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!
Leading saddle manufacturer First Thought Equine now offers a personalisation service on all new saddles.
The leatherwork of all saddles may also be customised in the rider’s or sponsor’s colours; two-tone leather is popular, for example. Eventer Paul Tapner recently commissioned a striking red and black saddle in his country colours.
Key features of WOW Saddles:
• The only longitudinally rigid, but laterally flexible tree – offers greater shoulder freedom
• Large bearing surface
• The widest range of interchangeable width fittings: XN-8X
• Features Flair air bag flocking; a flexible, gaseous bearing surface that increases pressure distribution over the horse’s back & provides shock absorption.
Call (44) 1227 831614 for stockists or visit www.wowsaddles.com.
Korrector is a revolutionary new saddle pad which using air and foam technology, can be adjusted by the rider to give full day to day control of the fit of their saddle on one or more horses. If you haven’t already used the Korrector then these reasons will explain why we think you should…
Korrector benefits the rider by…
- Allowing the rider to adjust the pad for seasonal changes in the horse’s shape
- Absorbing jarring shock to the rider’s lower back
- Giving the rider the means of using a saddle on more than one horse
- Allowing the rider to adjust the balance of the saddle front to back
- Allowing the rider to adjust the balance side to side so distributing the riders weight centrally
- Allowing diagonal adjustment when the horse is asymmetric
- Can be used with English, Western and Spanish style saddles
- Bags can be removed and replaced fully inflated for washing purposes
Korrector has been proven by independent testing to give your horse greater comfort by…
- Dispersing the pressure points of the saddle
- Increasing the bearing surface of the saddle
- Continually flexing and moulding to the horse’s shape allowing the back and shoulder muscles to work unrestricted
- Absorbing impact shock from the rider
- Alleviating pressure across the horses spine and wither area
It all started with the WOW Competitor Range. For the first time one could buy a traditional looking saddle and by buying different components, alter all of its’ characteristics to suit different horses, riders and disciplines. WOW is the world’s first modular saddle. The seat, panels and flaps of the WOW Competitor Range are all available separately, so you can easily change component parts. When they are combined they make a saddle whose performance for the horse and the rider is unbeatable!
The WOW Competitor Range offers…
Flexible Carbon Fibre Tree. Using the latest materials to give the ultimate in flexibility and strength. Lateral Flexion allows the horse to rotate the scapula fully under the saddle without interference, whilst also proving a very big bearing surface and hence very low pressures on the horse’s back.
PPS™ “Pointless Panel System” The unique shape of the tree with no conventional points and an extended floating plate on the panel top produces a bearing surface larger than a western saddle!
Double Stirrup Bars Allows the rider to ride with both a straighter leg position for schooling and a more forward leg position for hacking or jumping disciplines.
Adjustable Tree Width The width of the tree can be adjusted by the rider using the unique Flexi-Head™ in conjunction 11 interchangeable headplate width fittings from extra narrow to 8X Wide.
Interchangeable Panels Enables you to change the panels of your saddle to a design more suitable for a different horse with different back profile i.e. higher or lower gusset height
Double Wishbone Girthing A unique girthing arrangement centers the pull of the girth to keep the saddle still and stable on the horses back.
Interchangeable Flaps Extra flaps can be purchased and these are interchangeable allowing the rider to remove one flap and replace with one for a different discipline flap i.e. dressage to jumping
Two position flaps All flaps have two fixing positions so you can change the flap’s angle forward or back as well as removing them totally. This allows for riders with longer leg/thigh length.
Choice Of Seat Designs Flat to deep with differing degrees of softness of support.
Anatomically Designed Seat Allowing the rider to achieve total closeness to the horse with their thigh lying flat against the horses side.
Choice Knee Blocks Fixed Blocks or Moveable Blocks. moveable blocks allows the rider to adjust the knee support.
Single web stirrup leathers included so there is no buckle under the rider’s leg and Flair – The Adjustable Air Flocking System is fitted as standard. Flair allows the panel to be adjusted to and continuously mould to a horses changing/moving shape. There is a choice of colours and styles of leather, stitching and facings as well as flaps, panels and seat allows the rider to customize the saddle to their own preferences.
The WOW Club Dressage shares the same tree as the Competitor and has the same range of headplate fittings. The WOW Club Dressage cannot change flaps or seat and is just a dressage saddle. The Panels of the Club are inter-changeable and come fitted with a foam panel as standard, this can be upgraded to Flair. The colours for the WOW Club Range are limited to black and brown.
The WOW Club Dressage still features the following…
Flexible Carbon Fibre Tree
PPS™ “Pointless Panel System”
Double Stirrup Bars
Adjustable Tree Width
Double Wishbone Girthing
Anatomically Designed Seat
Many people ask us what Flair actually is, so here goes…
Flair is a system of four air bags, which are incorporated into your existing saddle panel, two at the front, and two at the rear. Flair air bags can be fitted to all styles of saddle i.e. Dressage, Jumping, General Purpose and Endurance etc.
The air bags surround a foam insert which makes the air displace in such a manner that the saddle panel maximises its bearing surface on the horses back.
The bags are adjusted via two valves that are fitted under the skirt of the saddle. The adjustments are made whilst the rider sits on the horse, the whole process taking a matter of minutes. The saddler is able to balance the saddle perfectly both side to side and front to back even if the horse has uneven muscle development.
So why use Flair?
The majority of training problems relating to the control, balance and direction of the horse are caused by the horse’s discomfort in the area immediately under the saddle. The problem with saddles is the hardness and unevenness of the panel. All flocking materials over time become unevenly compacted, so creating both high pressure points and areas where the panel may not touch the horses back.
A pressure as low as 1½ lbs. per square inch will in time damage minor blood vessels in both the skin and muscle leading to signs of bruising, hair loss and eventually muscle wastage. Pressure on or pinching of the withers directly affects the muscles of the shoulder, causing shortening of the horse’s stride and in many cases, difficulty when moving down hill. Soreness or restriction of the back muscles makes it more difficult for the horse to engage his quarters and so to come on the bit.
Flair creates a gaseous and totally flexible layer in your saddle. This removes pressure points and increases the sensitivity of the horse to your lower back aids whilst also providing shock absorption for the horse when jumping or engaged in sitting trot (gases can be compressed whilst liquids, gels and solids cannot).
Flair allows your horse to move naturally as the muscles of the back and shoulder are no longer restricted by your saddle’s panel.
So now you know! To find out more visit www.fteltd.co.uk
At this time of year your horse often changes shape, whether it be through weight fluctuations or muscle development as they get fitter and stronger in preparation for the season ahead. This can make saddle fitting a constant challenge, however First Thought Equine, manufacturers of the WOW saddle, have introduced the Korrector Air Saddle Pad which can help!
Even when a saddle fits a horse well, over the course of a year, changes in diet or level of fitness will result in changes of muscle structure, and the shape of the horse’s back. Therefore a saddle that originally fitted well may no longer fit the horse. Many people find it difficult to get a saddle fitter to visit to re-flock or adjust the saddle, and need to resort to saddle pads to ‘take up’ the difference.
Most saddle pads cannot be adjusted, and the majority assume that the saddle does not fit throughout its length. This is not normally the case, as most saddle fitting problems only occur at the front.
Korrector has four air bags for adjustment and a foam sheet for shock absorbency. You only use those pairs of bags required to correct the saddle, so cutting down on unnecessary bulk under the saddle. Korrector can be used with four air bags to create a shock absorbing pad under the whole saddle panel. The bags can then be adjusted so there is more air in the front or back bags to balance the saddle front to back or even side to side. Korrector can also be used with just the two front air bags to create a front riser pad or just the two back airbags to create a back riser pad.
Australian Saddle fitter Julia McLean shared the below story with us, which we thought you may like to see – you can read more about this story at Nadia David’s blog –
The saddling breakthrough
So, this may well end up reading like an ad for WOW saddles, but after today I thought it would be nice to show the changes in [my horse] Assegai over the past three years. The WOW dressage saddle I bought two years ago has contributed in no small part to these changes, and are worth revisiting.
When I got Assegai, he looked like this, a green broken 3 year old:
As you can see, he’s low on muscle and has obvious deep wither pockets and no topline. He became increasingly aggressive over the first twelve months, a combination of pain caused by an ill-fitting saddle, chronic pain from injuries in the paddock before I got him and a sensitive soul. At least, that’s my reading of the situation.
Age, work and a fair layer of fat have made him look like this:
The WOW saddle, and a beautifully fitting Pessoa jump saddle (couldn’t afford two WOW saddles!) have made a huge difference to Assegai’s topline, contentedness and in some way to his development and training. From the first fitting, Assegai started lifting more through his back, going forward more willingly, just trying more.
It has been frustrating – Assegai has got to be the touchiest horse going – but today was breakthrough day. As Assegai has changed shape, grown bigger and stronger, he’s needed [saddle] re-fit after re-fit, as I posted about earlier. Today, [my saddle fitter] Julia brought her A game.
Two things have made a massive difference. The first was a slight change in panels. The old panels had a gap at the top, the part that forms the channel of the saddle. And this is supposed to allow more room for the musculature to move under the saddle. But for Assegai this appears to have been uncomfortable, as then Julia fitted panels that formed a snugger fit in his wither pockets. Because the pommel articulates, the panels should fit quite closely.
The second change is the purchase of one of the H-girths from the WOW range.
I think this has been the greatest change to date. The girth is made of two narrow padded leather straps connected on the sternum by a connector strap. The idea, from memory, is that the girth sits either side of the pectoral muscle, preventing pinching and discomfort and allowing the horse to use those muscles.
As soon as we started walking, Assegai wanted to stretch out and down, but not drop his back like usual….he went forward into trot without raising his head, happily blowing and staying on the bit. It felt amazing. He even pulled a pretty hot medium trot out of the bag!
So, I actually feel a bit excited. I’ve got an Official dressage comp coming up in a few weeks so I’m really interested to see what he can do. Gotta say, the WOW is probably the best investment I’ve made in my riding. Starting to save up for one for Rose. 🙂 Happy riding!
Innovative saddle manufacturers, First Thought Equine, have launched The WOW Bounty – a beautiful, technologically-advanced dressage saddle with a deep profile seat designed to offer supreme support and comfort for the larger rider.
“This is the first saddle of its kind to hit the market,” says co-proprietor David Kempsell. “Larger riders often feel pushed forward in conventional dressage saddles, the Bounty maintains a secure and comfortable riding position. Importantly, we have designed a longer, larger seat without making a longer saddle, as many weight-carrying horses are short-backed. The panel of the saddle measures 18”, so it is suitable for all horses.”
The WOW Bounty is specially designed to cup the rider’s seat and provide ultimate support. It offers the horse supreme comfort, with the famous WOW carbon fibre tree that provides lateral flexion, and the Flair Air Flocking System that consists of four adjustable air bags that provide an even bearing surface for optimum equine comfort and enhanced performance. Meanwhile, WOW’s Pointless Panel System increases shoulder movement, and interchangeable steel or carbon fibre headplates, available in 11 sizes, offer the perfect equine fit.
The seat can be used with the full range of differently designed flaps in the WOW range be it fixed or moveable knee blocks, giving the ultimate in rider comfort and stability. The WOW double stirrup bar enables the rider to move leg position, depending on the length of their upper thigh and the level of work their horse is achieving. A range of black and brown colours is available.
“We are thrilled with the response to this saddle – and have recognised a market demand from our customers,” David concludes.
To find out more call 01227 831614 or visit www.wowsaddles.com
The WOW panel system is actually an extension of the tree. We call it our Pointless Panel System, or PPS. Most panels are made purely from leather or like materials, which because of their soft nature, provide very little extra support area over that part of the tree.
With this in mind we created a panel which would…
- Support the tree
- Nullifying any of the pressure we normally see from stirrup bars and point of the tree.
- Extend the bearing surface of the tree to achieve a much greater and more consistent bearing surface for the saddle.
We achieved these goals by incorporating in the panel construction a semi-rigid plastic plate (shown as a dotted line), which stiffens the top of the panel. The stiffened panel extends far beyond the tree and where conventional points would end (shown as a box outline). The plate can flex with the movement of the horse whilst still applying even pressure. The square inches of support surface produced by this saddle is greater than that of a western saddle!
A conventional tree has points which are 2-3 fingers wide and stop approximately 7.5″ down from the head. WOW does not have points; the front of the tree is a ‘lobe’ which incorporates the double stirrup bar.
This lobe is then extended by the plastic plate system on top of the panel to create a pointless tree and panel ending 12-13 inches down from the head. This extra depth of support decreases pressure on the shoulder and encourages better movement of the horse.
There is a choice of panel styles to suit different conformations of horse. Panel can be purchased separately if required. We custom make panels with different heights of back gusset for different / difficult horse confirmations such sway back etc.
All panels are inter-changeable between seats of the same size or larger, i.e. you can use a 17″ panel on an 18″ tree. This is very useful for horses with short backs that cannot accommodate the seat size the rider requires.