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.”
A recent study carried out by Dundee university has independently verified that Flair – The air flocking system gives 26% less pressure on your horses back than wool flocking!
The research undertook to measure the forces on the horse and the rider. By using one horse and six riders using the same saddle filled with wool and then with the Flair air flocking system.
This is a great independent test of the Flair system. The research found that the forces on the rider increased with Flair. This is not a negative as the problem with this type of testing is that the horse is not constant. When such a large difference in pressure is made to the horse’s back this allows the horse to move bigger under the saddle/rider. The reduction in pressure results in increased stride length along with swing and elevation of the back. This induces move movement in the rider, which amounts to more forces being applied to the rider.
In other words it verifies what First Thought Equine Ltd the manufacturers of Flair have claimed about their product, that if you want a bigger moving horse Flair has the ability to deliver that movement.
Professional riders use Flair for that very reason, Wayne Channon will not ride in anything else now he has felt how his horses backs swing, as does Richard Davison, Lesley Payton-Gilbert, Paul Tapner, Kitty King, Francis Whittington and many, many, more. “The ideas along with the research and development strategy that First Thought Equine has employed to create and prove their products is enlightening and refreshing to see in the saddlery industry,” says Wayne Channon. “This product appeals to me on two fronts; its ability to deliver a better moving horse whilst providing more comfort for that horse and as a scientist, a science based approach to proving and then improving the product by using the best available technology and materials.”
It has therefore been suggested that there be another study carried out where the horse is replaced with a simulator so that a more controlled test without variables in the horse’s gait affecting the data. A simulator will keep the horse induced movement in the rider a constant and therefore accurate assessment of the forces applied to the rider using various saddle flocking materials can be measured accurately.
First Thought Equine Ltd have 10’s of thousands of customers using the Flair system, a lot of them with quite severe back problems. All these riders report that they are much more able to ride with the Flair system in their saddles compared with other flocking materials as this typical email points out.
WOW Saddles customer Georgina Greenslade says, “I have owned and ridden in Flair saddles for over 15 years and after breaking by back just over 8 years ago, my Flair saddle is the only one I can ride in for hours on end, without getting a backache!”
We are very proud, at WOW Saddles, to be supporting young rising star Hero Seago as she pursues her quest to take the show jumping world by storm! Here she tells us a little bit about herself…
“My name is Hero Seago, I am 12 years old and show jump my ponies. I started riding at 5yrs old and got my first pony at 6. He was very naughty and bucked and reared so taught me a lot about stickability. Next we got Sammy, a perfect little 11.1hh, whom I show jumped and also went to the Pony Club Areas Mounted Games with. Then along came Bobby, who started me off in BSJA at 10yrs old, and then Atlantic Jewel the following year. I currently run these ponies along side each other most weekends, jumping in the 138 classes and 90cm/1m opens. The three of us have had much success together, the NAF shining star award, 2nd over all in the NAF 5* Style and Performance Class at the Inter-Academy show this year and 1st in an inter-schools style and performance class. Also with my school, we got four teams through to the inter-schools Championships at Addington Manor in October and there we gained team champions in the 1.05m-1.10cm, and team 4th and 7th in the 95cm.”
“I am so excited to have gained a sponsorship from WOW! It is such an incredible opportunity for me. Since I got my WOW Saddle I have loved riding in it and Bobby felt much freer underneath me. I think he particularly likes the freedom of movement the saddle gives him through his shoulders.”
“This weekend was his first show in the WOW Saddle and he was on fire! We gained our second double clear in the Springboard class, coming equal 1st and qualifying, and a 5th in the Discovery/90cm open. There is no stopping Bobby now he has a WOW!”
We can’t wait to see how Hero progresses with her ponies! Keep your eyes peeled for more blogs coming soon and in the mean time make sure you visit our Facebook page to keep up to date with all the ‘up to the minute’ news!
Technologically advanced saddle manufacturers are increasingly utilising design creativity to make their saddles not just functional, but beautiful too. WOW Saddles is shortly launching within its new designer range the ‘On Fire’ dressage saddle, which, on the fixed block models, utilises beautifully embroidered, quilt-effect stitching on the saddle flap. This gives a discreet, unusual appearance behind the leg and includes flame-shaped stitching behind the rider’s lower leg. A small burst of Swarvoski crystals behind the rider’s thigh adds light-catching sparkle.
While showjumping and eventing attire is fairly relaxed, dressage riders are quite limited in terms of their flamboyance in the UK. British Dressage bans clothing decoration, except discreet manufacturer’s logo studs on boots; although patent leather boots are popular, and give a high shine. Conservative-coloured coats are required in BD competitions, although discreet pinstripe patterns are now de-rigour. So, your dressage saddle is the ideal place to add a little bit of interest!
Within the field of showjumping, riders can express their fashion savvy a little more, as they may wear coloured jackets (providing they do not clash with the official ‘team’ jacket); perhaps to correspond with their own, or their sponsors’ colours.
Dress codes for the XC stage of eventing attire are even more relaxed, as there are greater provisions for promotional material and logos on clothing, (albeit at a certain maximum size, or in a designated position on the rider’s clothes.) Bright and bold colour-ways are popular.
Patent bridles or those with diamante or coloured accents are also popular to add interest, while leather riding boots in materials such as ostrich, crocodile or kangaroo are also popular with more flamboyant riders, particularly internationally.
Riding helmets are increasingly being seen with diamante accents and patterns, as well as jewel-inspired colours – the trick is to keep it discreet, so your accents complement each other and don’t over power you and your performance.
Why not personalise your saddle today by speaking to the team at WOW Saddles! www.wowsaddles.com
Within the eventing sphere especially, some riders are looking to their saddles to express their fashion sense, or coordinate their cross country colours. The leatherwork of all WOW saddles may be customised in the rider’s or sponsor’s colours; two-tone coloured leather is popular. Eventer Paul Tapner may currently be seen competing in a beautiful red and black XC saddle with fixed long blocks that give increased support for the leg. He also sports a more neutral Havana brown and maroon version of the saddle.
Why not ‘bling up’ your saddle?
WOW Saddles recently customised a customer’s saddle at the cantle and pommel areas, using appliquéd diamante and crystals. “Some riders like to use a bespoke pattern of their choice, particularly if they compete in the discipline of dressage under artificial lights, as discreet sparkles can really add interest and glamour,” explains First Thought Equine’s Co-proprietor, Maggie White. “It is also possible to spell a rider, horse or sponsor’s name in gemstones, or diamante and crystals. However I wouldn’t advocate that owners simply ‘bling up’ their own saddles – it is best left to saddlers with design experience and all the right materials and technology at their disposal to do this!”
If you want to ‘bling up’ your saddle and make a statement then get in touch via www.wowsaddles.com
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!
WOW Sponsored rider Philip Spivey tells us what has been going on in his latest blog…
“It has been a month of local shows, taking different lots of horses to get out competing and it has been very successful, I went to one show and won every class I jumped in! I am currently jumping at Addington, at their Spring Classic Show and so far so good.
Smirnov is jumping very well, we had an unlucky pole in the HOYS qualifier but have another chance this weekend! Cirocco is winning nearly every class he is entered in and all the horses are generally going well.
I took Virgina and Graffiti to a demo at Otley College earlier on this week and they were both very well behaved and gave me an easy job! The focus on the demo was fittening the show jumper and it was run in conjunction with Saracen Horse Feeds. We spent lots of time working on gymnastic work such as bounces which I call ‘horsey press ups’. To me show jumping is the middle distance training, you don’t need the same level of fitness that the event horses have as usually you only need to perform for 1 minute to 1 minute 3o seconds maximum. It depends on the age and level of the horse but we hack our horses around twice a week and then they get harder work 3 times. Now that the weather is a bit better they can also go out and enjoy the odd afternoon in the field too!”