I have known Suzi for many years. I have had her fit many saddles, both jumping and dressage, for various horses through the years. I am always impressed with her great eye, attention to detail and superior craftsmanship.
I was born with mild Cerebral Palsy. I began my show career in the hunter ring and then moved on to horse trials. The dressage phase of horse trials led me to discover Para Dressage. Para Dressage is a FEI discipline for riders with disabilities. The “para” means parallel to. It is dressage with provisions for accommodations in equipment made for the riders. There are many modifications that can be made to a traditional dressage saddle, from slight to drastic, that can help a disabled rider compensate.
This is where Suzi’s genius and talent comes in. In 2010 I competed at the World Equestrian Games for the USA on my German Riding Pony stallion Lateran. He is a very big moving dressage pony. Suzi had been fitting the saddle I used well, but after that level of competition, it became clear that we needed an even better fitting saddle. Suzi offered to design and craft a saddle just for us. I was blown away and truly humbled by her generosity. I think tears were shed that day.
Suzi began by tracing Lateran’s back, paying close attention to his shoulders and developed a cut back panel to allow his shoulder freedom for his extravagant gaits. She then turned to me. We worked together with my trainer to discuss what might help me ride to my best ability. All of my symptoms are on my right, so Suzi figured out a way to balance the saddle so I am more truly in the center of my horse. The saddle was made for me, with shorter flaps and a large “sweet spot” for me to find my seat bones!
My horse loves his new saddle. The materials are beautifully crafted and fitted just for him! He moves great in it. The open seat has allowed my lower abs to develop. As my back and abs have grown stronger, I find that I am with him now in the movement, and not just locked in my saddle. My saddle has allowed me to develop my balance and therefor join in with the movement, not just sit on top of it.
Suzi is always there to tweak something or try something new. We are currently working on a handle to help me follow him better during his huge trot extensions. She also has helped me design special split reins for my double bridle.
Not only is Suzi generous and talented, but she is also fearless. She took “us” on as a project to test her creative and technical skills. Instead of trying lock me in, she freed me to find my own strength. She had faith in me and my abilities. Because of her tremendous support, I feel that I am riding better than I have before. She has helped me find a deeper connection with Lateran. I will always be grateful.