Wednesday 20 December 2017

Solution Saddles have made my horse a pleasure to work with ... I cannot thank them enough.

“Dave had never been an easy horse to work with. He had always been very spooky and tense when ridden. He had a tendency to bolt when a rider mounted and had no flexibility across his body at all. His large shoulders and flat back meant that finding a saddle to fit him was a nightmare. 

Before Solution Saddles, I was spending copious amounts of time, money and patience in buying and trying different saddles, with most only lasting a few months before they would no longer fit. 

I had never heard of SMART saddles before my trial, and having no experience with anything other than traditional treed saddles I was a little dubious. However, several months on and I cannot believe the physical and mental difference a SMART saddle has made to Dave.

Within a week of riding in the SMART Native GP saddle, Dave was already feeling less tense and was moving much more freely through his back. A month later and we had overcome all mounting issues. Now several months on, and Dave is feeling the best he has ever been!

He is willing to work, no longer strong or stiff through his body. He is even beginning to offer stretching during our schooling sessions which is something he has never done. Dave definitely feels happier and much more confident and comfortable in his ridden work and this has ultimately given me more confidence in riding him. 

Solution Saddles have made my horse a pleasure to work with and enjoy and I cannot thank them enough. 


After an incredible transformation, I just had to invest in a SMART GP

“I love my Smart GP saddle!

I bought my youngster Lilly 2 years ago (when she was 3) and I was concerned about buying a saddle, knowing that she would outgrow it rapidly. A friend of mine recommended looking into SMART Saddles. I must admit I was sceptical as I have grown up with treed saddles and had not heard of a RigidFree option before.

A lovely Approved Advisor came out to demonstrate a couple of different versions: the SMART Eventer and the SMART GP and I instantly fell in love with them! They look no different on the outside to a treed saddle, but I really felt the difference when I tried it on my youngster; she felt so much more free under the saddle and transformed from a stiff, rigid, unwilling to move forward, stroppy mare to a forward going, free with movement, relaxed lady!

- It was an incredible transformation so I just had to invest in one!

 Here is a picture of us in action.

This saddle as a good investment for a young horse as she will constantly grow and develop and change shape - and these saddles can be adapted to cope with this change. I have had my saddle for about 2 years now and have learnt how to check the fitting myself so I can judge how it needs adjusted without having the expense and hassle of purchasing a new saddle regularly. I also like the idea that if I was to buy another horse I could use this one saddle by making simple adjustments to the setup at home with minimal fuss.

This really is a saddle of a lifetime! 



Monday 11 December 2017

Training Consultant: Tim Downes

"I first came across Solution Saddles back in February 2005. Since then my acquaintance with SMART saddles has saved me untold amounts of time and money.

My first interest came for a horse known as “JC Too” or “Jim” to his friends. I had acquired Jim as a project in October 2004, as a very green 6 year old. In my fascination with his fabulous temperament, and his metronomic trot rhythm, I had overlooked his rather dippy back, and his complete inability to canter! The fact that he had spent two years running around in Ireland with his head in the air, did not put him in the best starting place to commence life as a dressage horse either!

It soon became apparent that as long as he was totally comfortable under his saddle, he was prepared to learn. This was all well and good, but as he learned, so he got stronger over his back, and he changed shape. Bearing in mind his total lack of acceptance of discomfort you will understand that from October to February we went through 5 saddles! As he began to grow out of the fifth saddle, I began a search for an alternative. A chance meeting with Anne Bondi led me to “going RigidFree”.

At that time Jim had mastered some degree of balance in walk and trot, but was still cantering only when fifty acres were available, and in a fair impression of an Alton Towers experience. Within two months of starting work in his new saddle he had won his first novice test with 76%! Steady progress has been made ever since. Learning to canter enabled him to learn to jump, and his new found freedom of movement meant that learning lateral work was childs play! This year he has competed at medium level, and been a star at the BHSI examinations.

Naturally having had such amazing results with the saddle I was keen to try it on other horses. The fact that the SMART saddle is so lightweight and rolls up has enabled me to take it with me on my travels around the world to teach. I have used my SMART saddle on every conceivable shape and type of horse, and all have quickly discovered greater freedom of movement and elasticity, rapidly followed by more willingness to work towards self-carriage.

At home we have tested the durability of the SMART saddle to excess. We own two, and both are used daily on at least four horses each. It is fortunate for me that many of my clients now ride with their own SMART Saddle, as I am no longer allowed to remove my own from the yard for more than about half an hour. To do so would cause too much distress amongst those left at home, as they would have to fight over the one remaining saddle!

I have currently got three horses of my own in work, “Jim” who is an Irish sports horse, “George” who is Pure Irish Draught, and as wide as a house, and “CK” who is an Australian thoroughbred ex race horse. He is narrow beyond belief! All three wear the same saddle each day to work.

As a rider, a trainer of horses, and a teacher of riders, the SMART saddle has made my daily life easier, saved me hours of time trying to find saddles that ”fit” and enabled me to develop the training of many individual horses and riders way beyond their expectations."

Approved Advisor: Elaine Sutcliffe: Lincolnshire

Elaine is classically trained and promotes ‘gadget-free’, quality riding and horse management, that is enjoyable! Amongst other things, she specialises in independent bitting advice, having found that many of the issues that riders have with their horses disappear once the horse has correctly fitting, pain-free tack - and that equally includes saddles.

Approved Advisor: Daniel Hammond BHSI - Gloucestershire

"I have ridden in a SMART saddle since 2003. Every horse, without exception, has performed better than in a traditional saddle. I believe that if we wish to ride horses, we have a moral duty to make them as comfortable as possible, not only to achieve the best performance from them but also to promote their general wellbeing. SMART saddles make this possible."

Daniel Hammond BHSI, International Dressage Trainer

Approved Advisor: Catherine Marshall - East Lothian

I am a teaching student of Philippe Karl’s school of Legerete, following many years of dressage riding, training and working with young horses. 

I love Philippe’s unique way of riding, it has at heart the horse’s psychology and biomechanics, encouraging us riders to enable the horse to use his true rhythm and balance underneath us. While he insists on no artificial training aids, he stresses the importance of a well fitting saddle. The SMART saddle perfectly complements my training as it moves with the horse’s back and allows its ribcage to lift underneath me, while allowing me the comfort and stability I need for the high school movements. 

My horse is a typically flat backed Hanoverian with large shoulders and big, swinging movement. I was nearly at the end of my tether trying to find a saddle on a flat enough tree, most of them bounced at the back in canter and moved from side to side when he walked. He would tell me straight away when he disliked a saddle, his back would tense and hollow and his paces became shorter and stilted. 

As soon as we moved off in the SMART saddle I could tell he was comfortable, and in trot and canter, I could feel his ribcage lift underneath me.  I had some reservations about doing sitting trot and more high level work in a RigidFree saddle but this one is very supportive, it allows perfect hip shoulder heel alignment and during the lateral work, I felt the saddle was stable and able to follow the small bend of the spine rather than being pushed to one side.  The seat is very comfortable too, especially on longer rides. 

The muscle wastage behind Trooper’s shoulders filled in noticeably in the 3 week trial period and is now nearly gone. 

I can use this saddle on all my own horses and clients’ horses too. Cost efficiency is a big issue for me but in the long term this saddle will definitely save me money – it is perfectly designed to conform to each horse’s back, meaning that as they change shape (as they do from week to week) the saddle adapts too– it is very easy to fit once you understand the balance pad system. 

I have no hesitation in recommending these saddles to anyone. Once you have ridden in one, I think it would be difficult to go back to anything else. 

Approved Advisor: Caroline Harwood - Gloucestershire

Caroline has extensive experience in the industry, having been involved with horses for over 35 years; competing in many disciplines, from Eventing at Intermediate level, riding at Olympia, BD Regionals and now specialising in TREC. She now runs a livery yard of 23 horses in Gloucestershire helping clients to get the best from their horse at whatever level they prefer from happy hackers to BE eventers. 

Caroline has a keen interest in biomechanics and the development of every type of horse and rider. SMART saddles provide the ideal solution for her in seeking to produce a balanced horse: giving the horse the freedom and comfort it needs to perform to its best and enabling the rider to be both comfortable and effective.

"Having tried a number of different types of treeless saddle over several years, I struggled to find one which gave freedom to the horse, comfort and stability to the rider yet retained a more "conventional look".  Convention tended to lead to a feeling of "sitting on a pillow" or potential pressure points from the stirrup bars so ultimately I went back to treed saddles but finding a dressage saddle to fit my highland ponies was an unenviable task.

When I started training with Daniel Hammond he kindly allowed me to ride in his SMART Saddle.  The difference was immediate.  My mare was able to move her massive shoulders without the tree impinging on the movement of her scapula and she developed swing, the front lightened and lateral movements became easier for her. Now a proud owner of two SMART Saddles, a couple of months on and my fat hairy pony is able to perform shoulder-in and travers without getting "stuck" and we are currently working on half-pass.  I also compete in TREC and the SMART Saddle is ideal for the combination of disciplines." 

Approved Advisor: Andrew Bennie - Staffordshire

“I have ridden in the SMART™ saddles for more than 6 years now. After trying the latest range of  SMART™ saddles on all of my horses I was really impressed.

One of the event horses felt as though his good jump became even better and our retrained ex-racehorse felt so much more uphill in the SMART PRO Dressage saddle. Another of the horses’ paces, particularly canter, felt really good, so I now can't wait to get him eventing again. He has improved so much since I started riding him in the SMART saddles, so I am very excited about the season ahead with a SMART PRO Jump!!”
Andrew Bennie, Olympian, BE Accredited Coach,
BHSI, List 1 BD judge and FEI Eventing 4* and Olympic judge.

Technical Advisor: Rachael Brown - Suffolk

Rachael presenting at Trailblazers Championships
Rachael Brown (EBW) has been involved with horses for over 29 yrs having started on ponies at the age of 6. She is a qualified Equine Body Worker (Equine Sports Massage Therapist).
It was as a result of a sacroiliac injury to her own horse that lead her to SMART saddles. For a number of years she had not been truly happy with any of the saddles that had been fitted to him (of which there were many!) and as a result his back had been slowly atrophying over a period of 3 years and eventually he went lame behind. Rachael decided to go down the RigidFree saddle route and hasn't looked back since.
Her horse, Wals, is a Welsh cob x Thoroughbred and apart from the atrophy has large wide shoulders and a very small area to fit a saddle – not a problem for a SMART saddles! His dressage marks have gone from 5’s & 6’s to 7’s & 8’s since investing in his SMART saddle.
Rachael also jointly owns a Welsh D and he loves the SMART saddle too. Previously he would buck and be generally unhappy in his saddle. There was no way he could carry a forward cut treed saddle due to his very wide, no withered, short backed welsh cob conformation, but he his very happy in his flexible SMART Jump saddle.
When Rachael visits horses for a massage session she says that a very large proportion of their problems relate to the saddles they are being ridden in. As an agent for Solution Saddles and a massage therapist Rachael hopes that more horses in the world will become happy and comfortable in whatever they do whether it is anything from hacking to eventing.

Technical Advisor: Kadiya Qasem: Kent

Eventing  23 year old Jeeves; 11 years with SMART saddles and clear showjumping and x-country.

Kadiya Qasem has been involved with Solution Saddles since 2006. 

Having trained at the internationally renowned Yorkshire Riding Centre, home to Chris Bartle and Jane Bartle-Wilson, she has a keen interest in both equine and human performance and welfare. 

Kadiya continues to train horses and riders and rides in both the Smart Pro dressage and jump saddles. 

Technical Advisor: Emily Howe - Derbyshire

I started training with Solution Saddles in 2008 and have been a Technical Advisor since 2010.  Based in Derbyshire, I travel to many areas of the UK. In 2018 I will pursue my training with the Society of Master Saddlers to expand my saddle fitting knowledge. Alongside this I will complete my Equinology horse anatomy qualification and the Equinenergy saddle fitting course for equine professionals. 

I have a deep understanding of natural horsemanship methods and training, barefoot rehabilitation and healthy, natural equine nutrition. I have patience with young and ‘problem horses’ as well as experience in competing in dressage, showjumping, arena eventing and showing.  I enjoy a challenge and live for making my clients and their horses happy.

Having had a successful showing record at county level with Natives and Cobs in both Working Hunter and flat classes, I came to Solution Saddles when my Heavyweight Cob stopped jumping. I have only ridden in a Solution saddle since. I currently have a rescued 17 year old Irish Thoroughbred; we are now bitless, barefoot, treeless and brilliant!  Once deemed dangerous, he is now a dope on a rope and is a constant source of learning and inspiration - my horse of a lifetime. We qualified for Horse of the Year Show Search For A Star in 2014 and went to the finals. Our next focus is on qualifying for Olympia Veterans. I ride in a SMART Show saddle and SMART Pro Jump saddle.
Emily Howe

"There is nothing I am surer of; a horse can only give its best when it is free from pain. Whilst this is more complicated than just a saddle, a saddle that moves with and supports both horse and rider, that offers full freedom for unrestricted movement, flexibility,  reduced concussion, greater feel and better communication, has to be vital for long term soundness and safety of horse and rider - plus maybe, eventually, competitive success - if that is what you seek.’’

Technical Advisor: Catie Baird - Aberdeenshire

Catie Baird, an accomplished and experienced rider and trainer, has evented up to CCI *** level and now has 3 children of her own eventing in under 21's, Junior, and FEI Pony Trials. When not acting as the family chef d´equipe, she still manages to find the time to continue competing herself.
As a family, the Bairds have lots of horses coming into the yard of every shape and size. They also had a tack room full of saddles, all of which were fitted with Flair air panels to improve fit. Even so, it was always difficult to keep all the horses happy all of the time. Now with SMART saddles, they are all happy all of the time. The horses feel much softer and enjoy the freedom in their shoulders and through their backs, which in turn makes them easier to ride.

Approved Advisor: Alex Jakob-Whitworth - Cumbria

Alex Jakob-Whitworth (MA, MIPTI, EThPK) has been involved with horses all her life and it is through her work as an Equine Massage Therapist that she has discovered Solution Saddles. She trained at the world famous Yorkshire Riding Centre with Jane and Christopher Bartle, competed up to Elementary in Dressage and has started her own young horses.
Having seen so many horses damaged by badly fitting saddles, she found that SMART saddles dramatically improved the horse’s way of going and overall well-being.
Her business, “Equine Awareness”, focuses on Equine Massage and the holistic well-being of horses and their riders. She runs workshops and clinics in Equine Massage, Behaviour, Anatomy, Confident Rider and Tack Awareness.
Alex is a renowned and classically trained Artist who has work exhibited in collections worldwide. As a Solution Saddles Advisor, Alex finds that the extensive knowledge of equine anatomy that she has gained both through art and massage therapy enhances her role; the outstanding results that riders are able to achieve with SMART saddles are truly rewarding.

Technical Advisor: Liz Bell BHSII - Inverness-shire

We have had success with many different ponies and horses using the SMART saddles.
Our first experience was with Peter:
Don Primique (Peter) is by Don Primero and owes his life to Tim Downes (FBHS) and Solution Saddles. He was imported to this country in 1995, aged four, as a potential dressage stallion. The first thing he did wrong was not grow into being a big, beefy horse. Aged five he was gelded and sold on at a much reduced price. There are some gaps in his history between 5 and 8 but we know he underwent "overtraining" as a five year old.
In 2004 I heard about a difficult horse at Ingestre that wouldn't work properly and the owners knew it was something to do with its dislike of saddles. Peter was tried in a RigidFree saddle, on the flat, over jumps, cross country and he was transformed. At last he was rideable, still a little quirky, but he could now progress.
In August 2005 Peter arrived for my daughter Alice, the saddle arrived a few weeks later and Peter entered the third phase of his resurrection. His self-confidence continued to grow and he started Show Jumping and Eventing. He can now enjoy pain free work in his SMART dressage saddle and pain free XC in his SMART jumping saddle.
Yes, I had to buy TWO saddles in the end, but it was worth it to see not only Peter, but every other horse that Alice and I ride enjoying their work, without constriction and discomfort. I am now busy trying to persuade the Scottish Highlands to become a "tree free" zone. Peter is a good ambassador, as the photograph shows.
Why Choose
a Highland pony, competed successfully up to Medium level. Highlands do tend to be very broad and the Solution saddle was perfect for allowing the freedom through the shoulder required for Dressage.
Why Choose
another Highland pony, was ridden in the Solution jumping saddle for his WH classes, which he was always placed in, usually with a clear round.
Why Choose
a Connemara, was broken and produced for pony trials, using the SMART GP saddle
Why Choose
a coloured cob was ridden in the SMART GP and Jumping saddle. He was an outstanding 15hh worker and also competed BE up to Novice level. He was also very broad, so the RigidFree saddles were ideal accommodated his shape.
Why Choose
Why Choose
an ex. racehorse came to me as a 3yo and was sold 18 months later, competing successfully up to Elementary level Dressage. Saddle fitting with a traditional saddle would have been a problem, because he was very narrow, with a prominent wither. He was ridden in the Solution Dressage and Jump saddle. 
Why Choose
a 14.2hh Irish pony came to me as a 5 year old with no brakes or training. He was ridden in the SMART GP and is now scoring top 60% at Novice Dressage level and is about to do his 1st BE 90 having finished last season on 2 double clears at BE 80 and placed 2nd.
Why Choose
a 5 year old Connemara x TB will start eventing at BE 80 level in the summer.
a Connemara, a current project broken just before Christmas and ridden in the SMART GP. She scored 67% in an intro test after 10 weeks under saddle, with 7 and 8 in the collectives.

Friday 8 December 2017

Technical Advisor: Karen Redfearn BHSII – Northumberland

Karen has worked with horses since leaving school and has been self-employed for the past 20 years, backing and training horses for many disciplines.

“I first got involved with Solution Saddles as I was riding many different horses, some short term for backing, some longer term for competition, and found it difficult and expensive to make sure each horse had a saddle that fitted well. SMART saddles proved to be the solution and I haven’t looked back since.”

Friday 17 November 2017

"I am 100% satisfied that I have made a very sound investment in my SMART™ Eventer and it will be my saddle for life."

“I have had my SMART™ Eventer saddle for five months now and it has been used nearly every day so far. I am absolutely delighted with it and my horse, Teddy, has shown some very positive changes in his way of going since returning to Solution Saddles after a brief time in a treed saddle.

The test ride was a relaxed and friendly experience and I felt under no pressure whatsoever to buy, nor did I feel uncomfortable whilst trying it. I find that Solution Saddles are a great company to deal with and are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

I have previously owned a Solution GP for five years, which proved to be thoroughly versatile – fitting many horses of assorted sizes ranging from little 13.1hh to a HW 16.1hh with just a few simple shimming alterations.

As ever, Solution Saddles are a forward thinking and innovative company and I feel that the SMART™ saddle is even easier to fit and gives an improved riding experience.

My SMART™ Eventer saddle is so very versatile it was used over the summer during a three-discipline riding camp, culminating in a mini one-day event at the end. It performed brilliantly and went from dressage through to cross-country with only minor knee roll and stirrup length adjustments.

Moreover, with some minor shim adjustments, my SMART™ Eventer is also easily adapted for my nine-year-old daughter to ride in balanced and very secure position – a truly versatile saddle!

I am often disappointed with various horsey products that don’t live up to their claims, however I am 100% satisfied that I have made a very sound investment in my SMART™ Eventer and it will be my saddle for life.”

Gemma Barnes
November 2017

Friday 27 October 2017

At the end of the season, Penny has felt the improvement in all of her horses since using the SMART PRO Dressage and SMART PRO Jump saddles

October 2017

"We finished a good season at Askham, all 9 horses have gone well and have all had placings. 

They have all used the SMART PRO Dressage and SMART PRO Jump saddles; I'm loving them and really feeling the improvement in all the horses.

Queen of Diamonds, placed at Bishop Burton BE90 
then romped effortlessly round the BE100 at Askham

A new horse to the yard has just won both dressage classes with 70%+ scores, ridden in SMART PRO Dressage saddle. She has definitely felt the benefit after changing from the saddle she came with!! 

Roll on next season after a winter of training & practice!

SMART™ Saddles Ambassador - Penny Lawn B.H.S.I.I.

Monday 16 October 2017

“It is difficult to capture in words how happy I am with the SMART Native VSD saddle.”

“In August 2016 I had a fall from my gelding, breaking my arm badly in the process.  I was out of the saddle for almost 7 months, and when I did start to ride again my confidence was at rock bottom.  My gelding, Charlie, is not an easy horse to ride and his sharpness and tendency to spook worried me.  I quickly began to feel that my saddle just wasn't helping me to sit as securely and safely as I needed it to.  A friend suggested I try a SMART™ saddle, as she loved hers, so I got in touch with Solution Saddles and arranged for an Approved Advisor to visit me for a test ride.

I have to admit that I didn't have an immediate "yes I need this" reaction, though I did find the saddle to be very comfortable for me, and it was very stable on Charlie, who is very wide and flat backed.  I noted that he was stretching forward and down more easily than was usual, but he otherwise seemed fairly similar to usual to ride.  I arranged to have a rental saddle on trial to test it out for a bit longer. When the rental saddle arrived I was very pleased with how the saddle looked.  The brown leather was very smart and it is also light to handle.

I rode at least 4 times per week during my initial trial, which I extended to almost 4 weeks as I wanted to be as sure as possible that the SMART™ NATIVE VSD saddle was right for us.  From the start Charlie was happy to be tacked up and seemed very relaxed.  I have found that he is much less spooky than he was previously; I think this is due to a combination of him being very comfortable, and me being able to sit more quietly and securely.  When he has spooked he comes back to me quickly and the saddle has yet to move even a little, not even when he has done a fast spin and run (usually at killer pigeons)! In the school he is moving more freely too, his gaits are more flowing and he is carrying himself really nicely.  I had my usual physio check him over at the end of my trial and she was very pleased with how he looked and felt to her, she advised me to buy the saddle as it was clearly working well for Charlie.

It is really nice to have a treeless saddle that has a narrow twist and allows me to feel like I am close to Charlie's back.  The adjustable knee rolls are great, I can move them or change them depending on what I want to do that day.  I can read Charlie's body language through my seat, which allows me to ride more proactively and sensitively, which I love.  All of my post-fall nervousness has disappeared since I got the SMART Native VSD and I am riding more often and getting better results than I have ever done.  This is a huge thing for me, as at one point I seriously considered giving up as I was so nervous when riding.

It is difficult to capture in words how happy I am with the saddle.  It has absolutely 100% changed my riding for the better.”

Amanda Fidler
September 2017