The BALANCE organisation was formed in April 1993, by three
people in the UK, who came together at the beginning of the 1990’s through a
link to one very special horse.
Carol Brett. Freelance riding teacher, horse trainer and dressage judge and horse owner.
Lesley Taylor. Riding teacher, horse trainer and massage therapist.
Maureen Bartlett. Entrepreneur, business woman in the film & media industry and horse owner.
Through spending time together and having lengthy
conversations, the three of us soon realised that we had a common concern about
what we saw as the decreasing standards and knowledge and skills in the
management, riding and training of horses in the UK.
An increasing number of people, since the end of the 1940s,
had been buying horses with very little previous education or knowledge about
what they need to stay healthy and happy, which made them very reliant on
employing other people, who they believed to have more knowledge,
to advise and guide them.
Unfortunately, many of the ‘professional’ people who were consulted by the horse owner, from the Veterinarian, the Farrier, the Trainer, the Feed Merchant, the Saddle Fitter etc. often had very different opinions on what is right and rarely ever consulted with each other to provide a united and supportive network for the owner of the horse to work with. The poor horse owner therefore, would often be left trying to negotiate their way through a sea of individual egos, in their efforts to take care of their horse and make the ‘right’ decisions.
A ‘Whole’ new approach?
Maureen, Carol and I would find ourselves discussing this
situation and moaning about how ‘something needed to be
done’! Eventually, we decided that perhaps there was
something that we could do to highlight the situation and challenge
it. Maybe even create an alternative way of doing things and with this in
mind, the original idea behind forming the BALANCE organisation was to use it
to promote and support a more ‘joined up’, 'Whole-istic approach to the management,
training and riding horses.
Back in the early 1990s, this was considered to be a very
strange, ‘New Age’ concept, but Maureen in particular, had for some years, been
invested in taking care of her own health by making use of alternative and
natural medicines and adopting holistic principles to support a healthy
life. I had also been drawn to the concept of holism and had
qualified to do therapeutic massage and when not riding or teaching, worked,
part-time at the Tyringham Hall Naturopathic Clinic. It turned out
that Carol was also very interested in alternative medicine and so it all made
a lot of sense to us.
We could see that the holistic model would benefit riding
horses, by paying attention to their environment, feeding, hoof-care and
training in such a way as to make sure that everything that the horse is
subjected to, in the highly unnatural world of domestication by humans, is as
supportive as possible to his physical, mental and emotional health.
Nowadays, the holistic approach that seemed so new and
unusual in the horse world back in 1990, is no longer seen as radical or
Carol Brett's teaching and training methods needed a wider audience.
The other original purpose for forming the BALANCE
organisation, was to use it as a platform, from which to showcase and promote
Carols methods of training and teaching. Maureen and I were so impressed by her
ability to train horses and teach people at all levels and all ages, with
simple and profound information and methods. An approach and ability to
inspire and teach in such a clever way, that I had never seen before.
With Maureen’s experience and many contacts within the film
and media industry, there was talk of creating a documentary, or a series of
videos showcasing Carol’s teaching. This method of teaching is something
we take for granted now with YouTube, but back in 1990, it was another ‘new’
approach that we were considering.
However, before we had time to do much more than initial planning and before Carol had time to start writing a book about her methods, which was the other way we thought we could share it with more people, another ‘small’ project that Carol and I had been quietly working on, was destined to take over our lives and shape the future of the BALANCE organisation itself.
BALANCE takes a different direction.
This project had evolved from an observation that Carol had made when studying the way horses moved at liberty and/or on the lunge, without a saddle on. In her work as a trainer, she did more work in hand than many, because in addition to working with horse owners, she also trained a lot of children and ponies. Including being one of the trainers for the 1991 British Pony 3 Day Event Team. At 5ft 8inches tall, she was much too tall to ride the ponies and so regularly worked them on the lunge and in hand. This meant that she was spending a lot of time observing the quality of movement in the horses and ponies she trained. What she began to notice, was how often and how much, their good movement and balance became tense, short striding unbalanced, as soon as their saddles were put on! This was even before the rider got on. So, there was something about the saddle that was stopping horses and ponies from moving in the way that she knew that they could.
Being a naturally curious person, Carol wanted to understand
why. Her early investigations into this phenomenon got me intrigued as
well, and I started paying closer attention to the horses I was involved with
at that time and could see exactly what Carol was talking about. From
this, we started to study more horses together, in as many different makes and
design of saddles as we could, in order to identify what it was about saddles
that was making the horses change the way they were using their bodies.
Over time, a picture started to emerge of how certain design features in any
saddle seemed to create a specific problem to every horse that wore that
saddle, and other design features that seemed to make it easier for them to
move well. We finally identified about 6 design features that every horse
seemed to need on its side of the saddle. Unfortunately, there were
no saddles on the market at that time that contained all of these
Fit for Purpose?
The other factor that had emerged from these studies, was
that there seemed to be serious flaws in the way that people were fitting
saddles, which was creating additional and multiple problems for horses.
The only way that saddles were being fitted at that time,
and this is still the most common method, is what we refer to as
'Conventional Saddle Fitting'. The basic principles of this method take
little notice of the way a horse moves, because the saddle is chosen to match
the shape of the horse when it is standing still. This does not
acknowledge or respect the important changes in shape and width that need to
happen for the horse to move as nature and evolution have designed him to move!
In the early 1990s the choice of saddle makes and saddle
widths that saddle fitters had access to was very limited and almost
without exception, these saddles were much too narrow for any horse to be
comfortable in, and had few of the design features that we had come to realise
that all horses needed on their side of the saddle.
A lot of effort was made by Carol and I to share this
important information with the Society of Master Saddlers and the UK based
saddle manufacturers, in the hope that they would make good use of it.
Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears and it became clear that there was little
to no interest in them taking our findings on board.
However, when we went public with the results of our early
research through three large articles, published in Your Horse Magazine 1993,
the shock waves reverberated through both the horse owning public and
the saddle industry in the UK.
The Official Line
As someone put it at the time… the saddle industry were
caught with their trousers down! Horse owners had had their eyes opened
and were asking, why had they not identified these issues? The
result of all this, was some rapid and radical re-grouping by the Society of
Master Saddlers and the creation of their own training and qualifications.
Antony Wakeham, Secretary of the British Equestrian Trade Association at that time, wrote in the British Equestrian Directory (1993):
"The standards of Saddle Fitting could have been transformed thanks to BALANCE"
Also, Tony Russell, Chief Executive of the Society of Master Saddlers at the time, wrote in Horse & Hound (Nov 4th 1993) :
"I believe the horse, the rider and the saddle industry will benefit enormously [as a result of BALANCE's work]"
Although there was a period of uncomfortable change, during
which the BALANCE organisation was hated by many in the saddle industry, a lot
of the discoveries that Carol and I made during our early years of study, have
been accepted and used by some of the very same people who initially denigrated
us as ridiculous and dangerous! In private, they will say that they agree
with what we teach. Unfortunately, the various Societies and Trusts who
seem to put themselves forward as the ‘experts’ in this field, do not publicly
acknowledge the role that BALANCE has played in their own development and
haven’t ever acknowledged BALANCE Functional Saddling as an important and
effective alternative to the Conventional Methods they seem to have followed.
This is something that I would dearly love to see
change. We never expected or asked for, our methods to be deemed as the
only way to work with saddles. We didn’t expect or ask that organisations
like the Society of Master Saddlers change the way they do things. What
Carol and I always wanted, is that the Functional Saddling method that we
developed is available to all horse owners, in addition to Conventional Saddle
Fitting. Giving horses and horse owners an educated choice feels
The three of us who had started the BALANCE Organisation,
had never intended to get involved in having to design saddles and sell
saddles, but the apathy and negativity we had been met with when asking the
saddle industry to look at its saddle designs and the way saddles were being
fitted, made it clear that if anything was going to change, we were going need
the courage to invest in having saddles made with the design feathers and
widths that we were asking for.
The BALANCE Saddle Company was formed to make this possible, working with some open-minded and progressive manufacturers and 25 + years on, it has sold countless numbers of our saddles and Pad System components.
Way back in 1997, Maureen had left the future of BALANCE in
the hands of Carol and me, so that she could concentrate on helping horses
through her support of charities and horse rescue.
Carol and I had picked up the reins and during the next few
years, introduced BALANCE Saddling to the USA, Canada, Australia, New-Zealand,
Switzerland and most European countries.
Sadly, Carol Brett died in 2018 and so did not live long
enough to see what we call BALANCE Functional Saddling officially recognised as
an important alternative choice for horse owners by the saddle industry,
although I am glad to say that she was aware of some of the
positive changes that her curiosity, determination and long years of hard work
The Way forward for BALANCE
With Carol gone, it falls to me now, supported by a small
but wonderful TEAM of people at BALANCE HQ and a
carefully selected TEAM of people around the
world who have been trained and are qualified to help other horse owners try
Functional Saddling for themselves. They carry the BALANCE flag and will
help to ensure that the vision Carol and I had all those years ago, comes to
Continuing efforts to improve the products that we sell with
the BALANCE logo on, mean that there is now a full range of BALANCE saddles to
cater to the preferences and needs of the individual horses we meet.
Dressage Saddles, Jumping Saddles, Pony Saddles to Race Training Saddles.
We have helped to design a Driving Saddle that is creating the same wonderful
results as our riding saddles and I have plans and ideas for new designs.
To create a Functional Saddling System, we also stock and a wonderful range of
saddle pads, especially designed to work with a suitable BALANCE saddle, or
with other makes of well-designed saddle in a suitable width, to create a
Functional Saddling combination.
In 2019, the third independent study was done to compare the
impact on the movement and performance of ridden horses in Conventionally
designed and fitted saddles and BALANCE Functional Saddling. Once again,
the results speak for themselves and demonstrate the benefits of working with
saddles in a way that respects and protects the ridden horse’s right to move
well and in comfort.
In addition to all that, this website has a link to our YouTube library.
Stories and testimonials that encourage horse owners to look beyond the status quo; to want more for the horses in their lives and to seek out like-minded people to support them.
This is a very brief story of BALANCE. There is a lot more to the story, so for those of you are interested, you might like to know that a film documentary is in the process of being made.
I received my bit and I am thrilled with it!! It is for
my mare, who has competed through Prix St. George but has been very hard to
find a bit for. She has sharp bars, and despite every effort on my part, she
has often had small bruises on the edges of her tongue. I ride many horses and she is the only one this has happened to. I have been at
a loss for what to change and how to make her comfortable. I was looking for a
fairly thick bit that would be very stable in the mouth. The (BALANCE) Fulmer fits the
bill and is working beautifully. It is really well designed and nicely made.
Katie - United States
"The BALANCE lunge cavesson has worked wonders for my stressed, rushy, motorbike horse. Lunging used to closely resemble the wall of death! It has changed her attitude towards her work and has relaxed, strengthened and straightened her no end."
Sarah - United Kingdom
"BALANCE, the time you continue to take for me, I am so touched. Thank you. The care and love you have for me, our horses, and horses around the world is astounding. It takes time to write thoughtful, caring, informative communications. And, it is always just the right thing."
Amy N. - United States
I can’t tell you how much I love my Zenith!!! I went through 10 saddles in 6 years for my horse before I got my Zenith. Two were “custom” made for him. What a joke. I am on my 5th year with my Zenith and it is still perfect!!! I cringe now when I see these very deep Dressage saddles with the huge thigh blocks. People ask me how I can ride in my Zenith with no thigh blocks and no deep seat. I say well now my horse is balanced and I don’t have to depend on the saddle to hold me. ☺️
Melinda - United States
What can I say? I love it! The saddle and all of the accessories are great quality and look good but most importantly my horse is so comfortable that her stride has almost doubled, she glides round corners and works on the bridle with ease. What a difference!
Donna - Scotland
Being able to move in a powerful, balanced and engaged way, without restriction or discomfort, is every horse’s birth-right and essential in order for him to be able to carry the unnatural weight of a rider, without doing harm to himself.