BALANCE Saddle Design & Manufacture

Back at the beginning of the 1990s the co-founders of the BALANCE organisation were beginning their research into why so many horses seemed to become dis-abled by their saddles. The following list shows some of the features that they found to be causing problems and are, unfortunately still all too common in many modern saddles. Any one of these negative features can be responsible for causing horses discomfort and dis-ability. When several are found in one saddle, and particularly when that saddle is fitted to match the horse's current back profile, when it is standing still, the horse is in real trouble.

You will not find any of these features in a BALANCE saddle.

  • Narrow, V shaped tree arches designed to create the narrow twist that so many riders like.  This shape is in direct conflict with the natural rounded shape of a horses’ well muscled and healthy back.  It stimulates the reflex points in the horse that lie under the points and stirrup bars of the saddle, which causes the horse to contract the long back muscles (drop its back), disengage the pelvis and hind legs, forcing the horse onto its forehand.  This shape also causes severe compression of the muscles under the points, which creates muscle atrophy over time, and is so common that it goes unchallenged.  V shaped trees create V shaped horses!
  • Forward sloping points more commonly found on jumping and X country saddles.  This allows the stirrup bar to be placed further forward for the rider, but interferes badly with the natural rotation of the shoulder blades.  Panels that slope forward from the pommel can also interfere with normal, essential shoulder movement. 
  • Deep seats, huge knee and thick blocks and sticky leather seat/knee pads. All of these features are used to sell saddles to riders, who like them because they get a greater sense of security.  However, they dis-courage the rider from developing a balanced and co-ordinated seat and en-courage riders to brace themselves into the saddle structures against the horse.   This makes the rider more of a burden to the horse and the very security that seemed so appealing becomes dangerous if the rider cannot get off the saddle quickly if the need should arise  i.e in a cross country fall. 
  • Narrow gullets pinch the tender spineous processes between the panels.  The compensation a horse will make in an attempt to relieve itself of discomfort, will often cause crooked movement/jumping and uneven use of the hind legs to the point of lameness.  
  • Close contact saddles are a favourite with many riders, who like the idea of being close to their horse.  However, because the panels are so thin,  the tree tends to be fitted even narrower to provide sufficient, safe clearance over the wither.  The narrower the tree the more muscle wastage is created and the more the reflex points are stimulated as described above.  In order for a close contact saddle to be even moderately comfortable for a horse, it has to be wide enough to use plenty of cushioning underneath in the form of thicker saddle pads, which rather defeats the purpose! 
  • Hard, over-flocked panels are found on many new saddles and on older ones that have been re-flocked over several seasons.   The unyielding quality of firm panels will exaggerate any problem caused by the tree and can make the saddle feel even narrower to the horse.  Unless used with protective type pads, the horse’s back muscles can not fire naturally against the rigidity of a hard panel.   However, many saddles appear to need a lot of flocking because softer flocking gets so quickly compressed by the excessive pressures caused by traditional fitting methods.
  • Point straps tend to be used to eradicate some of the symptoms of an ill fitting saddle and riders who are braced against the reins and/or ride behind the movement of the horse as is so common with dressage riders. They specifically pull pressures from the tree and stirrup bars down into the soft tissues and reflex points that lie under the front of the saddle and increase all the associated problems.

More information about the design features that are to be found in BALANCE saddles can be found throughout the information on this site and in downloadable PDF documents in the Downloads and Manuals area.

Saddle Manufacturers for the BALANCE Organisation

When BALANCE co-founders Carol Brett and Lesley Taylor started to talk to the saddle manufacturers in the UK about their concerns about saddle design when BALANCE first formed as an Organisation back in 1993, 98% of them made it clear that they had no interest in the research and no intention of changing their saddle designs.

It was only when they met up with Frank Baines (Frank Baines Saddlery) and John Hamilton of (Horse Products International) that they found two people who were not rigid in their thinking and were interested in helping.

Both manufacturers started to make saddles containing the combination of horse-friendly design features that Carol and Lesley had discovered to be needed, and this enabled the research to continue and started to provide saddles that allowed extraordinary positive changes in horses lives.

John made saddles for BALANCE for many years, starting with the original Hamilton BALANCE saddles, then the Free Spirit and Soft Option Saddles. Non of these have been in production for some years, but still can be found 2nd and sometimes 3rd hand as they were well made and have stood the test of time.

Frank Baines Saddlery have made a range of BALANCE saddles ever since and continues to do so now that Frank has retired and handed the reins over to his children. They have taken Frank Baines Saddlery into the future, including their relationship with BALANCE.

Carol Brett with Frank Baines

In more recent years, we had a range of saddles made for us by a small group of wonderful, and very skilled saddle makers at the well known saddle manufacturer Walsall Riding. After they were taken over by Ideal Saddlery, 3 of the WR saddlers decided that they would like to try to set up their own business, where they could continue to manufacture saddles in the way that they had been trained to do many years before, under Walsall Riding. WRM Saddles Ltd. continue to make the Equinox range of saddles for us.

Last but not least, we also work with The Saddle Company Ltd. which is owned by Dave Stuart. Dave is a very clever man who led a lot of the innovation during the early years of designing and producing synthetic saddles and injection moulded trees in Walsall.

They use their own Tree-Tec injection moulded tree, which is very strong but highly adaptable in the way it can be shaped and adjusted. The BALANCE Wren saddle for small children is made on this tree.

Client testimonials

  • 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