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 are taking Frank Baines Saddlery into the future, including their relationship with BALANCE.

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 saddles and the Horizon saddles for us.

Last but not least, we also our Junior range of saddle made for us by The Saddle Company Ltd. under the direction of 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 molded trees in Walsall.

They use their own Tree-Tec injection molded tree, which is very strong but highly adaptable in the way it can be shaped and adjusted. The Robin, Wren and our lovely BALANCE Bug saddles are made on this tree

Client testimonials

  • 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

  • It has been almost a year since I received my Zenith Saddle and I cannot tell you how happy I am with it. I went through 10 saddles trying to find the right one. He would rear as I was saddling him or move away from me.

    Now he happily munches  his hay as I saddle him. He has had no more issues under saddle except for his lack of strength but I see that improving all the time. I wish I had discovered this 10 years ago.

    Many thanks!

     

    Melinda - United States

  • You simply blow me away with the care and attention you give me, a single client! WOW! I am so excited to be buying a balance Saddle and just thrilled to be supporting such an awesome company!

    Sally - England

  • The BALANCE saddle started us on the road to recovery.  I can’t thank enough Carol Brett and the whole BALANCE team who have not only worked hard to find the right saddle solution (the Matrix GPD proved best for us)  but have provided support throughout the whole process of getting myself and Alfie back on the right track. 

    Mags and Alfie - England

  • The BALANCE Saddling System, does not only help with comfort for the horse, but also with its posture and basic way of going.

    The saddles allow the horse to move back towards its Natural Correctness and carry its movement from the hind quarters. 

    Sarah Ussher (Trainer) - England