Thursday, 23 March 2017

How can SMART FLEXTech Technology Address Saddle Fit and Balance Issues for Horse and Rider?

Dr. Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust’s Centre for Equine Studies and Veterinary Advisor to the Saddle Research Trust, recently ran a pilot study (click here to read more) to investigate basic aspects of rider position and saddle fit for the rider. Initial results showed:
  •         Only 12% of riders had alignment of their shoulder, ‘hip’ and heel
  •         41% were judged to be sitting too far towards the back of the saddle
  •          59% were considered to be too big for their saddle

At Solution Saddles, we understand just how critical it is that the saddle is correctly balanced and suitably sized for the rider, as well as the horse. There are both short and long term consequences attributable to riding out of balance, ranging from lack of synchrony between horse and rider, to loss of performance and, not unusually, injury to horse and/or rider. Issues can manifest both physically, as well as behaviourally, and oftentimes the saddle’s role is overlooked. Despite a rider’s best efforts to improve their position, without a well-balanced saddle, they will be fighting a losing battle.

Seasonal weight fluctuations and the effect on saddle fit and balance
Horses are constantly changing shape; this not only affects saddle fit, but saddle balance and how the horse carries the rider. Whilst there are limitations with a traditional saddle, constructed around a rigid frame that cannot intrinsically accommodate any changes, the fully flexible SMARTTM Saddle system provides an ongoing solution. All SMARTTM saddles are made of high density, yet fully flexible, materials, ensuring that they offer support to horse and rider whilst accommodating any shape, and the many fluctuations experienced throughout the seasons. Unique FLEXTechTM technology affords SMARTTM saddle owners the freedom to address fit or balance adjustments as soon as they become perceptible.

When is a saddle out of balance?
A well balanced saddle should encourage the rider to adopt a classical position of shoulder-hip-heel alignment, with minimal effort.

Pictured: Solution Saddles Approved Advisor, Daniel Hammond, balanced to allow a classical dressage position in his SMARTTM Dressage saddle.

Perhaps most importantly, the rider should be able to sit on the saddle in ‘pelvic neutral’, without tipping forwards or backwards, changing the centre of gravity and causing the rider to compensate with their lower leg and/or upper body. Whilst there are variations between the ‘ideal’ position according to discipline, the necessity of a ‘pelvic neutral’ position is consistent across the board. 

Above images: Captured using XSens inertial sensors, provided by the Saddle Research Trust, illustrate pelvic rotations of the rider.

The SMARTTM Easy-Fit System

There are two golden rules to fitting a SMARTTM Saddle:
  1. Fit to the horse – ensure that the horse’s needs are met by supporting the saddle up off the Dorsal Spinous Processes and wither
  2. Balance to the rider – tweak the balance to allow the rider to sit in ‘pelvic neutral’  
Changing the fit or balance of a SMARTTM saddle is quick and easy, does not require any specialised equipment and can be done either by yourself or by one of our network of trained Approved Advisors. Our wide range of external SMARTTM Balance Pads (examples pictured below) are designed to be positioned underneath your SMARTTM saddle to provide additional lift or support as required. Feeling tipped back? Simply add a pair of rear shims under the back of the seat of your SMARTTM saddle. Tipping forward? Attach a pair of front shims to your saddle cloth and feel the difference for yourself. Thanks to FLEXTechTM technology, which flexes independently throughout, balance can be adjusted for the rider, without affecting the fit for the horse.

SMARTTM Saddle Sizing

SMARTTM saddles are sized according to rider height and weight, and thanks once again to their flexible structure, can then be fitted to any horse that rider is suitably sized to ride.

It is often possible for multiple riders to share the same SMARTTM saddle, within reason, thanks to our interchangeable knee block system, to provide more support for a shorter leg length or allow more room for a longer leg length.

With a full range of saddles to suit both professional and leisure riders alike, there is a SMARTTM saddle for everyone. The SMARTTM saddle system enables you to choose your preferred saddle style, whether that’s a GP, Dressage, Jump, VSD or Show, in a wide range of sizes to fit tiny tots to tall adults. SMARTTM saddles are approved for all FEI disciplines.

Test ride a SMARTTM Saddle today:

Solution Saddles offer a home consultation and rental service, enabling you to try a range of SMARTTM saddles under the expert guidance of one of our trained Approved Advisors. Throughout the consultation, you will feel for yourself the difference a correctly fitted and balanced SMARTTM saddle can make for you and your horse. Our try-before-you-buy rental service enables you to test the saddle in your own time before committing to purchase.

To find out more or to book a test ride, contact Solution Saddles today:

01909 720 259 / 07738 711 099

Pictured: International Event Rider, Izzy Taylor, rides 7 year old event horse, Edison, to 8th place in the Osberton International Horse Trials Young Horse Championships 2016. Ridden in all three phases in SMART PRO saddles. 

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