Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Be Brave - Admit You Don't Know Enough About It!

A trainer’s perspective on assessing the fit of saddles by Freelance Trainer Josella Scott.
Based in south west Scotland, Josella’s extensive ‘cv’ includes sourcing and training show jumping horses and their riders, both in the Middle East and Europe, before moving back to the UK and her native Scotland. She now trains riders at every level, from Pony Club to affiliated event riders, with a focus on the jumping disciplines.

Many moons ago, when I was just starting out on my career as a Riding Instructor, I recall I dared to pass comment and judgement about saddles and their fit. It seemed easier to remark on the crookedness of the rider or the horse’s unbalanced way of going and blame it all on the saddle.

When I think of those times I positively cringe. “What was I thinking of ?!”

It was a bit like asking a Dental Nurse to carry out complex deep root canal treatment. I simply was neither qualified nor knowledgeable enough to advise at all. Saddle Fitting was not my area of expertise. Therefore I learnt the hard way, by being proven wrong. There is nothing worse than having to apologise for giving incorrect advice and eating a large slice of humble pie.

Decades on I am certainly older and dare I say a little wiser when it comes to clients’ questions about their saddle. I simply refer them to a Society of Master Saddlers qualified saddle fitter.

These people understand how saddles are constructed, most can adjust the flocking or totally re-flock your saddle if necessary. They know what types of trees are available and what may suit your horse. They know the different ways that a panel can be made to facilitate a good fit and where girth straps could be fitted to achieve maximum position and comfort. They have access to a good quality and varied stock of saddles. They understand the importance of balance in the saddle and how to achieve this along with how a horse might change in his carriage or way of going when ridden. They are able to tell if your saddle is of good or poor quality and assess its suitability for use. They know which pads could help your horse and which could harm him. In addition, they have to abide by a code of conduct, have a complaints procedure with the Society of Master Saddlers if things do go wrong and they have insurance cover. The list of what they know about fitting saddles is encyclopaedic!

In fact, they can be trusted to sort most problems, replace, adjust or adapt your saddle to allow you to carry on enjoying your riding with the re-assurance you have done right by your horse, who will be eternally grateful to you.

Now, I ask you. Do you think that your instructor has all of these attributes? I think not!

One such expert is Kay Hastilow , Master Saddler and Master Saddle Fitter (pictured left). Kay has launched an informative 2-part video series distilling her 50 years of experience into what is an unrivalled resource for all Riders and Trainers interested in Saddles and Saddle Fitting.

The first video looks at Conformation and Movement of the Horse, Types of Tree and their Influence, Different Panels and the Position of Girth Straps.

The second video explains How to Assess a Saddle for Soundness, Straightness and Safety, Recognising a Good Fit, the Balance of a Saddle, When Saddles Move and finally, Rider Influences.

I cannot recommend these videos highly enough. If you have any questions about any aspect of saddle fitting then look no further...

Monday, 11 March 2019

Royal International Qualifiers at Northumberland County

The Northumberland County Show, held on Bank Holiday Monday, 27th May, set in the beautiful parkland of Bywell Hall in the Tyne Valley, features hundreds of competitive livestock classes for horses, cattle, sheep, alpacas, pigs, fur and feather, and many more. The Equine Section is renowned for its quality and variety, with a huge range of competitions, challenging courses, superb judges and excellent location.

BSPS Pony Competitions have always featured strongly at the Northumberland County Show. After a record attendance the show’s commentator, Mrs Jo Jefferson, Mr and Mrs Baxter from The Wooden Horse Company, the show’s course builders, plus several high profile competitors, approached the organisers with an idea. They all felt the show was of such quality and prestige that it warranted a request to become a Royal Qualifier. This prestigious honour is rarely granted on a first application, however, Head of Equine, Mandy Charlton told us, “We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded Royal International Qualifiers in five classes of our Kirkley Hall Working Hunter Pony Section. This is a real coup, and enhances our status as one of the premier equestrian events in the north.”

The classes include WHP Nursery Stakes, WHP 133cm, WHP 143cm, WHP 153cm and Open Intermediate WHP 158cm. This is the last qualifier of the season, so it promises to be an exciting day. Entries are open this week and competitors should go to the show’s website to view the Equine Schedule and to enter any classes online before the closing date of 26th April.

The Stratstone British Showjumping Arena offers classes from Novice Open 90cm up to the prestigious National Open 1.3m with the opportunity to qualify for the British National Championship with two double clear rounds.  The Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) Section continues in its popularity, with showing and ridden classes and a Championship competition. Traditional favourites such as the Mountain and Moorland Section, Side Saddle, CHAPS and Hunter classes attract hopeful competitors from across the country.

There are many things to see and do around the show field. This year the Northumberland County Show is celebrating the Forestry Commission’s Centenary year with awe-inspiring Axemen, pole climbing and fire walking. Visitors of all ages will enjoy and forest themed art competitions, meeting Forestry Wildlife Rangers and wildlife experts; there is a display of vintage forestry vehicles and equipment, a Mountain Rescue truck, a rally car and historic vans and lorries. The Gruffalo will be there and little ones will love the Zog Trail through the woods. The Forestry Commission is giving away free trees to the public and staff from nearby Kielder Forest will be promoting their outdoor activities and holidays.

With live music and great food; fun fair; Cumberland Wrestling; Children’s Area with mini-tanks, pony and donkey rides, climbing wall; gun dog scurry; tug of war; owl encounter; and over 350 trade stands, there’s something for everyone. For tickets, schedules and information visit and join in the conversation on facebook