Friday, 15 November 2013

Dutch Saddle fitting and research trip November 2013

What an action packed few days it was for our founder Nikki Newcombe on her recent visit to Holland.  

The significance of warmblood breeding in The Netherlands lends itself as a great base for 
research and development into the understanding .of continuous changes in the breed profile. 
We are seeing less and less of the broader more solid Hanoverian types and a much lighter sports horse influence coming through.

 This has led to considerable changes in the profiles where once most Warmbloods would be wide with a low wither and flat back, many now have almost a Thoroughbred type wither but the significance being still with the flat back. 

The development of our Warmblood tree has been so because of these changes that are being recognised and causing saddle fitters issues.  

It was wonderful to see some many difference shapes and profiles and see that how the correct tree and panel selection is so important in achieving firstly comfort and freedom for the horse but importantly a correct balance point for the rider.

The popularity of the Icelandic horse in the Netherlands means we are never short of willing volunteers to trial saddles with us. 

Nikki visited  several breeders and trainers with saddle fitter Martine Liefstingh. Being able to see so many different profiles and trial the new Loxley Icelandic saddle on so many horses and rider feedback is invaluable for development, even down to test riding herself.  

It was rewarding to see some of the existing Loxley Icelandic’s in action and the difference it has made to both the riders and horses whether riding for pleasure or competitively.  The acoustic ‘takke takke’ sound that you hear in the Tölt never fails to amaze.

There was also time to meet up with our sponsored rider Frank Hosmar, whilst training Lotte Klumper (who also rides in the Paramour Dressage) and her very characteristic horse Jack. 

It is so important that we truly understand the saddles we produce and can relate the riders experiences and feedback to the build in order to create the perfect saddle for them, Lotte was kind enough to let Nikki have a ride on Jack to feel how her Paramour works on him and then it was very interesting to see how differently Jack reacted when we tried another saddle (which fitted), he certainly knows what he does and doesn’t like!

A thank you to Arthur Asveld for the tour around the impressive Dierenkliniek, Den Ham. 

 The clinic offers first class facilities for both small and large animals with full assessment clinics, operating facilities, hydrotherapy and even an MRI scanner. 

They have a refreshing outlook with professionals working together for the benefit of the client and hold clinics with saddle fitter Heleen Klumper when dealing with saddle/back/lameness related issues.

Gorgeous scenery, fabulous riders and horses and even better hospitality, 
Holland is a great place to be a saddle fitter!  Thank you so much to everyone who made the trip possible and worthwhile especially Heleen Klumper and Martine Liefstingh saddle fitters extraordinaire!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Ralpf Lauren - Fall/Winter Collection

Ralph Lauren offers a world of luxury and comfort in men, women’s and children’s clothing. For the Ralph Lauren children’s fall collection, the clothing line hosted a “Day at the Stables” fashion show that incorporated many facets of the Ralph Lauren lifestyle. For more information, please visit Ralph Lauren.


held their “Day at the Stables” RALPH LAUREN Girls Fall 2013 Fashion Show last month to preview their Fall and Holiday Collections for moms and daughters.  The plaid, the braids, the boots, the hats, the pops of color – there is so much for parents and girls to love about this collection!  Take a look for yourself.

Based on Ralph Lauren staples, the Fall/Holiday collection gives girls comfort and style.  Classic pieces Ralph Lauren is known for got a little twist by adding bold colors and mixing prints like plaid and argyle or fair isle and animal print.

Lace is everywhere this fall and winter, including the Ralph Lauren Girls collection.  This lace dress paired with traditional holiday red and green is a great look for a December event in the city.  Take away the red and green and it’s a darling dress for any occasion.

Hats and accessories are a huge part of this collection.  From berets to newsboy caps to top hats, the Ralph Lauren girls are accessorized head to sneaker, boot or ballet flat!  The patterned socks and shoes give an extra fun punch of personality to the looks. Chunky jewelry, stacked bracelets, belts and scarves provide even more options for girls to show off their individual style.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Why I Chose a Bliss of London Saddle, or Two! - Roberta Sheffield

For me, my saddle is a very personal thing. I am very loyal to my saddles and I spend a huge amount of time in and around them. As they are the gateway to communication with my horses when I am riding, both of us have to have our needs met for us to perform at our best.
When my top horse, Wonderboy, matured and changed shape, his previously well-fitting saddle stopped working for him. His back muscles have broadened out from under the stirrup bars through the back of the saddle – there was nothing for it, he had to have a new saddle!
As a rider who has ridden many different horses, I have ridden on many of the leading brands and I had a fair idea of what I like and what I really can’t stand to ride on. I trawled the internet, looking for something that would suit Wonderboy’s wide back and my need for support but a close, narrow feel. I had saddlers out to fit him, I tried saddles from the internet, wasting time while my chiropractor moaned at me that his saddle was damaging his muscles.

Then, one fortunate day, I came across Bliss of London saddles! I emailed Nikki for information, as it seemed to me that the only way forward would be a custom-made saddle as most modern saddles have the same width to the back of the tree regardless of the front measurement. Nikki reassured me that it should be possible to match my requirements with the horse’s comfort. She came out to me with all the Bliss dressage models in a variety of sizes. We spent a long time, seeing which tree shapes fitted Wondeboy best and which blocks, leathers and seats worked for me. It was the Paramour dressage, covered in nubuck, that seemed to be the best so I rode Wonderboy in that for the rest of his work session that day – he did the most enormous spook/ handstand combo and neither me nor the saddle moved an inch – SOLD! I was so comfortable and balanced that I forgot about the saddle and just rode, proof that it was perfect for me.

Back in the yard, Nikki took great pains to measure Wonderboy carefully so that the perfect tree could be used for his saddle, noting what gussets and panel shapes he would want, whether serge or leather covering would suit his back better. Then, over a cup of coffee we worked out the personalised shape to the thigh blocks for me and some of the finishing touches. Nikki and I agreed on a Maple leaf behind my leg and a fine red line around the seat and back of the cantle.
A couple of weeks later, and my saddle arrived. It is beautiful! Nikki came out and checked the fit, which was spot on. The nubuck covering gives great security and meant that it did not need that awkward breaking-in period. I have been using that saddle since April this year, I have been around Europe competing with it and it has been fantastic. I am sure it has played a massive part in our great results – Wonderboy and I are currently 9th in the FEI World Rankings!

In fact, my saddle has been such a success that I bought a second one, custom-made to fit my up-and-coming horse, Double Agent. She has improved so much since having her own saddle; greater freedom of movement and willingness to work.
I whole-heartedly recommend Bliss of London saddles for their wonderful attention to detail, both in the fit for horse and rider and the aesthetics. One of life’s strange things is that when a saddle fits this well, you don’t notice it- you just ride the horse and feel the harmony.    

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Saddlery Tradition Meets The Next Generation Of Designers

We frequently receive requests and orders for commissioned saddles and accessories that are out of the ordinary, and of course we are only too pleased to work with people who have a dream of creating their own unique items.  This is why we were delighted to be contacted in February this year by Ellie Walton who needed a little Bliss help with an amazing challenge that she had set herself.
 “I am a 3rd year textiles student of Nottingham Trent University who specialises in screen printing. Furthermore, when not doing uni work I am a keen horse rider and owner, which is where the theme of my final year project has originated from.”
“Concept for final project/degree show:

I am planning to create a variety of screen printed patterns inspired by the use of horses within our society and how they have been affected by urbanisation. I really want to capture the strength and great power of the horse as well as their elegance and grace through a mixture of repeat and placement patterns. The journey through my collection will start very nostalgic and subtle, reflecting my childhood with horses, and then it will progress into more dynamic and dramatic motifs/patterns as horses merge into urban life and the structure of buildings interact with the horses, reflecting their strength.”
“My initial idea is to put a piece or hand printed leather or fabric back into a seat of an old saddle I have, so I am placing my final prints back into my inspirational source. I wanted my fabric to stand out and be displayed I an inventive way when I take my work to degree shows in the summer.
I am at the beginning of my project at the moment, so I am at the initial drawing stage. The deadline for my project is the 22nd May and my degree shows are through June. I am also very keen to exhibit my work at the new designers show in London. I am aware that this is a small time frame and that your saddles are in high demand and you are very busy, so i am willing to work around you and try a make a final print as soon as possible for my deadlines to be met”.
How could we resist helping out from such a heart felt and passionate plea?
These were some of the initial sketch ideas which were produced on fabric, in order to test the colours, the clear areas of the fabric were burnt out to create transparent image.

Initially Ellie wanted to use her own designs on a full seat of an old Bliss saddle.  However it was decided that it would be best if Bliss did the printing as well as the re-seating.   Ellie advised  us “I have spoken to my print technician and I think for a more professional finish I feel I would like you to help me with the leather printing instead of printing them myself as I think the pigment I would use would crack when stretched to fit the” saddle” .
Printing onto leather is not new to us at Bliss and has become quite popular recently as we have used various nations flags on the back cantle pieces of our saddles, however using this technique over a full seat was something very different and certainly needed testing.
With a May deadline to meet and designs to be finalised and testing to be done, Ellie put pen to paper and set about producing some fabulous designs, one of which was chosen and we converted to print as our trial seat. Unfortunately it was soon obvious that the scale and complexity of this initial design was not going to work on a saddle seat.
Armed with the knowledge that she had learned from version 1 Ellie got about redesigning a new seat design.
Our  primary concern had always been whether the image would stretch and distort when ‘blocked’ over the seat so n order to test this thoroughly it required a new tree to be strained, foamed and blocked using the initial print this gave Ellie 2 weeks to put a new design together, but wow, it was worth it. 
We were much happier with the repeat in this design as it gave us more scope to centralise key aspects on the seat when blocking. The skill involved in setting a seat is being able to take a flat piece of leather and mould it over a complicated 3 dimensional object in a way that the leather is stretched sufficiently enough to remove all creases. 

This is a task in itself but when presented with a symmetrical design, avoiding unevenness was off the essence. We were thrilled with the final results and even managed to match up the new leather on the skirts to the old original saddle leather.

Last week Ellie came in to collect her finished project and we also got the chance to see some of her other incredible pieces of textiles, wallpapers and scarves just some, for her show.

Ellie “I took my saddle in today and people are amazed by it! I'm very proud!”

Ralph Lauren - Spring and Summer 2013 Collection

We were delighted to be asked by Ralph Lauren in London to supply 8 Cognac saddles for their Spring and Summer 2013 collection. This was also supported by Dragonfly Saddlery in Sussex who supplied bridlework and accessories.With a strong polo and equestrian theme, their window displays are stunning and the merchandising in store is inspirational.

Photography courtesy of

Welcome on board, Bert (Roberta) Sheffield - Canadian Para Dressage Team

We are thrilled to welcome on board as part of our Sponsored riders team Canadian Para Team Rider – Bert (Roberta)
Sheffield and her fabulous horse Wonderboy (Whoop).
Bert was having saddle “issues” with her existing saddle and felt it was time to look for a new saddle that would be comfortable for Whoop but help with her own position and contact – The Paramour Dressage was in instant success for both!
Bert is a Canadian International Grade 3 Para-Equestrian dressage rider and also competes in able-bodied British Dressage competitions, qualifying for the Winter Regional Championships at Medium level with Wonderboy.  Based in Lincolnshire, she started competing internationally, originally for Team GBR, but having dual nationality from birth, changed sporting nationality to Canada and be part of their vibrant, up and coming squad. “I am so excited about the opportunities in the future, especially the chance of representing my country at the World Equestrian Games 2014 and, fingers crossed, Rio Paralympics 2016.”

Berts own story: “I have always loved dressage and training horses. After studying at Aston University, Birmingham, I worked for Gareth Hughes at Aspen Grove Dressage as a BD apprentice for nearly 2 years. I took my little Welsh Cob, Calerux Cosmonaut with me. It was Gareth who suggested I try my hand at Para Dressage. In 2006, we were invited to the Para team selection trials and got through to the final selection stage for the World Class Potential programme. Gareth gave me a terrific education and I owe him a great deal for the opportunities he gave me.

While I was there, the chance came up to train with the legendary Arthur Kottas-Heldenburg, formerly Chief Rider at the Spanish Riding School. I trained with Arthur for 3 years, every time he came over. He has stopped coming over now so I started to train with Conrad Schumacher. Conrad has trained just about all the major Olympic dressage nations' teams. Last year, I started to train with Dutch Olympian, Ellen Bontje. The continued help from Gareth along with Ellen and Conrad is, I believe, the way for me to develop.

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis in all my limb joints and my neck, shoulders and jaw. This started when I was 15 and has progressed through my body. Although RA is painful and makes life awkward it has given me the opportunity to compete in top level Para competition. Riding gives me tremendous freedom from my condition. I use straps from the stirrups to the girth, to stabilise my lower legs and bobbles on the reins to help me grip. I take Anti-TNF medication and painkillers and also have regular chiropractic treatment to help keep my body working evenly.”Bert is a great ambassador for the sport and has tremendous drive to succeed.  We are very much looking forward to working with her over the next few years and hopefully onto Rio 2016.

Achievements and Credentials:
Former Member of the BEF Excel Talent Programme
Selected for Lincolnshire Elite Athlete Programme 2013
1st Bishop Burton CPEDI 2* Freestyle 74.2%
1st Bishop Burton CPEDI 2* Team test 70%
2nd BD National Championships KBIS 2012
3rd BD National Championships KBIS 2011
Winter Restricted National Champion 2011
Trained by Gareth Hughes, Conrad Schumacher and Ellen Bontje
Top Horse- Wonderboy  (Whoopi)
Young horse- Double Agent (Darcy)

Katie Ruppel and Sir Donovan at Rolex 2013

Katie Ruppel and Sir Donovan at Rolex 2013

We want to express our huge congratulations to Katie Ruppel and her long time partner Sir Donovan who finished an incredible 15th place at Rolex last month.

Katie has had a little of a Rolex bad luck over the last two years, but this year she was determined to put it all together.  We she certainly made a good start by bagging herself a pair of Dubarrys by winning the Dubarry of Ireland Fashion Awards, impressing the judges at the horse inspection as the Best Dressed and Turned Out - cant say we are surprised!

Dressage was on the first of the two days – Thursday.  Sir Donovan is such a big horse which means he can struggle with dressage and get a little claustrophobic, but he remained calmed and a safe test set them into 33rd position.  Katie is a little superstitious and doesn’t walk the cross country course until after the dressage, so with Friday free it gave her plenty of preparation.

The course was as tough as ever but Sir Donovan being bred in Ireland is a true cross country machine and thankfully the pair stayed together this year and had an incredible clear round with only 1.6 time penalties, which moved them up into 17th place.

The show jumping phase was certainly testing, with only 4 clear rounds and no time penalties. Katie and Sir Donovan jumped a fabulous stadium round with only 8 penalties; this moved them up 2 places to finally finish in 15th – fantastic!!  Lots of cheers to be heard from all her supporters, Patty Merli (Katie’s saddle fitter) and ourselves of course!

Last weekend Katie continued her excellent form at the Jersey Fresh CCI3* with Houdini.  He had a lot to live up to from his stable pal! This was Houdini’s first outing at 3* but this didn’t stop them getting a fabulous result, in 10th after dressage and a clean cross country round and then only 4 stadium, moved them up to finish in 5th place.  Some exciting times ahead with both of these top horses and we are proud to offer our support.

Katie rides in the Liberty Dressage and Paramour Event saddle.