Category Archives: WOW Saddles and Francis Whittington
The eventing season may have finished but for WOW’s eventing ambassadors, the off season does not mean lazing about! Francis Whittington took a short break before heading off to the USA to do some teaching clinics. Kitty KIng went horse shopping in Ireland (we are awaiting news of that exciting mission) and on her return, went to Cheltenham races to promote Team GBR at the Countryside Day. Pau Tapner demonstrated at Your Horse Live and signed lots of autographs and then headed off to Newmarket for the Retraining of Racehorses Awards where he was a prize winner – see our blog post on this nest week! What a busy team they are.
We love hearing feedback from our customers so it was great to read about Kerry Weisselberg’s experience with her WOW Saddle! Read on to find out how her quirky and sensitive mare has gone from strength to strength since discovering the WOW Saddle…
Kerry has been eventing since 1988, and has produced and ridden horses up to Advanced and 2* and 3* levels. “I showjumped as a teenager (only up to Foxhunters) before I evented, and unfortunately no trainer and no amount of determined effort since has been able to get me out of my bad ‘showjumpery’ habit of an insecure lower leg. I have tried all sorts of saddles and all sorts of techniques over this time, including very short stirrups, even tying the stirrups to the girth, loads of work in 2-point seat, but nothing really helped my lower leg in the air. I can honestly say that in the WOW saddle, without me having to think about it while doing a round (which is always impossible, I have enough other things to think about!), my lower leg is FINALLY improving. That is a fantastic feeling.”
“Daisy (The Opposition Rose) is a homebred mare by Fleetwood Opposition out of a very quirky but talented Irish SJ mare. Knowing what I know now, I’d never have chosen Fleetwater Opposition as a stallion for her! Daisy had a physical problem growing up, some kind of asymmetry in her back end, and needed a lot of remedial attention. She is very opinionated, has always loved to rear – see photo – and is the only horse I’ve ever known who will stand and buck repeatedly, almost vertical, as if she’s a Buckaroo toy. I backed her without incident, but a few years ago, while quietly trotting a circle at home, she launched me spectacularly for no apparent reason and I landed on my feet but dislocated my knee very badly, leading to months on crutches and eventual surgery. So, I have always known that she has to be supremely comfortable, otherwise I am in deep trouble. She is very independent minded, the lead mare in my little herd here (in spite of not being the eldest by a long way) and likes to think that everything is her own idea. She takes a lot of tact to ride and train, but I absolutely adore her, and would do anything to keep her happy and on side.”
“We started eventing 2 years ago and progress has been slow, not for want of my ambition, but because she never felt ready to do more. Although she’s usually very bold, and sometimes liked to take full strides out (never fun or advisable, we’ve done a lot of work to eradicate that bad habit!) she’d feel a bit overawed by certain fences (although she did not stop) and, frankly, she felt lacking in scope and power. She was skewing badly over fences, throwing me off balance, sometimes feeling as if she was ‘sprawling’ in the air over them. She doesn’t always bring both hind feet down together so she was pushing off more from one hind leg. She was tense, bracing her topline in the air, not basculing and using her body properly. On one occasion (on our BE100 début) she backed off a fence, left one front leg completely behind – possibly stood on the overreach boot, I’m not sure – and slithered over the fence on her chest and that leg totally straight underneath her, somehow staying upright on landing, but I fell off. Not fun or at all encouraging, as it was only a metre high.”
“I remember scratching my head and wondering HOW a horse with this breeding, who looks like such a little powerpack, could have so little scope and talent. It was absolutely gutting and made no sense. I should probably mention that I hate selling horses, especially my homebreds, and that I want to keep her for her whole life and, ideally, get up to doing really big stuff again. I still dream of doing a 4* event and she is definitely my best chance unless I win the lottery! So, I was getting close to despair at her apparent lack of talent.”
“The WOW saddle has been a complete revelation to us both. She has started coming up in front properly and now bigger fences feel really easy on her. She is much straighter, and is starting to ‘throw her back end away’ in the air rather than bring it through tight and low (often having poles down). She is arguing less on the way to the fences and letting me ride her more, which helps a lot! I am still experimenting with different bits, and ways of riding her, and this led to us flattening three of the last five show-jumps on her début this year and one major misunderstanding during our last SJ round but overall there is a huge improvement in the way she feels and the way she jumps.”
“She’s run four times cross country so far this year, two at a hunter trial and two at BE100, always sailing round the cross country clear, with gusto, enjoying every stride, which means I can! Her confidence has grown hugely, she finally feels ready for the step up to Novice. She has a fantastic attitude to her jumping, loving the cross country in particular, feeling very keen and clever, coping brilliantly even with the odd duff stride or line (since I’m far from perfect!). She now doesn’t need all the remedial work she had to have very regularly (monthly, if possible) in previous years.
My dreams of getting up to the higher levels with her have been reignited. She’ll never lead the dressage (which, at the moment, we are doing in our WOW jump saddle, as I won’t put another make of saddle on her now, even though I have a couple of other very nice dressage saddles) but she gives me huge hope that if she stays tough and loving the game, we might get there.”
“There are even little things such as the fact that she now nails EVERY halt, perfectly square. That just wasn’t happening previously. It’s something she has learnt, but also something she now feels comfortable enough to do, consistently. That is a huge deal, to me. I can only say a HUGE thank you to WOW for making such special saddles, which my very special mare obviously needed, to Francis Whittington, for recommending me to try the WOW on her (and I should apologise for waiting a year to do it, and wasting a fortune on another saddle – of a very reputable brand – in that time!) and to my WOW fitter Fiona Reddick, for doing such a fabulous job, and having such a great eye for straightening me out too.”
“I love my WOW saddle, it is supremely comfortable (I can hack out in it for hours, unlike other competition saddles which were purgatory!), it makes me feel really secure in the air, and, more importantly, my opinionated, difficult, but talented and much adored little mare absolutely LOVES it. I wouldn’t swap it for anything now.”
Q. Francis is known for having very soft hands (which is always so nice to see). I appreciate there is no simple answer to having such a ‘giving’ style but could you please ask him if it came naturally to him or was it something he spotted as a youngster in his pony days and developed ? Marc Melander
A. I was lucky enough to receive training from some amazing trainers when I was younger. They were tough on me and if I got it wrong they made it clear!
One person who helped me with my style of riding for cross country and show jumping was my show jumping trainer. Most will have heard of him as he is the current boss of the British Show Jumping team, Rob Hoekstra. I had a lot of training from Rob as a kid. Starting when I was 6 or 7 years old. Although I don’t see him that often now as he is so busy, his words and advice still play an important part in my riding and understanding of how I should ride. It was important to use body control rather than fight with the hands. To teach the horses to listen to our body and allow the horse the hand when needed. There are obviously times where it is necessary to take a firmer contact and I’m sure you will see the odd occasion at Badminton next week. For me there are three basic points to remember. Rhythm, Balance, Control. You only ever need two of them to achieve the third!
In the latest instalment of Ask WOW Saddles sponsored rider Francis Whittington, he answers a Facebook fan’s question about making it as an eventer…
Q. I know there is no easy way….but as a teenager starting out eventing what is the quickest and easiest route to take to become a professional (I know it will take many years) is it about right place, talent, dedication, social connections? This is what my daughter would like to do as a career after gcse, what would you advise how to start?
A. You are right, there is no easy or quick route to success in Eventing, it takes hard work, time, dedication, motivation and perseverance! In my opinion it is very important to learn your trade at the lower levels and then build and develop confidence in your own ability while learning and gaining experience from as many people as you can.
In order to succeed it is important to have a plan and structure to your training, the earlier you can get this, the quicker success will come. There are no shortcuts! Learn your management and horse care through the Pony Club, which is a fantastic institution, and basing yourself with a a rider is also advised, just choose the right rider.
Obviously the type of horse you have depends on your finances but if you can get in the habit of producing and selling early in a horse’s career you can set up your horse power from there. There is no harm to having a second string to your bow but if you really want to make a profession in Eventing then you have to commit to it. Good luck!
If you have a question you want to ask Francis, comment on this post or send us a message on Facebook and we will get him to answer in next month’s blog!
Francis Whittington tells Absolute Horse magazine what’s top of his Christmas list. He says,
“Would love to receive one of the new WOW XC saddle…I’m also desperate for more breeches and shirts for next season!”
What’s top of your Christmas list?
Air flocking can be useful to help address conformational issues, and can be adjusted in minute amounts. If correctly flocked and fitted, it can create a gaseous, flexible layer in the saddle that removes pressure points, thus reducing the risk of discomfort to the horse – particularly one with existing physiological challenges.
Eventer Francis Whittington’s top ride Sir Percival had lumps on his back before Francis began using a WOW saddle, flocked with adjustable Flair air-flocking. The lumps have since diminished. “I like a saddle that has ease of adaptability, eg you can change the main components and the flocking to fit different horses. Being able to fine tune the saddle, and make subtle changes to the balance while on board, would be impossible in a traditionally flocked saddle, which is why I like Flair air flocking,” he says.
We have posted a diary extract from Francis Whittington’s blog. Francis is one of our sponsored riders and has just been to Aachen.
I have just got back from a really great trip to Aachen. It has to be the best show in the world, the place is breath taking. To have so many equestrian disciplines competing in one place with facilities second to none, it is such a privilege and honur to be asked to compete there.
Team GB consisted of myself, Laura Collett, Emily Baldwin and William Fox-Pitt or the Power Tower as he was christened by the cross country commentators. We had a great fun week and the team all got on very well, with lots of laughs which always makes the trip better.
Dressage was a hot competition, the Germans were fielding their potential olympic hopefuls, so we knew we had to pull off some good tests to get a good result. I was thrilled with Sir Percival and in the warm up he was feeling amazing. He went into the arena very positive and we got a 9 for our first centre line and halt. Unfortunately he went a bit tense in the arena after that but still pulled off a 49, so in fact we were thrilled that when the tension comes in we can still pull off a 40’s test and we know we can make up the points on the cross country. The rest of the team also put in great performances and Laura Collett managed to pull off her PB with a 30! yes a 30 dressage!! So team GB were lying in 2nd going into the showjumping that evening.
The show jumping proved to be more influential that what it walked, the big arena certainly made the time tight and clear rounds were few and far between. Sir Percival rolled a pole going into a combination and the rest of the team all managed to roll a pole. But as everyone else seemed to have at least a pole or time faults we were still second going into cross country the next morning.
The cross country was big and technical enough and certainly was going to need concentration and riding. Sir Percival gave me an awesome round, and made it feel like a pony club track. He really is an amazing cross country horse, he just goes into cruise mode. That was probably one of the best rounds we have had and he was ready to go around again at the end. We finished just two seconds inside the time and that wasnt pushing for time. All the other team members went clear cross country and we finished in second place overall, just 4 penalties behind the Germans. Not bad for a reserve team!
So happy riders and happy horses and an amazing event. We are supposed to be competing at Brightling this coming weekend, but Gatcombe has just been confirmed as being cancelled so we will wait and see what weather this week brings…
To keep up with all of Francis’ news visit his website by clicking here
“Unfortunately I am not writing the diary I wish I was writing after the cross country, but am still taking the positives from the day. We were having a fantastic ride up until 19b, which was a strong question and the most influential fence on the course. It was a large table to a corner, which was in one of the pictures I put up the other day. I just felt he couldn’t read the question and didnt understand what was being asked and after two refusals retired him. I am still thrilled with how he was going up until that point, and very happy that we are both well and live to see and fight another day. He is an exciting horse for the future and this is just a minor blip in what will be a very exciting career for him.”
Visit Francis’ blog and keep up with all of his diary entries by clicking here
“Today was dressage day for Easy Target. His test was due at 11.50am, so I took him out for an early session with Yogi this morning. He worked beautifully and was very relaxed. After that he went away for a rest and I had some breakfast and waited for my dressage time to arrive.
He felt very relaxed and responsive in the warm up and he went in to perform his best test to date. A couple of mistakes in the changes cost us a few marks, but I am so pleased with the work he gave and really encouraged that a sub 40 test is only around the corner for him. We have a video to upload of his test when we get home and have a better internet connection.
We finished in 9th place after the dressage, so a good position going into the cross country tomorrow. We are not going until late in the afternoon, as the CIC3* go first. I think the course will be influential on the scoreboard. We will see what tomorrow brings…”
There are some great pictures on Francis’ blog. Click here to view them.