November 2020 - Tack Trends
Written by CRM
Friday, 30 October 2020 02:00
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“allthingstack”

DP Saddlery blends craftsmanship with cutting edge design & serves all disciplines.

A saddlery rooted in old fashioned craftsmanship may not seem the obvious source for an article on english saddle trends, but when the company is DP Saddlery LP, president Barbara Caiado is an expert on the topic.

DP Saddlery is a German company that makes saddles for all disciplines and styles. It pioneered the then-new concept of adjustable gullets 15 years ago. It has refined the system to a patented, continuously adjustable method in which the rider can easily widen the gullet as much as necessary or precisely fine tune the fit, all with an Allen Wrench.

 


“At this point, there is really not a market where the adjustable gullet system hasn’t taken off,” Barbara notes. Saddles for ranch work and barrel racing are two exceptions, but otherwise DP’s adjustable gullet saddles are as well accepted as those built on more traditional tree structures of wood, steel and more recent incarnations made of carbon fiber. DP also makes a treeless line of saddles.

 

Today’s widespread acceptance of DP’s adjustable saddles belies the challenges that went into designing and perfecting them. “It was very tricky to achieve a superior tree,” Barbara explains. “It has to handle the rider’s weight without collapsing underneath them and without the pressure points changing.” That strength, however, has to be flexible, too. “There have been a lot of flexible trees on the market in the last decade and some have done damage to the horse because they are too flexible. It requires a very unique balance. Our engineers in Germany are literally working on this non-stop and meticulously.”

Photo: © Zsuzsu Illes 2020

Panels that are only attached in the front and back of the tree are a unique DP Saddlery advantage that provides maximum comfort for the horse. To ease the pressure that is normally applied to the spine, the panels give slightly, so the spine doesn’t have to. When panels are completely attached (sewn) from front to back, it would be the horse’s spine that would have to give to pressure. “This is not the case in our models,” Barbara explains. “The horse can bend freely, so damages to the spinal area of the horse are therefore eliminated.”

Wooley Matters

As for trends, Barbara sees plenty.

First there is an ongoing move away from traditional real wool for flocking the saddle panels that distribute the rider’s weight evenly across the horse’s back. Using synthetic substitutes has been underway in Europe for some time and is migrating to the States.   

“There are downsides and upsides to each,” Barbara explains. “Real wool is very pliable, but the rider who rides five times a week probably needs to recheck it every three to six months.” With synthetic wool, that can often be stretched to a one to three-year span.

Saddle panels need to be adjusted regularly for various reasons. A young horse’s musculature may build up with training and maturity, or an older horse moving down competitive levels might lose muscle. A downside of traditional wool is that it can become compressed and hard. “When you flip an english saddle upside down, the panels should almost feel like a couch pillow,” Barbara explains. “I think there is a lack of education and understanding that the saddle needs to be maintained in order to work.”

In other cases, riders may lack access to saddle fitters who are trained to replace panel material per the needs of the individual horse and rider.

Synthetic material in the panel needs to be high-quality to provide and retain the right cushion and weight distribution capabilities. This is not always the case across the industry. “We have seen our saddles copied, and what we sometimes pull out of the panels is carpet, plastic bags, etc.”     

DP’s english saddles panels are flocked individually for every horse. A cellular rubber inlay forms a soft core that helps prevent the wool flocking from balling up, increasing the longevity of the wool. Inside of the inlay, there is a high-quality synthetic wool. Riders can choose between three thicknesses of flocking.
    
Smaller Blocks & Bigger Working Equitation Interest

In dressage saddles, a move away from large blocks that hold the rider in place is underway, Barbara observes. “This is thanks to a lot of the old schoolmasters preaching that we all need to work on our riding again. I think it’s a great advantage to get away from blocks that are often not very constructive when it comes to good riding.”

Perhaps the largest trend Barbara sees from her vantage point is the explosion of interest in saddles suitable for Working Equitation. As an international saddle maker, DP has been serving this discipline for many years because it’s long been popular in Portugal, Spain and throughout Europe. It is growing exponentially in the U.S., and so are their saddles. The versatility of the beautiful El Campo line in its baroque category has made it a favorite in Europe.

The newer Nova Flex line of options is gaining popularity in both dressage and Working Equitation.

DP’s newest trendsetting saddle can’t be revealed yet. “We are aiming to cover more horses with more variety of backs,” says Barbara of a line to be announced soon. “It usually takes us two years from start to finish, from the design, engineering and long testing phase, when it goes back to the shop. We are super excited about a new model we are very close to releasing.”
    
For information on DP-Saddlery in California, contact Zsuzsu Illes, 916-842-1517, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit www.dp-saddlery.com for general information.