUR SADDLES ARE TEST SADDLES – at NSC we cannot see the point of you trying any saddle that doesn’t fit your horse or is out of balance. At this stage the saddle is likely to sit quite high on the back and again knowledge of the individual saddle is important in recognising how much closer the saddle will get once the saddle is girthed and weighted.
Next we get the extra dynamic of Movement and NSC strongly believe that you cannot adequately fit a saddle on a stationary horse Sometimes we now get a radically different picture and have to go back and change the saddles selected for others with slightly different features which will maintain better balance or stability.
As the test ride progresses we get feedback from the rider and occasionally the horse will work markedly better in a particular saddle.
Video clips are usually taken at this point of the rider in each saddle and these can be perused later by the rider and are kept as an invaluable reference.
NSC encourages trainers and instructors to participate at this crucial test ride process. Customers are often more comfortable if their trainer who knows their strengths and weaknesses has an input and particularly if a change in normal riding posture causes them to move out of their “comfort” zone.
When a rider is still unsure at the end of this process and needs longer to evaluate NSC can often offer an extended test ride – this allows the customer to try the saddle in privacy for up to a week and a fee of $100 only is due if the saddle is returned – see Customer Information Pack for all these details as well as our 4 Month Exchange Policy and the Part Exchange Policy on NSC saddles.
NSC charge $150 including GST per horse assessment and this entitles you to an hour of our saddler/saddle fitter’s time at a suitable venue - after the hour we charge $20 per quarter of an hour.