Technical Details and Philosophy
Designed from Understanding
"These wonderful saddles are the Ferrari of the saddle world! The height of quality, design and innovation, they are supremely comfortable to ride in – for both horse and rider!"
From years of studying the bio-mechanics of the ridden horse, we realised that the saddles used for international equestrian competitions are usually derivatives of the English hunting saddle, a very old design going back to the 18th century.
To modify this further would have meant repeating the mistakes of our competitors and ending up with same sort of compromise.
We needed to start from the beginning which meant reconsidering the tree on which the saddle is built. The whole demeanour and attitude of a horse will often change when muscles that were frequently compromised become free of restriction and pressure from an uncomfortable saddle.
To tree or not to tree? That is the question.
At first it seemed a good idea to make a tree-less saddle. However, building a saddle that would be acceptable in competition would be difficult if not impossible due to the need for a frame on which we could fix the flaps and seat.
Treeless would also mean increasing the risk of the girth straps and stirrup leathers causing concentrated pressure, particularly if the rider posts at the trot for prolonged periods.
Moving panel concept?
The horse’s back changes shape with every stride and we needed to preserve even panel contact as far as possible.
We investigated the moving panel concept but found that it raised the rider’s centre of gravity too much and masked the riders subtle seat aids. There was also a problem with increased pressure on flat backed horses with these over large panels interfering with the rider’s thigh contact. Why make a saddle within a saddle? There was also an unacceptable rise in unsprung weight. Weight matters!
Architects and Engineers specifications for Strada Dressage, Endurance and Jumping saddles:
The tree must flex as much as possible to keep the panels in touch with the horse’s back.
The tree must have no metal components, apart from the stirrup bar.
It must be light in weight.
It must not break during normal use.
It must not be stressed by tensioning of the seat webbing as this causes arch fracture. We also believe that this practise causes twisting.
The tree must be accurate and symmetrical. Most horses and riders are crooked, particularly at the beginning of training, so the last thing we need is the possibility of a crooked saddle!
The tree must be finished with a heat sensitive, flexible paint to prevent the ingress of water due to cracking.
Trees must be horse shaped and manufactured in types as opposed to sizes.
Using that understanding and the inspired combination of the best materials and technology, both modern and traditional, we have produced a superb range of saddles to fit most horses.
In all our saddles we have paid careful attention to the rider's position and seat comfort. The distance between a rider’s seat bones can vary tremendously from person to person and therefore will affect the part of the seat on which the rider chooses to sit. As we believe that the best place to sit is around thoracic vertebra 14 we have designed a seat that encourages the rider to sit in the correct place regardless of their size! Suffice to say that the seat size we have designed fits all our customers.
All our saddles feature the unique Strada active tree and our very successful heat, pressure and humidity intelligent panels: the longer you ride the more comfortable they become. The panels themselves are shaped and moulded during a unique manufacturing process utilising a very high density, light weight, visco- elastic foam. They are covered with an extremely durable, matt black membrane to ensure rapid heat exchange. Once at body temperature the material takes on the consistency of firm flesh and unlike wool flocked panels there are no lumps or bumps.; they are also maintenance free!
Many saddle manufacturers create the illusion of a wide gullet by setting the panels so far apart that they are no longer fully under the tree. This leaves the tree partially unsupported causing concentrated pressure on the edge only. Unless the panels support the tree entirely they are merely an illusion of weight bearing and therefore a sales gimmick! We have discovered that the rails of the tree have to run parallel to the horse’s spine and must be fully supported by the panels. There is also a limit to the distance between the rails of about three inches, if the rider is to maintain relaxation of seat and legs! Distance between the rider’s seat bones (adult) can vary from approximately 3 to 7 inches. This variable distance must be supported by the tree to ensure rider comfort and effective seat aids.
Strada Saddles New Zealand fitter, Sarah Cullen, shares some background on the fitting system designed by David Bowler ~ Strada Saddles, with their unique tree designs. This describes the theory behind Strada Saddles fitting system that truely works and is a proven advancement from traditional methods. This is only made possible by the special designs of our flexing trees & our panels that eliminate pressure from the horses riding experience.
The Esprit de Luneville Dressage Saddle
The Strada Dressage Saddle's unique design offers a seamless interface between horse and rider and is the result of many years of painstaking research into the bio-mechanics of horses and dressage techniques.
The King of France once declared Luneville the capital of horses and it is to the fine horsemen that taught there, like Baucher and L’Hotte, that I dedicate this saddle.
The design concept is of simplicity and function. Unlike most other manufacturers we design and make the tree on which the saddle is built ourselves. The importance of flexibility and fit cannot be overemphasised.
The weight, stirrup bar position and girth attachment is vital to comfort, freedom of movement and aid application so after 15 years of development we present this product to our customers with confidence.
The main features are:
1. The Superflex® tree, designed to follow the movement of the horse, is made from a combination of high quality birch ply, leather, carbon fibre and Kevlar.
It is light in weight and gives the rider a feeling of connection with the horse and more effective seat aids. There are five different tree types that reflect the shape of modern sport horses and we specialise in fitting older breed types such as the Iberian and Arab.
2. The heat, humidity and pressure sensitive panels are covered in a very soft hide to keep the horses back muscles healthy and strong. The panels support the rider by being under the tree and automatically mould to fit the horses back. (In most modern saddles the panels are not always positioned directly under the tree which increases the chances of pressure points at the front and rear of the saddle.) Although the material we use in the panel absorbs shock, it cannot cause the saddle to bounce due its slow recovery characteristics at body temperature.
3. The girth position and attachment is under the saddle flap to prevent interference with the foreleg when moving in extension.
With this system the rider can position the saddle more accurately by using two of the three available straps; the first and second to position the saddle back (recommended) or the second and third to stop the saddle from sliding back (rare). This feature is more important than most riders realise!
The Esprit de Luneville dressage saddle has been extensively tested for over a year and has given our horses a remarkable increase in enthusiasm and expression of movement.
“We must never allow mindless tradition to stand between logic and progress!”
The Esprit de Cross Event Saddle
The new Esprit de Cross event saddle has been designed for jumping and riding across country at speed.
It features a completely new tree specifically designed for forward seat riding. The lower and extended cantle helps the rider to maintain an appropriate position when negotiating different kinds of obstacles and terrain.
The panels are massive and feature the same shock absorbent materials used in our other models. Using this concept we have reduced any discomfort to the horse’s back when landing (even from the highest obstacle), to virtually nothing!
The panel material is heat, pressure and humidity intelligent and, at body temperature, will not cause the saddle to bounce (a serious problem found in ordinary foam filled panels).
In addition, we have found that rider stability is increased if the panels fit higher into the head of the arch: this helps to prevent the saddle rocking forward during take off.
The saddle itself is extremely light in weight and is made from the highest quality leather.
NB. The thermo-soft panel makes minute adjustments, according to the shape of the horse when in use. As soon as the saddle is removed they will return to their original form.
HISTORY OF THE STRADA SADDLE
A little history and about Strada Saddles for those that may not know already - my late dad David Bowler a classical dressage rider designed Strada Saddles from the beginning and began as Modern Equestrian Concepts around 1997. Having previously developed the saddles and accessories during several years of extensive research into the biomechanics of horses and riders, he started the company in partnership with saddler Michela Ling, from Wiltshire and whose name was used as a brand for the products. The first saddle was named The Strada and was after my dads little PB Arab who he couldn’t find a saddle to fit.
This saddle was noticed by endurance riders because of the comfort it could give horses and riders over long distances. Luggage attachment points were added to the original design and the St.Christopher endurance saddle was brought out. Much of my dads funds went into development and therefore the saddles didn’t get the marketing or exposure they deserved.
In 2003 Ilga Cottle, a McTimoney Animal Practitioner (back manipulation therapist) and life-long rider (competing in dressage and show jumping, starting youngsters, running a livery yard, teaching) bought a saddle from my dad hoping to address the repeated fitting problems experienced with her own horses. She was so impressed with the performance of the saddle, both from the rider’s and the back therapist’s point of view, that she decided to become involved and in 2005 she formed a new company with my dad- Strada Saddles Limited , Michela Ling retired from the company and a new saddler was found.
In 2007 my dad wanted to move to France and market worldwide - he also wanted to make some changes to the design, one being leather covering of the panels and introducing some soft material to to eliminate the panels being hard when very cold. Ilga and my dad decided the best way forward was to split the company in 2, Ilga set up Strada Saddles UK Limited keeping the original design and my dad formed Strada Saddles Europe Limited with the new Esprit range. Ilga markets in the UK only whereas we market worldwide. Strada Europe Limited still make the trees for both companies, keeping the unique concept of fitting the whole horses back.
Dad sadly passed away last April and I have taken the company on board and will continue to grow it and hopefully get the recognition it so deserves. Strada Saddles designed from understanding will continue to grow and help promote healthy backs, happy horses and riders all around the world currently we have distribution Holland Callista Schrage in New Zealand Sarah Cullen America Zoe Donley Sweden Markus Holst Australia Natasha Jones France Rebecca Jameson-Till and Hazel Armitage Russia Ksenia Davydova and many others using our Saddles in other countries including Carolyn Morton in Portugal And I’m sure there are many more around!!! I am so proud of what dad achieved in his life.
Strada Europe does sell in the UK to friends or acquaintances but does not focus the marketing here. My dad is very much missed and I feel so lucky to have this wonderful product to grow and help horses and riders all round the world! I would also like to add we do tend to get those who have tried Saddle after saddle so called hard to fit horses, especially Iberians, one saddle tree type being named L for Luis dads Lusitano stallion who is much missed and left us aged 23 in 2015, wide horses Haflingers and many more. Our Saddles are not measured for riders seat size so nothing longer than just under 17 and we have 8 tree SHAPES according to the horses back SHAPE! If you would like to find out more please do get in touch or if you are interested in becoming a distributor email me for discussion.