Pippa has owned and loved Arabian horses before, so when she looked to buy her next long-term equine companion, she chose from Devon based Combe Farm Arabians a home bred 15hh chestnut gelding by the name of Prince Alexus.
She describes him as being “a beautiful mover and a real dude”. Alexus’s life so far has been primarily running with a herd from a youngster until he was backed at 12 years old by Combe Farm Arabians. He benefitted from the stud’s knowledge of Arabs and all the social interaction between the free-ranging horses.
Never having seen much of the world, moving to his new home with Pippa made him anxious and reactive. Sensibly, Pippa has taken time and is working with Angela Attew of Angelford Equestrian, Behavioural & Bodywork Therapy who uses the Warwick Schiller Principals of Training.
Pippa knew from her previous experience with Arabs that it can be hard to get a saddle to fit their conformation correctly and comfortably. This was compounded by the concern that she had a physically mature but inexperienced horse. Having researched many different saddles, WOW stood out for her as ticking all the boxes she needed. It would ensure his comfort, could be fitted precisely to his conformation, and be adjusted to his changing shape as he started to work consistently for the first time in his life. An additional problem was that Pippa was still concentrating on his groundwork – no-one had sat on him for six months – so initially the saddle fit would need to be assessed without a rider, with scope for significant adjustment in the future. Again, WOW has extensive adjustability options to meet this need.
When WOW fitter Jenny Basham arrived, she saw a handsome chestnut with a high wither, quite narrow in front and the typical Arab short rib cage. That view already told her she would need WOWs special ‘short’ panels on him that are designed to provide a large bearing area but not extend quite as far back as normal under a given seat size.
The WOW saddle construction allows a fitter to select the tree curvature, panels and headplate which are correct for the horse, before assessing the seat and flaps for the rider. The first step was to place WOW’s Saddle Gauge on Alexus to determine each of these components. Jenny then saw him lunged, to provide some guide through a visual assessment of how the fit readings might be affected when the horse was being ridden.
Commenting on this process, Pippa says:
“Jenny was hugely respectful of Alexus’s space and his reactions. He has his anxieties, and she never bulldozed him, stepping back for a moment if he was unsettled. She has that compassion and understanding of horses which gives me huge confidence.”
Stationary, Alexus appeared to need a semi-curved tree, but as is typical of many Arabs, he changed shape significantly when moving, and Jenny could see a flat tree combined with 16” short tabbed panels was the right set-up for him. Jenny then sat Pippa on various seats and flaps on a saddle horse. Pippa was most comfortable in a Continental seat with VSD fixed block +1” flaps. The Continental is a good seat for both flatwork and jumping; its cantle is flatter than a Deep seat so the rider has more room which was right for Pippa in the 16” version. The VSD are excellent general purpose flaps for riders who will be doing mainly flatwork including hacking, and the extra inch of length matched Pippa’s leg geometry. An H-girth was selected to ensure stability.
The design options on WOW saddles are extensive; Pippa chose a bright blue stitching which gives the saddle individuality and complements Alexus’s chestnut colour.
A few weeks on, and Jenny fitted Pippa’s new saddle. True to expectation, the saddle components worked perfectly. With Pippa now aboard the saddle stays in position and Alexus is relaxed and continuing to progress in his work. Once Alexus can be seen ridden through all his paces Jenny will come back to assess and possibly tweak Pippa’s position in the saddle. Pippa says “The ability of the WOW saddle to be adjusted while I am riding is fantastic and so easy.”
Doubtless the saddle will need adjustment as Alexus muscles up, but this is true of all horses. The difference with a WOW is that Pippa will not have to replace the saddle as he changes shape.
She sums up: “With this lovely horse, I’ve been steadily putting all the bits together. The training, the flatwork, and now the saddle. With the groundwork, we’ve created the trust and the movement, and with his WOW given this late-starting horse the best opportunity to work happily. I’m so enjoying my journey with him.”
TT Amika (‘Molly’), here as a foal, is truly a homebred. Dressage rider, trainer and breeder Pippa Childerhouse, bred her from her own stallion Amour G out of Julie Yeomans’ mare Rhiannon who Pippa had competed successfully to Medium.
Over-qualified to compete this stunning horse at Prelim, Pippa asked her pupil Jessica Clarke to introduce Molly to the competition world. Jess had never competed affiliated but struck up an immediate relationship with the mare.
Seeing this was going to be an enduring partnership, Pippa needed a saddle that could accommodate both her petite self and Jess’s much longer legs. WOW’s interchangeable flaps were the initial solution
Having experimented with various flaps from WOWs extensive dressage range, Pippa and Jess then found that the moveable Equitana blocks fitted the bill perfectly, being adjustable as to angle and how far forward/back they are positioned.
WOW retailer Ali Braithwaite fitted the saddle for them, and Jess had her first taste of BD success, getting to the National Championships within a year of her first affiliated test. Since then, Jess and Molly have moved up the grades, regularly appearing at Regional and National Championships. They now compete at Medium and work at Advanced Medium and beyond.
With Ali on maternity leave, WOW retailer, dressage rider and trainer Jenny Folman (shown here on her Grand Prix Lipizzaner Favory Gazdag) took over the care of Molly’s saddle.
Pippa comments: “Molly is laid back and trainable, but very sensitive and can try too hard to please. The comfort she experiences in a WOW is helping her come up in front for the more advanced work.
“Molly has now started piaffe work. I agree with Jenny there is a definite change in the profile of her back, so we are experimenting with different panels to see which ones suit best and give the best feel to Jess. Another benefit of the modular WOW – we can just change the panels over and still keep the same seat and flaps, no need for a complete new saddle!”
Jenny says: “It’s lovely to work with Jess and Pippa as a team. Jess has great feel so can give feedback on my adjustments to enable us to really fine-tune the saddle fit. Pippa’s eyes on the ground are invaluable, especially as she knows the horse and rider so well. Molly is very talented and is showing great promise for the FEI level movements, so I look forward to seeing them out and about at PSG and beyond in the years ahead!”
“Your saddles have transformed my mare!! She was so uncomfortable before I found WOW Saddles, she stopped jumping but with the WOW she has her mojo back.”
When we got this message, we immediately contacted the rider to hear her inspiring story.
Jodie Coombes, based near Dawlish, comes from a horsey family and loves to showjump and event her two horses.
Last year Jodie’s 9yo Irish Sport Horse Sea Girl (Sia)’s jumping wasn’t going well. Often standing a stride off and hurling herself at the fence, she would hollow her back, drag her hind legs and land with a braced neck.
A full veterinary check revealed kissing spine and she had an operation last summer. In the autumn she gradually came back into work, completing some dressage tests during the winter, but not really making the progress Jodie expected, so her workload was reduced dramatically.
Meanwhile, Jodie worked with her other horse, young Put On A Faestival (Emmy), taking her to a pre-season Eventers Camp in February. Equine chiropractor Beth Norrish was at the same camp, and lent Jodie her WOW saddle to try on Emmy. It proved to be a reasonable fit, and within half an hour Emmy was going “the best she’s ever been”. As a result, Jodie asked West Country WOW retailer Natalie Pote to come and fit a WOW to Emmy. While she was there, Jodie asked her if she could fit Sia too. As it happened, Emmy’s saddle was a good fit for Sia, and there was an immediate improvement in her way of going.
Natalie regularly leaves a demo saddle with clients for a week or two, for them properly to assess the horse’s way of going. This time it was a particular blessing, as lockdown intervened so it was a while before Jodie took delivery of Sia’s own saddle. Over the last two months, Sia’s work has gradually been built up from 10-15 minutes a day on the flat, to longer periods including some jumping. In that time, she has been able to use and develop her musculature, broadening by 3 headplates. Previously she simply couldn’t engage properly from behind; now in her WOW she works up into a correct frame.
Recently Sia went out showjumping and happily popped round a 1m BS course – the first time for three years. The plan is to continue showjumping through the winter, and consider re-starting eventing in the spring.
Jodie says “Natalie was absolutely brilliant throughout. Nothing was too much trouble – she came out every two weeks over an 8 week period to ensure Sia was comfortable and the saddle fit was accurate as she was changing shape so fast.” Natalie explains “Because Sia had had serious issues, I wanted Jodie to take the process slowly, and let me work with her to make sure the saddle fit was 100% at all times. She’s been the perfect customer, in that she’s understood that the horse will change shape, and the minute she felt this was happening she would call me to arrange another check. We can see by comparing templates taken throughout the process how much change there’s been in the horse and so how necessary it’s been to be able to adjust the saddle significantly.”
Jodie sums it up “I really think WOW saddles are the way forward and could see how so many horses – not just ones with major problems like Sia had – would thrive and perform to their best in them.”
Ree Miller was diagnosed with severe osteo arthritis in both hips in her 30’s. Being so young doctors were unwilling to operate and she had to wait over a decade to have both hips replaced. From the time of her diagnosis most saddles, and wide horses, aggravated her condition. “If my horse spooked the pain in my hips would be immediate and like a knife going into the joint”.
Ree takes up the story.
“Four years ago I took the plunge and purchased a WOW for Snip, my horse of a lifetime. This saddle has meant that I have been able to continue to ride right up until my surgery. It is super comfy and has been an absolute god send for me! It is because of the narrow twist and then the flaps being snug, not thick, it gives my hips the chance to slowly open. Whereas with other saddles your legs are forced from the top of saddle to go wide. My Equitana flaps keep me secure.”
Unfortunately Snip had to be put down last year due to kissing spine and arthritis, and Ree got Dave on loan. His paces proved uncomfortable for Ree and after a few months she decided to return him. She told her husband she wouldn’t get another horse until after her surgery, but when she took Dave back, Miller, a bright chestnut, was in the next stable. And he was up for sale. “He ticked every box – apart from he is orange. I prefer a bay – how shallow!” Ree says, laughing at herself.
“This is Miller. I think the photo shows how locked I am in my lower back due to my hips. Miller is Anglo-European, his sire is the Olympic showjumper Defi Plateire. He is 10 years old and really low mileage, being used as a happy hack for the last 5 years.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into my WOW in August, as soon as my surgeon permits! Sam Prior is my fitter and she is incredibly knowledgeable and really takes her time with you and the horse. I can’t wait to start schooling and getting out to compete in dressage with my bionic hips on the wonderful Miller. ”
Tory Ashby is lucky enough to live in the West Country, so there is endless scope for her to indulge her passion for pleasure rides in this beautiful region. She tells us:
“My palomino Charlie and I have have been struggling with saddles for ages. He changes shape and is quite sensitive and very politely tells me when something isn’t right. I’m quite a novice rider and he is very much a gentleman, but I knew we could be doing so much better together. My best mate Vicky Flower convinced me to try a WOW after her very sensitive grey came on leaps and bounds in one. I have to admit my initial reaction was “This is just a marmite saddle, it won’t work for me”.
Our local fitter Natalie Pote allowed me to trial a saddle. Oh my! It was just so comfortable and Charlie was incredibly happy. I’ve been so paranoid about saddles, spent thousands but Natalie has been so thoughtful, thorough, taken her time to ensure it’s perfect for both of us, and patiently answered all sorts of questions.
Like all WOW Saddles, the modular construction allowed Natalie to put together options to suit both the horse and the rider, without compromise. Charlie’s short back meant he needed a size 1 (17″) panel, but Tory can still have the size 2 (18″) deep seat she is comfortable in, combined with VSD (very slightly dressage) fixed block flaps to give her length of leg and stirrup leather exactly the support she wants.
This is our first 10-mile ride, with Vicky and her WOW on her grey.
Fun rides are my passion. After a serious illness, to be out enjoying the countryside is all I could dream of.
We have just completed our second 10 mile fun ride and I have one very happy pony.
I know we won’t set the world alight but we are both so happy.”
It is so good to hear that we’ve been able to help another rider achieve their goals happily and comfortably, whether that is top level competitive sport, or roaming the wonderful West Country.
Zigzag is a 14-year-old Lusitano gelding, bred by Sherene Rahmatallah of Sussex Lusitanos, a small group of breeders specialising in these sensitive and intelligent horses. Zigzag has enjoyed success in the show arena and currently works at Advanced Medium level at home.
Katie Gilmour first rode a Lusitano with Tina Layton BHSI at Contessa Riding Centre, Ware, Hertfordshire, and fell in love with the breed. On moving to Sussex and seeking a horse to ride, she contacted Sherene, who suggested she ride Zigzag.
Zigzag is a true schoolmaster for those who can already ride well, but seeks to develop a stronger, more consistent position with better feel and sensitivity. Katie’s aim is to improve her riding and training skills and to become a ‘Luso rider’ in advance of taking on a new partner – a Luso of course! – to compete in dressage and showing.
“Zigzag is fairly close coupled,” Katie says. “Sometimes he gets blocked in his back and finds it difficult to work over his topline, particularly if his rider doesn’t maintain their position in his point of balance.”
“He has a big heart; he wants to please his rider, but it felt as though he simply couldn’t go forwards and he would stop. Just before Christmas, he felt particularly uncomfortable and his willingness was affected.”
Sherene carried out the usual checks on Zigzag, including his teeth and his back and became concerned that his saddle was uncomfortable. Sherene contacted her local Wow fitter, Nicola Purdy, because of Wow’s reputation for allowing full freedom of movement in all shapes and sizes of horses.
Wow boast Baroque styles in their range that are modelled on the Relvas type saddle, designed for showing and competing Iberian horses. These can be used with any of Wow’s huge range of panels, headplates and seats, to combine a classic traditional look with up-to-date sadddle technology. Difficulties in fitting Iberians are consequently easily resolved.
With his new saddle made to order and fitted, Sherene and Katie both noticed an immediate difference in his work, and it became obvious that he had been hindered and constrained by the previous saddle’s fit.
Katie says: “Ziggy is definitely a lot happier in his Wow; he is so much more forward-thinking. He is a very sensitive horse, but now he is so comfortable, you can just enjoy riding him, and not feel like you are treading on eggshells all the time. There’s now no tension in movements like half-pass and counter-canter. I have never seen such a dramatic change when saddles have been changed on other horses I’ve ridden. It’s lovely to feel such a difference. Ziggy really is a special horse and it’s heartwarming to feel him feeling so well.”
Alicia Griffiths’ story is one of resilience, energy, excellent organisation and determination. She started losing her sight at the age of 19 and by 20 was registered as SSI, (severely sight impaired/legally blind, sport certification B2). She combines looking after her family, including children of 6 and 3, and 10 month old Noah, with part-time work caring for cancer patients, and competing at the highest level of Para Dressage Grade 4. All of this is only possible with an extremely supportive family around her. As well as his work, her husband is fully involved in the care of the children; her mother maintains the horse and does its fitness work, and looks after the children when it’s Alicia’s turn to ride, or she is away competing. Her father drives them to competitions and calls the markers for her. Her latest challenge is to compete in a Tough Mudder race, raising money for the Riding for the Disabled Association.
When she first lost her sight, Alicia was determined to ride again, but without vision struggled with her balance and had severe motion sickness. The RDA helped her through this, and she was lucky to have two well-bred dressage horses which she could compete both at Para – for team GB – and able-bodied – up to Advanced Medium. Sadly, within the space of a couple of years, she lost both horses, and the search was on for a replacement.
One owner who responded to Alicia’s advert had a Thoroughbred which had been a hunt and riding club horse, with very occasional forays into dressage. The lady now had insufficient time for her, and offered her to Alicia. Appropriately dubbed Risky, the chestnut mare Just Arisca has her moments, but has proven to have the potential Alicia sought. The first year they were together, they reached the able-bodied Regional Finals at Elementary.
Alicia decided to focus on Para dressage and did two excellent tests at her first International at Bishop Burton in 2016. The next goal was to qualify for the Para Winter Championships, which she did. Training was interrupted by illness in her support team but nonetheless Alicia made it to the Championships at Myerscough on a rather fresh Risky (Just Arisca). She got two good placings, with her best marks for Risky’s favourite movement, medium trot, where her Wow Saddle facilitates her natural swing while giving Alicia stability. To see a video including some of her test, visit : https://youtu.be/ZiuJC9HwV7c
Her Wow has an Extra Deep Seat, and modified Giant High flaps. Previously, judges regularly commented “needs more jump in canter” but now the horse has all the engagement they want. In fact one recent judge’s comment about Risky was “Please deliver to my yard”!
Within four weeks of having the saddle, the fitter, Annie Lewis, had to change the headplate as even though the horse had been in regular work, the saddle was enabling correct muscle development for the first time. And for Alicia, the seat and flaps help support her and correct her tendency to lose her balance backwards because of the impact of lack of vision on proprioception.
Looking to the future, the goal is to represent England at the Para Home International, and compete at the Hartpury Festival of Dressage in the summer. Before that, she has the commitment to run in the Tough Mudder.
To support Alicia, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/alicia-burchell
Sally Talbot-Smith is a very experienced Wow fitter and competes herself when time allows. She was delighted to see one of the saddles she fits being put to good use at Olympia before Christmas, when she was in the audience to watch Richard Davison on the lovely Bubbles (Bubblingh).
She is currently riding two of her own horses. Lexi was purchased two and a half years ago from John Biggs as a fun horse for her husband.
“When WOW freed up her movement she turned out to be rather too powerful and sharp for my novice husband, bucking him off for fun! I had fallen in love with her by then though so I took her on and wouldn’t part with her for the world now!
John helps me brilliantly with her. The muscle she has developed since working in the WOWs is incredible, she’s a totally different shape. Look past her colouring, she’s one of the most talented horses I’ve ever had! I can’t wait to work her up the levels, if her hot brain allows me to!
Sally’s other horse, purchased in June 2017, had been competing up to PSG, but appeared weak for that level of training and had failed the vet.
The ex-owner explained that he was finding canter pirouettes very difficult, despite monthly physio treatment on his back. Sally wondered whether saddle fit could be responsible and he certainly showed muscle wastage in the saddle area. He also napped and reared out hacking initially but after a quiet summer, teeth and back done, lots of hacking and of course a WOW and now we have a different horse!
“His ability to work over his back and use his back end has changed dramatically and, as such, so has the shape of him – and his attitude! I have tweaked his saddle set up many times as he’s changed and I don’t believe he could look and feel like he does without having had the WOW.
I train with Kate Cowell and John Biggs.
Kate has asked what we’re feeding him as he has developed so much since she first saw him in August. I told her about his very healthy, natural diet but pointed out how the Wow helps him too! Hopefully in the new year we’ll get out to do an Advanced Medium, exciting!
And here he is, stuffing his face the other evening just so you can see his lovely back now!”
Jenny Folman is well-known in the east of England as a classical dressage rider and trainer. Her blue-chip classical background includes training with exponents of the great European centres, including an ex-Cadre Noir member, and one of the Chief Riders of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.
A couple of years ago she trained as a Wow fitter, and has been delighted with the results of using our saddles, especially on her own Lipizzaner.
Favory Gazdag was imported from Hungary by Jenny Folman as “an unbacked and exceedingly rude 4 year old” but now competes PSG and is ready for Inter 1 thanks to his new deep seat with semi curved tree.
Jenny told us: “I took the new seat straight out to a competition yesterday, as it arrived just in time to switch it over before we left. It felt quite a bit flatter than the curved tree I’ve been riding in, even though they’re both size 2 deep. My horse seemed to really like it though, he went really well and we got 2x 66% at Adv Med and completed our qualification for the winter regionals! I loved it too once I’d got used to the initial different feel, it sits so nicely on the back and I think spreads the weight better”.
In the images, Gazdag is competing at PSG, and looking very happy in his changes and canter pirouettes. The judge’s comment was “He is clearly a professor of the work involved.”!
Since then, Jenny has been working on Gazdag’s one-time changes, and his piaffe and passage, and is loving his softness and rideability. You can watch them working on this video.
Sam Prior’s horse Daisy is 24 years old. She is a 15.1hh TBxArab, and was given to Sam as a 10 year old with behavioural issues, especially when ridden.
Due to an old injury on her sacroiliac joint she has always suffered with pelvic and back issues, and now has some age-related arthritis in the hocks. Then in the late spring an incident in the field resulted in inflammation in a knee, and a reassessment by the physio who had treated previously, Charlene Baker.
Charlene found a series of tensions along Daisy’s back and in her hind leg. She agreed with Sam that in addition to regular therapy, the saddle fit should be addressed. David Kempsell, MD of Wow Saddles, invited Sam to attend one of Wow’s regular retailer training courses as a guinea pig. He supervised the fit himself, and provided Sam with Daisy’s new saddle.
On 5th August, Charlene returned to assess the horse ridden in both her old saddle, and the newly-fitted Wow. Daisy was given a full body treatment to pinpoint all areas of concern prior to starting work in the Wow.
In deference to her age her regular exercise routine is about four sessions a week (two hacks, one schooling session and a lunge over raised poles per week).
These photos demonstrate Daisy’s progress.
Even at 24, musculature can be improved with correct work in a well-fitting saddle.
The horizontal lines in the brickwork behind the side-on shots help gauge just how much her back and posture have improved in 6 weeks.
She also showed a significant improvement in her attitude to work, rideability and willingness to work. This was particularly evident in medium trot and lateral work, which she had been finding hard.
In July, Sam’s aim to compete at the Veteran Horse Society (VHS) National Championships in early October had seemed a distant dream, but became a dream come true. Over a very busy weekend, Sam and Daisy won Ridden Veteran and Condition and Turnout; were second in Riding Horse and another Condition and Turnout class, plus a number of other awards and getting through to the Supreme Veteran Ridden Final!
“WOW what a difference the WOW saddle has made to her way of going. She is very happy to work, her whole attitude to life is a more happy one. I am over the moon with the results.”