Category: saddles and tack

The Irish Treeless Saddle Review – Meet the Deuber, Grandeur, Barefoot & Ghost saddles

By , December 27, 2015 2:25 pm

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I had a rough time over the last year trying to find a nicely fitting treed saddle for my 14.3 medium round, short, Connemara. I wanted something that fitted both me and him, but after watching these saddle fit videos, I discovered that Ireland has a TINY range of saddle makes and models – and none of them suited my horse!

In my quest I’ve gone through:

– 3 bad treed saddles
– 10 bad Irish saddle fitters
– 1 good Irish saddle fitter
– Every tack shop in Ireland & the north
– Many kind UK & German friends who answered all my saddle questions!
– ZERO saddles in Ireland that would fit my horse
– Multiple lost nights of sleep!

I’d be completely happy with a standard treed saddle if I could find one to fit my horse. The problem was I couldn’t find one.

Instead I found some great alternatives, including the Deuber Espaniola, Barefoot Madrid, Grandeur Bareback pad and the Ghost Quevis. I have just published the ‘IRISH TREELESS SADDLES REPORT’ which you can download for free here. Its my journey to find the best saddle for my horse. I hope its useful to you and I wish you a lifetime of great saddle fit.

If you would like to try any of these saddles we will be having a demo saddle bank at our 2016 clinics, for all clinic riders.



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Download the free ‘IRISH TREELESS SADDLES REPORT’ here.

The hackamore and bosal / mecate review

By , September 14, 2015 2:14 pm

For two or three years now I’ve been going to clinics and watching some of the riders use a 5/8 hackamore and mecate. The hackamore is the part with the noseband and head stall. The mecate are the horsehair reins.

Jeff Sanders explains the origins:

“The hackamore is a braided rawhide nose band (bosal) with a mecate attached for reins that has traditionally been used by Vaqueros for starting young horses. The bosal part of the hackamore comes in varying sizes depending on how far along a horse is in its training. A young horse will be ridden with a larger bosal than one that has been transitioned to the two rein. With a two reined horse a smaller bosal goes under the bridle and helps the Vaquero to transition slowly to the use of the bit.”

Last November at a clinic in Germany, all the horses were wearing these, mainly 5/8 sizes which is the one you begin with, and to be honest the level of horsemanship they were displaying was beautiful. While a great horseman will ride well in any gear, I was curious to know why these people seemed to prefer the hackamore to a rope halter.

One kind lady explained that the hackamore was like a more subtle rope halter. You can do small movements and the horse will still feel them. That sounded good to me. The more subtle my aids can be the better.

It works on pushing the horse, instead of the rope halter which involves a greater pull action. The rider needs to have very good & sensitive hands to use one. It’s not a beginner / intermediate rider tool. If it goes wrong it goes badly wrong.

As these are quite a sophisticated tool, first I needed to get one made that was of a high quality and fit my horse exactly.

You can get ones that are stiff and soft. You do not want one thats really stiff.

When you hold both ends of the hackamore in your hand and squeeze then, you should be able to create a little wave in the hackamore (noseband) part. Too stiff = not good.

You shouldn’t buy these in a shop, they have to be handmade for your horse.

You not not want a cheap one of these, as its likely to start hurting your horse if the quality is not perfect. Do not go down that road.

My German friends recommended Micha in Germany (there is 4 month waiting list). I contacted Micha, figured out colours and then got to measuring my horses head. The hackamore should be snug, but not too tight.

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With everything set, I left it with Micha and about 3 months later I got a message to say it was completed. Once week after that it arrived in the post!

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When you’re hackamore arrives, you MUST get someone experienced with hackamores, like Steve Halfpenny or Isi Brenner (both teach in Ireland once or twice a year), to fit it for you the first time, show you how many wraps it needs and how to tie it, and also then you teach you the technique about how to ride in it.

Do NOT get a hackamore / bosal if you cannot meet all this criteria as otherwise you’re walking yourself straight into serious problems.

Here is a video about how to tie the mecate to the hackamore.

So a week ago Isi came over, fitted the hackamore on my horse and we had our first ride.

I really had to focus to move my hands a lot less and be waaaaay more subtle. My horse is very sensitive, but he had no problems in it at all.

At the beginning, we just walked around with it, while I rubbed his neck to relax his body and mind while he got used to the different feel (note – he is used to working in a halter so its very similar. It is not that similar through to a bridle).

Looking forward to doing more with it!

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A review of the Grandeur Barock Saddle Pad

By , August 24, 2015 5:07 pm

Finding myself without a saddle that fitted my horse, on the recommendation of German trainer & superstar Isabell Brenner, I decided to get a Grandeur bareback pad to ride in.

Here is their website (look for fellsattel) & a few pictures of their new models.

I managed to buy an older second hand barock style one from a friend in Germany.

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I had ridden in a best friend bareback pad a few years ago but didn’t like it much. Continue reading 'A review of the Grandeur Barock Saddle Pad'»

A wonderful saddle for a short backed, wide, flat horse – Deuber Espaniola review

By , August 24, 2015 4:52 pm

You may be familiar with my sorry story of buying saddles that don’t fit from saddle fitters that wouldn’t know one end of a saddle from another. You can read about my bad saddle fit drama here.


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During the process I learned a few things: Continue reading 'A wonderful saddle for a short backed, wide, flat horse — Deuber Espaniola review'»

The one piece of tack I changed which dramatically transformed my riding posture

By , July 4, 2015 10:03 am

After a number of cowboy Irish saddle fitters sold me a saddle that didn’t fit my horse and made him sore, or checked an existing saddle I had and confirmed it was fine (and it also made my horse sore!) I’ve temporarily given up riding with saddles. I’m not riding in anything that hurts or pinches my horse.

But what to do in the meantime?

Isi Brenner, the wonderful horse trainer who came over from Germany to teach this May, suggested I could try a bareback pad from a German brand called Grandeur. Continue reading 'The one piece of tack I changed which dramatically transformed my riding posture'»

23 Common horse problems that could be caused from pain from a bad saddle fit

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By , May 19, 2015 10:25 am

I’ve recently had a bad run of saddle fitters in Ireland. I’ve heard bad stories and seen sore horses from munster, leinster, connaught and the north! It’s terrible. Finding someone who can accurately assess your horses saddle in Ireland is VERY difficult.


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Two saddle fitters told me my saddles fitted fine. But my horse’s pain and unwanted behaviour based on the pain, told me they didn’t.

The result was time off work, visits from an equine physio and a lot of unresponsive saddle fitters who don’t want to hear about their problem! You can read about my saddle fit disasters here.

Continue reading '23 Common horse problems that could be caused from pain from a bad saddle fit'»

4 Simple Questions To Use To Find A Good Saddle Fitter (And how to avoid the many bad saddle fitters out there).

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By , May 11, 2015 2:26 pm

This weekend the German horse trainer Isabell Brenner flew into Ireland from Germany for a 3 day clinic. We had six horses and riders and over the course of the weekend in Tipperary we learned lots, from improving feel, timing and balance, to groundwork, balanced circles, lateral work, yields, rollbacks, ridden work, bridling and hackamore fitting and dressage. As a teacher, Isi was really easy to understand, really sympathetic and supportive and lovely to learn from.

By the end of day one, Isi had seen a worrying problem in most horse and rider pairs. Most of the saddles didn’t fit correctly.


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On day two, Isi did a saddle fit session with a volunteer horse, and found a lot of issues with the saddle fit. Then we all got a bit worried and asked Isi to look at our saddles too. The last thing anyone wanted was a saddle that was causing our horse any pain. She found lots of problems! Here are some examples. Continue reading '4 Simple Questions To Use To Find A Good Saddle Fitter (And how to avoid the many bad saddle fitters out there).'»

Grackle & flash nosebands – and why you should avoid them

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By , September 14, 2014 8:54 pm

Do you know:

Horses can’t swallow unless they can open their mouth a bit. So if a horse has it’s mouth clamped shut with a flash or whatever it’s a bloody uncomfortable experience for them. The long strings of drool are very different to just seeing a moist mouth.

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In a very extreme situation a horse with the mouth clamped shut could drown on it’s own saliva.

Want to learn more about training & riding horses without the usual gimmicks? Find out more about the amazing Irish Horsemanship community right here.

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