As horsemen and women a saddle is one of the most important tools we have to work with. A proper fitting saddle is a great asset for both horse and rider, while an improper fit or balance not only inhibits correct riding, it can lead to injury. The saddle industry brings in millions of dollars in saddle fitting and there are now countless options for flocking, panels, and blocks for your knee and thigh. It can feel overwhelming to find the correct fit with so many options. Here we have broken down the DBarbier saddle design to illustrate the real essential criteria when looking for one of your own.
THE LOST ART OF FLOCKING
Dominique fashioned his own saddle design after the original tree used by Mestre Oliveira, a design that is 400 years old. While training mules in the French military (a story for another day), Dominique delivered horses to the Republican Guard in Paris, where he met the man who would one day become the head of Forestier saddlery. With a tree-maker (arconier in French) in the factory itself- the only saddlemaker to design his own tree and not buy mass-produced trees- the Barbier custom-crafted saddle was born.
With a bit of ingenuity and a little help from the modern age, he has been able to update the materials from wool taken from army socks to advanced padding with the same material used to pad satellites (yes, you read that right. We are waiting for our NASA endorsement) that does not shrink with age. That means no “re-flocking necessary.” Today’s saddles feature leather cut by laser for the cleanest lines and computer-designed balance to ensure accuracy for each saddle.
DBarbier Bison Deluxe model – notice where the lowest part of the seat is
WHAT IS PROPER BALANCE IN A SADDLE?
A saddle tree’s purpose is to help a rider find their position. Let us return to Dressage for the New Age for a moment; a rider’s center of gravity is below their navel, while a horse’s center of gravity is between the knees of the rider. Your saddle should, in theory, bring the two centers of gravity as close together as possible. If you cut your saddle into three equal segments, the lowest part of your seat should be in the front third while your leg hangs underneath you, thanks to your stirrup bars sitting underneath your hip.
Most models today place the balance in the second third, further towards the back, while keeping stirrup bars forward to prevent breakage, forcing riders to either sit in a “chair” seat, or to perch on their horse’s backs. With the knee and thigh blocks, riders legs are forced into “correct” position, though they have no knee mobility, which contracts riders’ bodies, and therefore their horses’ bodies on top of it.
Comfort for your horse is also vitally important. They are, after all, carrying us. Aside from being in correct position with our center of gravity as close to their own as possible, we want to think of how the saddle fits the horse. True to form, Dominique kept things very simple in his design, with the “flexible” tree, available in narrow (for the high-withered horses), medium and wide, a wide gullet for the horses’ back comfort, and the same padding used for the rider’s seat for the horse’s back. The lack of metal in the front allows for extra freedom of the shoulder. By using a single-panel design and foregoing knee blocks (removable blocks are available for the new Working Equitation design), he maintained closer contact to the horse. The end result? Unparalleled comfort for horse and rider.
DBarbier Working Equitation Saddle
Each saddle is handcrafted and made to your specifications using highly-durable, beautiful Bison leather, making each one a work of art in of itself. Functional can be fashionable, too! Our newly released Deluxe in chocolate has been a hit with crowds, and the hand-tooled seats of the working equitation model in chocolate and camel are so beautiful you *almost* don’t want to sit on top of them.
When you buy a saddle, you are investing in your horse and in yourself. It is important to make the right choice. Dominique is happy to answer questions personally about his saddles and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, +1707.480.5598.
We are pleased to repost this review from horse-journal.com. Thank you to Karen Havis for the review and to all the readers who have made this book so popular! And a special thanks to Trafalgar Square, Horse and Rider Books! Take a moment to read the review? And then order your book here, by clicking on the link above. And then….sign up for the February Classical Series Symposium. We’re taking topics from the book for in-depth discussion along with all the demonstrations, lessons, fun, food, and legendary Saturday night dinner! We’ll be back with more news before the Holiday Season is over…but until then, peace and joy to all our readers and riders. Amities ~ DBarbier
Media Critique: The Alchemy of Lightness
Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis give us the impetus we need to seek joy in our lives and in our horses.
This article from the November 2014 issue of Horse Journal.
Dominique Barbier is best known for his doctrine of “lightness” in a dressage horse, and he makes good use of it here. His co-author, Dr. Maria Katsamanis, brings a doctorate in clinical psychology into the mix, which meshes well with her own riding and training experience. Together, the authors present a philosophy of life and riding that is both inspiring and captivating.
Their theories revolve around “energy.” The authors believe all living beings are connected through a field of energy, one that can cause measurable molecular changes as well as observable behavioral changes. (Think about how humans influence each other using energy from thought, love, or intent.) Frankly, training approaches based on energy are far from new – consider Tai Chi, Reiki, Masterson Technique, and TTEAM, all popular methods.
You will find some of the hypotheses presented here familiar, such as how our mood directly impacts how we interact with our horses. Which one of us hasn’t experienced the change in our horse when we ride in an angry, tense state? The horse usually mirrors those emotions, becoming restless and edgy. And if we ride in a Zen state . . . the horse often reflects that as well.
Proper breathing is discussed here, too, with a reminder of its powerful impact on ourselves and our horses. Short, shallow breaths cause anxiety and fear in our horse. Deeper, slower breaths can relax both us and our horse. “If we are calm and centered, the horse will likely pass through resistance or disturbance much more easily. He will happily partner with us,” the authors state.
Barbier stresses the power of visualization, a technique used by many sports psychologists. “What we imagine, we can create,” he states. “What we believe is happening shapes our reality. What we visualize for our riding, for our horse, is well within reach.” If you’re a dressage rider, you might have a vision of Edward Gal in your mind when you ride.
You’ll recognize other widely accepted terms, too, such as “clear intent” and “centering,” which are core concepts in many martial arts and in Centered Riding. And, of course, every rider learns one day how powerful the concept of “less is more” can be when trying to elicit a behavior from your horse.
But other points challenge conventional wisdom. While you may have experienced some of the concepts discussed in the book, the theories presented by the authors may surprise you. That said, they readily acknowledge how little research is available to truly explain the connection between horse and rider.
The photography is stunning, and the pictures of Barbier riding portray true harmony between horse and rider. Indeed, he can create what he discusses.
Bottom Line: I truly appreciated Barbier’s emphasis on the importance of energy gained from joy and happiness in our lives. He insists we should constantly remind ourselves to look for that childlike innocence so long gone. “Horses are not intellectual beings,” he explains. “We need to be in this simpler, more innocent, childlike space with them.” Since some of the happiest moments of my life involved horses, this made perfect sense to me. And reading this book helped me think of ways to improve my state of mind and thus my relationship with my horses.
Best suited for: Those who have studied an approach such as TTEAM, Masterson Technique, Tai Chi, Alexander Technique, or Centered Riding or are open-minded enough to consider the theories presented.
You might be disappointed if: You are looking for a traditional “how to” riding manual.
A note from Dominique….the ‘stunning’ photography is by Keron Psillas.
– See more at: http://horse-journal.com/article/media-critique-alchemy-lightness-26157#sthash.rCtZ64eq.dpuf
Here is our latest email blast. Have a look….and click on all the tabs above to discover what is new here at Barbier Farms. Debra and I are back from a wonderful, though rainy, trip to Portugal to attend the Lusitano Fair at Golegã. The rain kept everyone a little wet around the edges but did not dampen our spirits. It was wonderful to see friends…all a little older (aren’t we all?) but enjoying life with the Lusitano. Debra and I hope you will join us next time for all the fun and gorgeous horses!
Remember, the February Symposium will be here before we know it! We’ll take a little time off for family celebrations over the Holidays, but will be back at work preparing for the 10th Classical Series Symposium. It will be the most rewarding event yet! Click on the tab above to register.
Finally, there is still time to order your Saddle at the 2014 price. We haven’t changed our price for years, but we’ll be forced to do just that in the New Year….so don’t delay! Contact Debra to have your dream saddle arrive! (email@example.com)
Be sure to sign up for our newsletter on the blog or on our site to receive all the latest news and offerings. The button is just there on the right side.
For a limited time, receive a free Barbier Farms Polo shirt with your order of $275 or more of books, dvd’s, products, or apparel. The registration for the Symposium is excluded from this offer. After you complete your order, email Debra (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your preferred color (black or white) and size! Happy Holidays!!!!
There is still plenty of time to sign up for the 8th Classical Series Symposium! There are great topics for lectures, demonstrations, training, and lots of fun and fabulous food. Hope to see you there….click the link above for the February 2014 Symposium.