I first met Suzie in 1996 when she moved from England to Colorado to work for the Corral based in Boulder. She was able to adapt the saddle I was using on my very high withered warm blood to make him more comfortable. I regularly had Suzie check the fit until I moved out of state. I was trying to correct my unevenness caused by two compression fractures on the same side in my lower back and having Suzie check and alter my saddle if needed helped in this process.
My injuries took me on a journey to ride straight, even, and have no discomfort to myself or my horses. I embarked on instruction in Tai chi, Pilates and Yoga along with a lot of experimenting. I have realized that if you can remove all the body parts except the pelvis you can really concentrate on an even seat! Suzie and I had numerous discussions about this and how difficult it was to be able to move enough in many of the off the rack saddles. I was pleased with my progress until Suzie sent me a demo saddle she had made for me to try my theories on. How humbling that was! I discovered that the secure seat I thought I had was no longer there, her saddle does not hold the body but allows freedom in the pelvis. I was all over the place with my balance and stability. I could feel not only what my body was doing but the total freedom in my horses body under my seat. I had to practice the walk before I could even think about the trot. Once I had put a bucking strap on the saddle I found I was able to stay with the movement and become one with my horse. I will never ride without and bucking strap now and have even converted Suzie to using one in her efforts to improve her riding. I learned my old saddle had given me a false sense of security; this limited my suppleness and created tension that I then transferred back to the horse. I was never really in the saddle rather just on it. I persevered with her saddle for 6 months and was loathe to return it as my riding had improved and my horses back was in better shape than before. This exercise allowed me to give Suzie a lot of feedback from a neutral point of view, neither party had any agenda other than the horses wellbeing . I discovered I had to accept total responsibility for my own body, my balance and not expect the saddle to do all the work. I have become a “real rider” .
This lead me on an extraordinary level of discovery which enabled me to break down all the feedback the saddle had given me so I can now teach “feel” in a very simplified manner. I’ve had these theories proven time and time again with the horses and riders I teach. The horses will lift their backs, lower their heads, lick their lips, chew and move in rhythm – all because the horse and rider are moving in a partnership.
I teach a number of pony club children aged between 12 – 16, Suzie had generously offered to design and make a junior dressage saddle for one of my students to demo in the coming season. Over the past 4 years I have seen amazing changes in my students riding and the horse’s willingness to work, now for one of them to have the chance to ride in a saddle that genuinely gives both horse and rider true freedom will be a huge adventure for all concerned. These young people are our future generation of riders. It would be a wonderful result if they too can go forward to teach other young people that you can indeed ride “with” the horse, without force, just a correct seat without tension and show how happy the horse can be in his job.
Thank you Suzie for your generosity in giving my student this incredible opportunity.