Friday, 6 March 2015

2015 Horses Inside Out Conference

The Annual Horses Inside Out conference this year had the title of “Training, Therapy and Performance” and whilst perhaps not as saddle related as last years, it was still an incredibly informative 2 days. You never stop learning in the equestrian world and we were introduced to some new ideas and research that has been completed. On a more personal note I came back enthused to use some of Chris Bartle’s training exercises on my own young horse.

This insightful annual conference is brought together by the anatomy and biomechanics author, artist and lecturer Gillian Higgins. Gillian explained how the muscles are grouped in chains and reminded us of the importance of a strong back in the horse in order to carry the weight of a rider and saddle.   She also demonstrated some useful exercises to help achieve this: backing up in hand or reining back under saddle, the carrot exercise of encouraging the horse to stretch between his front legs both strengthen the back, particularly for horses with sacroiliac issues and kissing spine. Whilst spinning in hand and lateral works encourages a loose back. All highlighting that ongoing maintenance is long term prevention.

The speakers included:

Dr Kathryn Nankervis from Hartpury College, who gave a fascinating insight into “Exercise for the purpose of Rehabilitation” Horses with back pain are often linked as we know to hind limb lameness and the programme focuses on a developing their flexion and not extension, so straight line work is encourage.  A key take home message was that so many horses encounter injury because they are not sufficiently prepared and fit for the job they are being asked to do – so the old saying “prevention is better than cure”.

Dr Colin Roberts presented research from his PHD “Aspects of respiratory function during exercise in the TB”.  The resting heart rate for the horse is 25-45 bpm and this can increase up to 10 fold during strenuous exercise. Whilst not saddle related this was very interesting to learn that when endoscoped it was found that a very high percentage of Thoroughbreds (40-75% although probably occurs in all racehorses in fast work) do ‘bleed’ from stress/pressure in the lungs and not in the upper airway as previously believed. Signs are not apparent until the severity increases and blood is seen from the nostrils. However a nosebleed in a stabled/resting horse should be viewed differently and veterinary advice sought. Unlike muscles, the lung does not respond to training it was shown that fitness reaches a peak where it starts to plateau out considerably. So we are guilty sometimes of asking too much of our horses and over training which in itself can be the cause of injuries. So again a take home message along similar lines that the correct management of your horse helps prevent future issues.

Olympian Chris Bartle gave a very fun and inspiring demo on Polework Training for Improved Performance with the young horse.  The use of cavaletti in different gaits to improve strength and rhythm was inspiring.

Lee Clark presented Kinesio Taping for Horses and Riders, a therapy were you can visually see instant results.  Although this is not new I am sure we are going to see more of this in use in the equine field in the future.

Adam Kemp closed the conference with 2 very entertaining demonstrations on Training Related Performance where it was wonderful to see the development of young dressage horses progressing through to Grand Prix level.

There were many saddle fitters, trainers and therapists from around the world at the conference, which was a great opportunity to speak with other equine professionals from all spheres and continue to develop the ongoing knowledge of saddle fitting.

If you wish to view more of Gillian’s work visit or view a great video on this link  

Friday, 13 February 2015

Migrating South - With Eventer Kelly Sult-Ransom

For those of us that like to chase the sun for our own benefit, sometimes it is a simple as packing a case and catching a plane, but Kelly gives us some insight into what is involved when you are a dedicated event rider to keep going through the winter months in the USA:

I have recently packed up 7 ponies, 2 dogs, a working student and a semi load of hay and traveled to Aiken, South Carolina for the winter months! Being in PA I have come to realize that in order to keep going through the winter months I must travel to warmer weather! As i'm sure my horses very much appreciate this idea!

But in fact is very exhausting getting everything organized and cleaned to get ready for the move. It's also quite itchy and cold getting 6 horses clipped! And trying to get all my tack polished and shined is a job in itself, while trying to keep up with riding and giving many lessons. As I am very dedicated and love teaching my wonderful students, I taught up until the day before I left! Also fitting in a semi trailer load of hay with over 500 bales of hay with the wonderful help of my mom and dad!

Finally was ready to hit the road with two trailers in tow. Which my awesome friend Heather Warner pulled one of the horse trailers, and I drove the other while following my dad driving the semi! We left around 6:30 pm and drove through the night getting to Aiken, South Carolina around 7 a.m...Unloaded the horses and they all enjoyed a good roll in the pasture and took very long afternoon nap! 

Kelly Sult-Ransom's Horse

Went to the first horse show of the season with 2 of the young ones and had a blast! Out of 15 riders I finished 5th and 7th in the open preliminary! It was my first real test to get to know the feel of my awesome new Loxley mono event saddle from Bliss Of London! I was able to feel the horse underneath me and rode more accurately! Which in fact paid off and rode better! My next show is this weekend, and will be my horses last preliminary before the big move to intermediate! Also am excited to ride in the William Fox-Pitt clinic next week!

I will definitely keep everyone posted and take lots of pictures!

Kelly Sult-Ransom

Saturday, 17 January 2015

English Saddlery Design.

For generations the saddlery market has been the epitome of English heritage, elegance and style. The chosen sport for many of our Royal family whether 3 Day Eventing, Dressage, Flat Racing or Polo. Even the term for riding astride is known the world over as English Riding. So with this most illustrious of heritage how are today’s top English saddle makers taking on the increased competition from Europe to ensure that even in these changing times English Saddles are still the most sought after in the world.

Whilst it is true that the external design of the saddle has certainly become a key factor in saddlery, first and foremost the emphasis is on how the saddle fits the horse. This is something Nikki Newcombe, Managing Director of bespoke saddle makers Bliss of London, is a firm believer in. “There has to be a balance between the craftsman’s exceptional technique and a designer’s vision,” she states. “Yes, customers want a saddle which looks amazing, and feels luxurious, however they also want their horse to perform at its very best and feel that the saddle unifies their partnership and enhances their connection, contact and control.”

“We have noticed many differing demands from our clients and these form the basis of Bliss of London’s objectives,” Nikki goes on to say. “For example, riders want to feel that ‘broken in’ feel straight away so soft and supple leather is a necessity and we have sourced some of the most luxurious leathers from around the globe to offer customers something ‘above average’ and exceptional.”

“The saddlery market is becoming more and more bespoke,” Nikki explains. “Clients are now asking for individual styling on their saddles to demonstrate their personality and tastes. This can be anything from contrasting stitching, contrasting leather finishes, diamantes or quilting and with access to modern technology we can now offer traditional British craftsmanship, along with cutting edge design, which makes this a very exciting time in the industry!”

“We do of course have our more traditional customers that insist on the classic understated elegance that is more familiar and will always be produced at Bliss’s workshops in England alongside our other unique and personalised saddles”.

 “Saddle manufacturing has gone full circle,” Nikki says. “Many years ago saddle making was not about production savings and speed, it was about creating a true luxury item which demonstrated artisan’s skill, with hours of time lavished upon them to ensure that perfection was achieved. Customers are now once again insisting on quality, craftsmanship, reputation and service, along with a saddle that is fitted to both horse and rider, whilst still allowing for creative freedom. All this is at the heart of Bliss of London’s philosophy.”
To find out more about the Bliss of London collection tel: 0207 1188 123.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

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.