A Year after launching Louisa Maria Cuomo Saddles I have learnt so much - good and bad!

So its been a just over a year since the launch. Its been an interesting journey and I have learnt lots along the way.

Having decided to train with Jochen Schleese and Saddle Fit 4 Life it opened my eyes to so much more about saddle fitting and then made me realise many of the saddles I was trying to fit just weren't able to fit the way saddles should. Having spent many years travelling globally to learn more about training techniques the biomechanics and Rehabilitation I just needed to find saddles that I knew would help the horse more. I think I have managed to find the saddles in my range Louisa Maria CUOMO Saddles that can do that for the horse but what about the rider?

The dressage culture for a lot of (mostly) amateur riders has become more about deeper seats and bigger knee blocks to hold riders in.

Unfortunately riders seem to be relying on the equipment more and more to do the job of learning how to ride better. When I first started to train horses and needed to improve my seat - I had lunge lessons in Germany, rode as many horses as I had available to me from teaching or friends, and spent time at places like Tallands (the home of Pammy Hutton) riding many different types of horses. Its alien to me how many riders with really talented horses would prefer to hang on and grip than learn how to use there seat more than there hands? I sadly see so much of this when judging and its totally soul destroying.

Not only is it completely detrimental to the forgiving horses that end up with these type of riders its also a nightmare for a saddle fitter! The saddle was never built to hold riders on or in. They were originally built for the Military and over many 100's of years have gone from being something to enable the rider to move in the saddle with the horse to now having to weld riders in whom have no core strength or balance of there own.

When you have a saddle being used to hold a rider in place the potential damage to the horses spine is so far greater. 85% of ridden horses have Kissing Spine compared with 5% in driving horses. Kissing Spine is an imbalance of the muscles in the back which over time cause the vertebrae to touch and cause huge discomfort. Muscles in the back become imbalanced for many reasons - they can be bad training techniques, poor confirmation, poor tack and poor riding to name a few.

Lets just firstly look at Poor Riding with regards to the saddle area briefly - when a rider is welded into a saddle and the seat is not pliable the muscles of the horses back become contracted. Contraction of muscles causes soreness and imbalance eventually creating Kissing Spine. Also when a rider does not have a pliable seat they can tend to pull the saddle forward from gripping knees and thighs. Its so important to be aware of what your riding does to the horse!

Its really difficult as a saddle fitter to tell people that you can't fix the problem with the saddle until the rider fixes their riding!

I love working with horses - saddle fitting and have seen some great success through improved saddles - but if most saddlers were to look you in the eye and tell you the truth, the most difficult part of saddle fitting is telling the owner what they may not want to hear.

Obviously its not always the rider causing problems with the saddle. Lameness is one of the big issues with saddles going to one side. There has been much research done around this subject by Sue Dyson (Vet at AHT) - and if you are interested in understanding more there is lots on the internet about it.

When I evaluate a horse for a saddle I like to see it on the lunge if there are any queries about saddle slippage as very regularly I will find the horse is lame behind. Sometimes the owner will know which is generally a relief, but very often you are highlighting a matter which has not yet been discovered. Most of my clients are grateful and happy to involve there vet. Some unfortunately for the horse would rather not know and continue in blissful ignorance - so it doesn't stop them from doing what they want to do.

This I find very hard to deal with and so politely find a way of stepping away from the situation as I feel unable to help the horse. My main goal with saddle fitting has always been and will always be about getting the horse in the most comfortable place possible. Happy to perform and move through his/her back without restriction from the saddle. If I feel unable to achieve that because there are issues out of my control - then my love for the horse takes over.

If just one horse owner reads my blog and feels obliged to get lunge lessons, ride a mechanical horse and seek help I will have helped one more horse.

Thanks for reading now go and hug your lovely horse!