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Until recently the making and designing of saddles was a conventional, slow and traditional craft. For almost 200 years the industry remained virtually unchanged. It is only in the last two decades that new developments such as synthetic saddles and improved scientific testing and fitting have appeared.

Competition between saddle manufacturers has also led to the production of more innovative saddles in an attempt to out perform and under cut their competitiors.

One of the most significant developments of the past 20 years has been the introduction of synthetic materials. Viewed as “cheap and nasty” immitations at first, synthetic saddles are now very popular.

Other new materials are being tested all the time and Jefferies Saddlery has recently utilised water-resistant, ultr-supple Pittards WR100 leather in its Flyover saddle. The manufacturing methods have resulted in a hard-wearing and amazingly lightweight saddle weighing less than 5kg.

Another new innovation has been air flocking. Traditionally all saddles were flocked with wool, a relatively unforgiving substance which over time compacts and can result in uncomfortable pressure points for the horse.

The new airbag systems are designed to provide a soft, flexible and even surface without pressure points. Once fitted, the air bags need only be adjusted if the horse changes shape.

While the traditional skills of the saddler remain essential, the talents of designers and technicians are becoming equally necessary as technology takes an increasingly important role in saddle manufacture.

Read full story about the future of saddle manufacturing in the December issue of HORSE magazine, or click here to subscribe online a special reduced pre-Christmas rate.