During a recent session of tidying my office and looking through old paperwork and files, I made the mistake of looking through some old diaries that Carol and I used to use before the days of iCal.
Of course, this is a dangerous thing to do, because inevitably, we end up spending the time allocated to the tidying to reminiscing and going over historical documents!
The diaries I found go back to 1993 and there are notes in them that show appointments we had with various saddle makers and influential people in the saddle industry, back in the days when Carol and I were trying to get them to take an interest in the early research we had been doing.
If they had been more open minded and interested in horse welfare, there would have been no incentive and no need for us to start the BALANCE Organisation and no need for us to get our own saddles made!
Unfortunately, they only saw the improvements to saddle design that we were asking them to consider as a nuisance, and of no benefit to their profit margins, so we were always shown the door. Sometimes politely and sometimes not!
It will be good for the full BALANCE story to be told one day, either in book form or, as is hoped in the form of a film documentary, which is in the process of being made.
One note I came across referred to a conversation between myself, Carol and the other co-founder of the original BALANCE Organisation, Maureen Bartlett. We had obliviously been discussing whether horse riders and owners would be as committed to protecting their horses from saddle related damage as we hoped they would be.
Carol, Lesley and Maureen. Back in 1993 at the start of the BALANCE story.
Of course, that was in the days after meeting Frank Baines and John Hamilton. Both of whom had accepted that we were not insane and had agreed to make some saddles that incorporated all of the design features that we had discovered were needed on the horse's side of a saddle to keep him comfortable.
In the process of making these saddles, we had a blinding flash of the obvious as to why saddles had become so damaging to horses. In finding saddle trees and building saddles on them that reflected the shape and widths of healthy, well-muscled horses, it was clear that they would have to be much wider for the rider to sit astride than they were used to! More akin to feeling the shape and width of the horse when riding bareback.
And there you have the fundamental and challenging conflict that exists between the needs of the horse and the preferences of the rider.
Interestingly, people who learn to ride in BALANCE Saddles and other makes that are a more accurate reflection of the shape of a healthy horse, don't seem to have a problem with the width. They tend to develop a good level of lateral balance early on and as most of our saddles are very simple in their seat shape, they learn to take responsibility for their own stability, rather than relying on the saddle to hold them into a position.
It can be more of a challenge for riders who have only ever known the feel of riding in saddles that are a lot narrower in their shape, than the horses they are sitting on. Which, unfortunately, is still the majority. Our experience is.... that it doesn't usually take a rider very long to adapt and feel very comfortable in our saddles, even if their first ride is a bit of a surprise. There will always be a few people who just can't or won't adapt, but we tend to find that the horse owners who find their way to our door, are those who have a very high level of commitment to the welfare of their horses and are willing to be adaptable and open.
One of the reasons that Carol and I have been so keen to direct more horse riders and riding instructors to learn about the Feldenkrais Method, is that it is such an invaluable tool to help riders to become aware of their balance, posture and habitual patterns of movement in ways that improve riding skills more effectively, than just about anything else that I have come across over the years. Maybe its time to get back into doing a few more Feldenkrais for Rider's Workshops around the UK.
Sternum Lower Back Connection
Meantime, I really should get back to sorting through the 'stuff' in my office and doing some filing!