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.
The webpage for the foundation is up and the video archive and content is growing each week. Have a look and please share with your friends.
We will keep you updated about our latest projects, all designed to bring honorable, compassionate, sustainable and enlightened training practices to equestrians young and old.
And to further your education, make your plans now to join us for the Thirteenth Classical Series Symposium in October. Invite your friends and join us for a wonderful weekend during the harvest here in Sonoma Valley. There are spaces left for auditors and just a few spots for riders after the Symposium. Contact Debra (harbierfarm @ aol.com) for more information and click on the link for registration. https://blog.dominiquebarbier.com/october2016symposium/
Debra and I are headed to Brasil in about ten days. (make plans to join us next year…generally the last two weeks of May…) We’ll be visiting the farms, riding Lusitanos, and watching the International Lusitano Expo. We’ll try to post some Facebook updates. And please, click LIKE on our Barbier Farms and Société pour L’Art Equestre pages. It helps us keep you informed!
Our intention has always been to create a transformative experience for horse and rider during clinics or the Symposium here at Barbier Farm. We are happy to have this proof of what we know happens here…. Join us for our next event in February 2016. Click the link above!
~Amities, Dominique and Debra
At his clinics Dominique Barbier shares his insights and examples of enlightened horsemanship in a format and learning environment designed for seeking and discovery. The symposiums are set apart by their complement of riding clinic and lectures on diverse topics, with abundant space for questions and answers. A light happy horse in constant partnership and communication with its rider is the goal of this training and what you will likely observe in the clinic portion, where horses from all walks of life perform exceptionally and in relaxation. As a participant in one of the symposiums, I found that Dominique’s expansive response to a single question about my horse’s behavior led to a lasting change in my relationship with that horse, from one of mutual inattention and mistrust to one of quiet confident partnership. Another participant, who rode in the symposium on a Barbier Farm Lusitano, was so moved by the stallion’s generosity that at the close of his ride he was brought literally to tears, and the entire audience with him. This is classical training that synthesizes the theoretical, practical, and empathic, a unique experience that can be truly transformative. Not to be missed.” ~ Jane Otto, New Jersey
I am very sad to note the passing of one of the best ecuyers of our time. Mr. Michel Henriquet died December 8, at home in France. Debra and I extend sincere condolences to Catherine.
Michel was not only a refined rider, he was a great teacher. He was the author of many books on French Classical dressage and was an early promoter of the Lusitano in France.
After being a student for many years of Mestre Nuno Oliveira, he went on to coach his wife, Catherine Durand, and achieved some success in using and adapting classical methods in competition.
Michel and Mestre Oliveira exchanged letters for years about l’art equestre. Those letters, along with Michel’s diaries, create a day-to-day peek into the life and practice of the great teacher and an accomplished student who would become a master. He was part of an era when many disciples were passionate about the art and exchanged letters, experiences, techniques and books. Along with Dom Diogo de Bragança, Professor Da Costa, Dr. Borba and Monsieur Baccarat (who translated the Mestre’s first book) they were the core of the students who would follow the teachings of Mestre Oliveira and take that knowledge to their students via their riding practice and the books they would write. It is, sadly, the end of an era. There are very few original students left.
Sometimes I have a great deal of nostalgia (saudades, longing) for this time.
Looking ahead, as we must and as it is all we can do, we see the art of riding becoming less physical and more mental. Riders are slowly becoming more conscious of the well-being of their partners and because of this we are making some progress in the right direction.
With gratitude for all the Masters gave us in the example of their finesse and dedication to l’art equestre, we look to the New Year with renewed commitment to the health and happiness of our equine partners. Let us always have in mind these four questions when we are working with our horses:
Are we being compassionate?
Is our practice sustainable?
Is our practice honorable?
And is our practice enlightened?
Amities, and Best Wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year!