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.

New consultant saddle fitter – Stacy Berger, Saddles and Soles

New consultant saddle fitter – Stacy Berger, Saddles and Soles

The craftsmanship we offer is equally as important as the knowledge and expertise in saddle fitting that you desire. So we would like to extend a warm welcome to:
Stacy Berger from Saddles and Soles.

Now representing Bliss of London in Northern California, USA
Contact her on (530) 409 3199

I am a saddle fitter working in Northern California (Sacramento & Reno vicinity). 

My name is Stacy Berger.   A lifelong student of the horse and an information junky for all things equine!  I reside in Shingle Springs, California with my husband Jim, our dog Jojo and our 4 horses.  With a background in business and project management, my passion is solving problems.  Working with horses takes that passion out of the confines of big business and conference rooms into the barn!

The common thread required for successful athletic performance & soundness (both mental & physical) is to achieve balance.  Saddle fit, horsemanship and healthy hooves are components that enable you and your horse to move freely and perform your work well.  I am available for appointments at your barn to evaluate your saddle, how it fits you and your horse, make needed adjustments or to advise you with new saddle purchases.  I represent several brands and also evaluate and work on all brands of English and western saddles.   I look forward to working with you and your horse to help you achieve your goals!

Emma Sheardown – International Para Dressage Rider

Emma Sheardown – International Para Dressage Rider

Emma being presented with her new saddle from Nikki Newcombe, along with trainer Angela Weiss

We are excited to welcome Emma Sheardown to Team Bliss.

Emma is based with her trainer Angela Weiss in Nottinghamshire.
Being born with Cerebral Palsy, Emma’s balance and the co-ordination of both arms and legs are affected, so finding the right saddle for Emma was crucial, as every little extra detail to enhance performance can help.   Emma feedback was wonderful,

“I have been riding in my new Paramour Dressage saddle courtesy of ‘ Bliss of London’ for six weeks now and I can’t believe the difference that it has made to both my horse, Purdy’s Dream (Eddie) and myself.
Eddie has never been an easy horse to saddle fit, but I am thrilled now to have a saddle that actually looks comfortable and stable on his back and allows him to move freely. On a recent visit from my Equine Physiotherapist, she commented on how much freer Eddie’s shoulders were and how because they are now freer, improved muscle tone has started to develop.
From my point of view, over the last six months I have been working on the Lunge to basically re-build my position from scratch. This has been a long process, as I have had to focus on each area of my position individually and make sure that that area is solid before piecing it all back together again. As soon as I sat in my new Bliss Saddle it was like being given the ‘Key to a door!’ The saddle sat me in a more classic riding position straight away which meant that all my ‘check-list’ areas that I have been working on, became much more accessible to me!! I have even dropped down three holes on my stirrups and I am now very proud to be able to have a leg position that I have always dreamed of, but never been able to achieve! A big thank you to Nikki and Bliss Of London!! “


Emma started riding at the age of 2 after recommendation from her physiotherapist and developed through the wondrous organisation of the RDA, at the age of 16 she was introduced to dressage.

“In 2004 I was first selected onto the World Class Para Dressage Development Squad, and in 2010 after winning a Gold and a Silver Medal at the 2009 European Championships, and a Gold and a Bronze Medal at the 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG), I was promoted onto the World Class Performance Squad: British Equestrian Federation / British Equestrian Teams”

Although very narrowly missing out on London 2012 she is no stranger to international competition as her achievements show:
2012 - Short-listed for the 2012 London Paralympic Games           
2011 - European Championships, Moorselle, Belgium   Individual Silver Medal, Freestyle Silver Medal & Team Gold
2010 - World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA   Individual Bronze Medal & Freestyle Gold Medal  
2010 - Selected onto the World Class Performance Squad      
2010 - Hartpury CPEDI***   1st, 2nd & 3rd  
2010 - British Dressage Para Summer Championships, Hickstead   Won both Grade 1A classes, & came 2nd in the overall Freestyle   
2010 - Moorselle CPEDI***, Belgium   Won both Grade 1A classes  
2009 - European Championships, Norway   Individual Silver Medal & Freestyle Gold Medal     
2009 - Moorselle CPEDI***, Belgium   Won all three grade 1A classes           
2008 - Long-listed for the 2008 Paralympic Games      
2007 - Paralympic Games Qualifier, Norway   Won all three Grade 1A classes  
2006 - Saint Lo CPEDI**, France   Won all three Grade 1A classes  
2006 - Millfield CPEDJI, Great Britain   Won both Grade 1A classes, & third overall  
2004 - Madrid, Spain   Won two Grade 1A classes, & came Second in the Kur  
2004 - First selected onto the World Class Development Programme    

 Emma testing riding the Paramour Dressage

Emma rides and owns Purdy’s Dream aka Eddie, 1998 Bay 17hh Warmblood X gelding by Fandor
Currently working at Level:   Working Elementary / Medium.   Like Emma, Eddie is Lincolnshire born and bred.  Emma says “ To me Eddie is a perfect gentleman and is lovely to work with and around. He always tries his best and really does look after me!!”

“Working with riders at any level is always rewarding to see how much a correctly fitting saddle can enhance performance, however for Emma this truly has been remarkable, with makes it even more worthwhile.  The difference in her overall position was almost instant and we really look forward to helping as part of her support team, with the WEG in Normandy next year and of course looking forward to Rio 2016” Nikki Newcombe.