Gary Foggon Helps Prepare Chilli for Her First Event

To celebrate their 25th Anniversary Black Country Saddles launched a competition on their Facebook page to win a lesson with event rider Gary Foggon.

The lucky winner was Becky Bingham from Westwoodside near Doncaster, who travelled to Gary’s Derbyshire yard with her six-year-old mare, Chilli.

Becky bought Chilli as an untouched two-year-old, describing her as ‘a bit wild’, with ambitions to compete in eventing.

An experienced rider, Becky started the grey mare herself and they have been regularly competing in dressage and show jumping while working towards their first event at Frickley Hall.

On winning the competition, Becky was excited to be able to take advantage of the lesson with Gary, who has a particular interest in dressage and eventing, and get an honest view of their progress.

During the lesson Gary helped Becky with her position in the saddle, which by Becky’s own admission needed ‘tidying up’, by encouraging her to sit up and carry her hands higher, enabling her to be more effective in the saddle.

Said Becky: “Gary gave me a lot to think about as I need to break habits that I have gained from years or riding youngsters.”

They then moved on to working on bringing Chilli up off the forehand by riding circles, transitions and pushing out sideways to help engage her hind legs more.

After her initial shock at winning the competition, Becky was more than happy to make the two hour journey to Buxton. “It was a fantastic experience, I really enjoyed the lesson. Gary was so friendly and put me at ease. I only wish he lived nearer to me as I would have been looking to have regular lessons with him,” added Becky.

As well as the lesson Becky’s prize also included a Black Country Saddles girth and branded jacket and saddlecloth.

Jo Bates – Successful Rider and Showing Producer

Black Country Saddles sponsored rider and producer Jo Bates has a particularly interesting life story behind her amazing success. Jo was a popular winner of the Hack Championship at this year’s Royal International Horse Show with Suzannah Welby’s Large Hack, Elusive.

Read on to discover 10 things about Jo that should make you smile.

-Jo was born into a competitive equestrian family. Entering the show ring on ponies produced by her mother she took up dressage when she was 12 and became one of the top young riders in GB in 1977 and finished Junior Dressage Champion in 1978.

-Jo was also side-saddle rider of the year in 1976 and 1977. At this time, Jo went on a side-saddle course with Jennie Loriston Clarke, who was to become a great influence and mentor for Jo in years to come.

-Jo was also on a coaching programme for the Royal Ballet School until her mid-teens, but severe knee problems meant she had to decide between riding and ballet, and riding was the choice she made.

-At the age of 16, Jo went to work for Ernst Bachinger at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, where she spent six months working as an au pair for his two children, in return for lessons.

-When Jo returned to the UK, she teamed up again with Jennie Loriston Clarke working for her at the Catherston Stud as assistant secretary. She then went to work for show jumping legend Iris Kellet, another period Jo very much enjoyed.

-Jo met her husband, Andrew Bates, through his sister at Cowes sailing week as she was Jennie’s student. Jo and Andrew married in 1995 and divorced 13 years later, although they still remain close. Jo believes that it was sadly her longing to run her own yard that actually caused the break-up of her marriage.

-Jo initially gave up horses and went to live with Andrew in London, where she did some secretarial temping work but realised how much she was missing riding. When she left the City, jobs at an Audi dealership, a furniture shop, British Horse Society welfare team member and then show secretary and sponsorship liaison officer for HOYS followed.

-It was a phonecall in 1992 from Broadstone Stud’s John Rose that gave Jo her focus once more, managing their PR and riding a part bred Arab called Daytona. She worked with dressage horses and show horses training them to a high level, under John Rose. When John left, Jo took over as joint manager.

-Broadstone Stud was disbanded in 2003, prompting Jo to set up in Hook Norton, on the same estate as four-star eventer Beanie Sturgis. Jo commutes from nearby Cropredy while her daughter, Holly, drives 50 minutes from Northampton, where she lives with her boyfriend, Jack, who is a teacher.

-Jo now offers to teach both at home and off-site. She will take on pupils at all levels and can teach pupils from novice to advanced dressage, together with the art of showing. She also accepts horses for schooling on a regular basis, and is happy to give showing masterclasses on a clinic basis or on an individual basis. Jo finally believes she is just where she wants to be in life, with her daughter, Holly, and many horses all around her.

A Busy Year for Izzy Palmer

Towards the end of 2016, young Izzy Palmer was re-selected for another two years of opportunity for learning and development on the lottery funded World Class Podium Potential Programme.

Izzy rides the well known dressage names – Pinocchio and Touchdown M, who both belong to Black Country Saddles sponsored Sophie Wells.  Indeed Sophie is her mentor and trainer during which time their relationship has gone from strength to strength.

Said Izzy: “I first started by riding Pinocchio who is just a star.  Then more recently Sophie suggested I have a go to see how I would get on with Touchdown M who I now just love.  He is very talented and is teaching me a lot.  I am very grateful to Sophie for the opportunity and for all of her help.”

Izzy was born with Cerebral Palsy and travels to Sophie’s base in Nottinghamshire from her home in Leeds to train with her mentor at least twice a week.

Their first major competition was the British Dressage Gold Winter Para Championships and Izzy said afterwards that both Touchdown and Pinocchio felt fantastic. Touchdown and Izzy won to become the Grade 4 (previously grade 3) winter champions and she also came third on Pinocchio.

Izzy was then selected to take part in her first senior international abroad at Deauville CPEDI 3* at the end of March, again with both Pinocchio and Touchdown. This was a big learning experience for her and she was proud of the boys coming away with superb results, a win for Touchdown in the individual championship test with Pinocchio third, before a win which included Pinocchio in the freestyle and a second and fifth in the team test!

It was then time for a quieter couple of months whilst Izzy focused on revision for her GCSE exams which have now finished. However, she managed a quick break in the middle of revising to take part in the British Dressage Gold semi-finals at Wellington. Here, the boys yet again made her proud with a win and second place, qualifying for the finals at the National Championships at Stoneleigh in September.

Izzy has also been fortunate to win the Young Disability Sportswoman Award at the Leeds Sports Awards and the Woman of Achievement in Sport at the Sue Ryder Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards.

Izzy is currently reserve for the para European Championships in Gothenburg with Touchdown M after winning the team and individual tests on Pinocchio at Hartpury CPDI and coming second and third on Touchdown M.

Both Pinocchio and Touchdown are ridden in a Black Country Saddle with Izzy riding Pinocchio in the Black Country Vinici dressage saddle with Touchdown in the new Black Country Dante Vinici.

Both saddles are very comfortable for her and the horses and said Izzy: “I love the close contact feel, especially with my disability.”

Rolex Kentucky Proves Amazing Event for Black Country Saddles Team

LONGSTANDING supporters of the prestigious Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Black Country Saddlers partners Rob Cullen and John Hartley were overwhelmed with the response at this year’s competition.

The Black Country Saddles range is proving more popular than ever across the United States and so it proved highly beneficial to have doubled their stand space this time around.

Eventing, dressage and show jumping competitors as well as leisure riders are choosing the Black Country Saddles range knowing that the highly qualified Black Country Saddles dealers across America are available to discuss their requirements.

The bespoke options from the Black Country Saddles collections ensure riders get the very best saddle for both themselves and their horse or pony.

Throughout the event, the team on the stand ran a daily competition to win a Black Country Saddles jacket which proved exciting amongst the many visitors.

Said Rob: “It is always great to talk to horse owners and riders to get their feedback and to spend quality time with our dealers in person in America. It was quite simply put, a fantastic few days.

“The Dante range continues to be a huge success and it was interesting talking to riders as they sat on the different models we had on display listening to their feedback as to which saddle suited them the best, and why so.

“The support we get from the dealers says everything about the ethos of the Black Country Saddles family with each sharing their extensive saddlery knowledge with the constant queue of enthusiastic visitors to the stand.

“Dealers present included Patty Merli, Bob Cooper, Bryan Lynch, Amanda Berges, Ann Jacobson, Faye Flynn and new dealer Dianne Pulles from Michigan who is also making the trip over the pond to visit HQ next week.”

Regular visitors to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Rob, John and the dealers were on hand to promote and explain the many benefits of riding in one of their saddles whether riding at the highest level or choosing a saddle for leisure activities.

This was the 37th consecutive year that Rolex Watch USA has sponsored the Kentucky Three-Day Event, the longest corporate sponsorship in horse sports.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Simon Reynolds

Black Country Saddles sponsored Simon Reynolds is thriving on success again this season after finishing on a high note at Royal Windsor Horse Show in May when Morrows Marksman (Bentley) topped the open heavyweight cob line-up.

But what is it that has given Simon this appetite for success? Read on to discover some little-known facts about him that have contributed to his magnificent achievements overall.

 – Simon was born in Worksop. He is now married to Natalie and they have a three-year-old son, Luke.

 – Natalie and Simon downsized from their previous yard in Leicestershire two years ago, to their new purpose-built yard and house in Threekingham, Lincolnshire. It consists of 12 acres and 10 stables.

 – The Reynolds have specifically designed a yard that is virtually maintenance-free. Their true feelings come through in this concept, as they are both conscientiously neat and tidy and a smaller place allows for this.

 – Simon and Natalie are supporters of the groom apprenticeship scheme. They employ Jess King via the scheme and between them manage all the mucking out, riding and administration.

 – Simon’s dad, David, was a professional jockey and then became a horse dealer.

 – With his other siblings, all the family helped on the yard. They were all exposed to the sales side of the business and often learned the hard way if there was no money left in their pockets.

 – Simon started riding when he was young but for a year was only allowed to ride bareback as he was diagnosed with Perthes disease, affecting his hips. This meant he had both legs in full plaster for some time, but fortunately his doctor believed riding bareback would strengthen his legs and Simon was keen to give it a go.

 – Simon was a poor attender at school, spending much of his time on the junior and senior showjumping circuits and on the hunting field instead. When he left school, he went to work for Neil Simpson in the Cotswolds to enhance his hunting knowledge. Whilst there, Neil’s wife Jo, taught Simon to holistically care for horses.

 – Simon always says that his background with horses was completely different to Natalie’s, as Natalie grew up with horses as a hobby, but for Simon and his family, it was a way of life. No matter what their backgrounds, they are definitely a team to be reckoned with now.

 – Simon has some reservations about the future of the sport. He feels there is less focus on the horses and more on the people and this leaves him with an uneasy feel for what is to come. However, he strongly believes in encouraging young riders and horses to have a go, and with a strong passion for what he does, he will certainly continue to invest in the future, wherever possible.

Black Country Saddles Jumping Range

Is show jumping or cross-country your chosen sport?

Looking for a saddle designed and manufactured to the highest specification and with the latest technology?

The Black Country Saddles Jumping range offers you the support where you need it, providing the ultimate in performance.

The Ricochet Jump Saddle has a low profile square cantled seat and an aesthetic continental close-contact look. The panel and tree combination lends itself to many high wither profiles from hunting horses, thoroughbred eventers through to some of the more modern warmblood jumpers.

The Tra-li Jump Saddle has been developed with a unique system where the blocks have been placed on the outside of the saddle to provide riders with increased support. It has been refined using a slimline tree which gives the riders extra assistance to stay in perfect balance.

The Quantum Jump Saddle is built on a close-contact tree and panel. It gives a flatter seat, which is required for eventing and cross-country jumping. Knee and thigh blocks are incorporated to support the rider’s position. It is also available with an extra forward cut flap, for taller riders.

The Solare Jump Saddle is ideal for those riders looking for a saddle with all the latest innovations. With a forward-fitting seat, the saddle allows plenty of freedom of movement for the rider. This custom-made saddle has a discreet knee roll providing support, whilst the forward cut flaps help the riders’ balance and security. The pure wool flocking helps to offer the perfect fit and allows greater adjustment options.

The Wexford Jump Saddle is a deep-seated jumping saddle, offering a wider seat for comfort than most traditional jump saddles. This saddle has large supporting knee and thigh blocks for the ultimate in rider security and an extra forward flap option for the taller rider.

The Maelstrom Jump Saddle is a ‘no expenses spared’, wool flocked close contact jumping saddle complete with all the finer details. It is covered in luxurious calf hide. It is great saddle for cross-country and eventing.

The Tex Eventer Saddle is specifically targeted at event riders. The forwardness of the flap and the long sloping seat allow plenty of room behind the rider to move around in the saddle and have support when leaning back over drop fences. The tree is designed so that the extra length in the seat is not reflected in the panels. This saddle is designed with wool panels to help shock absorption when landing and also allows the horse freedom to stretch out without restriction on the shoulders.

The Jumping-LL Saddle is designed to provide more room for riders with longer legs. The issue for longer-legged riders in forward-fitting flaps is that they tend to move the block further forward. The Black Country Saddles team has therefore created more space with a longer pad below the knee rather than at the thigh.

Gary Foggon Promotes Road Safety Advice

Following a recent collision with a car, leading rider Gary Foggon wants to raise awareness with other horse owners and riders with regards to road safety issues.

On a recent sunny morning ride Gary had been enjoying a pleasant hack on his event horse Charlie. Suddenly, he felt Charlie’s legs giving way beneath him, and he quickly realised that a car had collided into the back of them.

Gary and Charlie both fell to the floor and Charlie started galloping off in a blind panic. Fortunately, Charlie responded to Gary’s voice and therefore calmed down.

This has prompted Black Country Saddles sponsored rider Gary to take the opportunity to promote road safety issues for all when out riding.

Said Gary: “I would urge all riders to wear appropriate safety clothing even on a hot sunny day.  This accident was really traumatic and obviously upsetting and you always have to consider the possibility of serious injury or indeed permanent damage to yourself or your horse.

“Our roads are usually wide enough for horses to share with cars, but tolerance and understanding on both sides is always an absolute necessity.

“I would encourage all riders to learn basic first aid for both horse and rider.

“I would also recommend that riders carry a mobile phone with them, should they need to use it in an emergency and it is useful to carry written contact details of who can be contacted in an emergency.”

Horses are powerful animals that are easily frightened and can panic, especially near fast-moving traffic.

Horse riders should obviously be conversant with the Highway Code – as should motorists of course.

This is a subject that attracts a lot of on-going debate though the ultimate aim is for all those using the roads to be able to do so safely.

Sophie Wells Shares Her Medal Successes

LEADING dressage rider and Rio and London Paralympic Gold medallist Sophie Wells MBE, recently took time out from her busy schedule to visit her sponsor Black Country Saddles with her Paralympic medal haul.

Sophie is a Grade V para-dressage rider who secured glowing success at both the London and Rio Olympics.  In London Sophie claimed two Individual Silvers and a Team Gold medal, whilst in Rio she took Individual Gold, Individual Silver and Team Gold medals.

More than holding her own in able-bodied competition, Sophie was also in winning form at this year’s British Dressage Winter Championships in April when winning the Prix St Georges (PSG) with C Fatal Attraction and the Inter I with her Rio gold medallist, Valerius.

Now training and competing at Grand Prix level, Valerius and Sophie also recently entered their first Grand Prix together at Manor Grange in North Yorkshire.

Sophie proudly showed her medals to the staff at Black Country Saddles who all downed tools to have the opportunity to have their photographs taken with Sophie and to share in her various success stories.

Said Partner Rob Cullen: “It was great to catch up with Sophie and to see her fantastic medal collection.  She is a fabulous ambassador for us and we are delighted to have her in the Black Country Saddles family and provide her with our saddles.”

Added Sophie: “My latest saddle is a Black Country Dante Vinici Dressage which is simply marvellous.  It really supports my position, keeping me straighter and helping me to absorb the movement.”

Sophie also brought her two gold and one silver Tom dolls which were awarded in Rio as the Paralympic Games’ mascot, with hair in the colour of the medal received.

While at the Cannock offices and never missing an opportunity, Sophie provided feedback on the saddles she rides in and discussed new saddles with Rob and business partner John Hartley also going through colour-ways and ‘a bit of bling’ to add to her collection.

Training the Young Horse with Gary Foggon

Although you may encounter issues when training a young horse, be patient and work through each concern logically. With dedication and determination, specific exercises will help to correct individual problems along the way.

Here we look at improving the trot. It is quite possible for a young horse to have one stronger and one weaker pace, but once you have this identified you will be able to target your training as necessary.

Improving the trot

 Firstly, consider the overall rhythm of the trot. You are looking for a smooth swinging motion through both back and front, allowing you to remain comfortably balanced in the saddle throughout. One of the easiest ways to encourage this development is through the use of trotting poles. This will encourage an unimpeded, progressive action and improved bending of leg joints over time.

Said Gary: “Trotting poles are not necessarily a quick solution and you will need to be patient.

“I make sure I am clear in my mind exactly what line I intend to take over the poles, and once selected, I maintain my focus straight down that line.

“Trotting poles can be adapted into any schooling routine. However, I would suggest you need no more than four poles to begin this exercise, placing them parallel, each about a metre and a half apart. It is useful to stagger them so they are not immediately lined up in front of each other, but are placed at an overall angle.”

Gary then outlines the three simple choices regarding how to approach the poles.

Firstly, and probably the easiest way to begin, is to pick a straight, forward-facing line, over a narrow strip of the poles. Position yourself comfortably in the centre of the saddle and decide on your line before turning towards the first pole. Maintain an even and balanced position in the saddle and look straight ahead, reassuring your horse forwards with the leg.

Secondly, begin trotting over the poles diagonally.  Similar to the first exercise, choose your line before turning towards the poles. Maintain a comfortable seating position. Continue looking straight ahead as you approach and ride over your chosen line, but this time you will be trotting over on a diagonal.

Thirdly you can also try doing leg yield across the poles. However, there is a word of caution with this exercise as it is quite advanced and should only be tackled by a horse already established in the leg yield. Again, you must have a comfortable, balanced position in the saddle. The approach to the poles is the same as the first and second exercises. You must then decide the point where you will start your leg yield, choose the line you are going to follow and importantly, the point where it will end.

It is easy in this exercise to find yourself leaning over to one side so you must try and correct this immediately if it occurs. Use your inside leg at the girth to encourage the horse to move away from it. At the same time, use your outside leg behind the girth to control the hindquarters. Use your inside rein to encourage a slight bend away from the direction of movement whilst using the outside rein to maintain contact.

As with all riding, a horse intuitively knows if you are tense during this exercise, so try and keep your hands soft. Also, try and keep the horse soft in the rein at all times.

It is always useful to have somebody watching, not only to provide you with instant feedback, but also to adjust the poles if necessary without you continually needing to dismount!

Gary added: “Try and allow your horse to use its natural stride. If you want a shorter or longer stride, you can adjust the poles as required.”

The choice of saddle that Gary uses for dressage is the Black Country Dante Dressage.

Gary finishes by saying: “I have recently been involved in new saddle designs, coming up with ideas and providing feedback on latest developments and innovations with Black Country Saddles.

“The saddles are just fantastic and as soon as you sit in one they are really comfortable. The leather is soft and supple from day one.”

Royal Windsor Horse Show Success

Jayne Ross was in superlative form at the Royal Windsor Horse Show taking the Novice and Open Hunter Championships.

The Black Country Saddles sponsored rider captured the Novice Hunter Championship on Bella Malim’s attractive youngster Bloomfield Valhalla.

In the Open Hunter Championship it was the turn of the magnificent grey, Bloomfield Excelsior, owned by the Shades of Grey Syndicate to take the honours and continue with his winning ways after taking the championship last October at HOYS.

As if that wasn’t enough Jayne also headed the Middleweight Hunters with another grey, Bloomfield Tetrarch and the Lightweight Hunters on Diane Stennett’s, Time 2 Reflect.

Robert Walker, also sponsored by Black Country Saddles, and the four-year-old Corniche Chill took his age class after giving a great performance beyond his years.

In the Small Hunter section, Robert’s success continued when securing the class with Chantilly Bojangles and the good-moving Lightweight Hunter, Viewpoint rose to the occasion to take Reserve in the Open Hunter Championships to top off an excellent first say for the Black Country Saddles team.

Roscoe’s a Perfect Fit for Kate

Having ridden big warmblood horses for many years, Gloucester-based Kate Vickery wanted to down-size and ride out with her children as they became more confident in the saddle.

With this in mind, at the end of May, Kate bought Roscoe a 148cm Connemara to produce and educate ready for her children to progress on to in a few years’ time.

Wanting to make sure his saddlery fitted correctly, Kate decided to do some research on the internet and in doing so she repeatedly came across really positive reviews for Black Country Saddles.

Said Kate: “Roscoe is quite wide and rides like a horse with a big stride and as he is still maturing and changing shape I wanted to make sure the saddle was the perfect fit.

“Eventually I will pass him down to the children but for now we have started Roscoe with flatwork and dressage before recently trying some show jumping before we move on to eventing next year.

“I contacted Terri Webb Saddles in Herefordshire who came to the yard to carry out a saddle fit and she recommended the Eden Dressage Saddle from Black Country Saddles.

“The fit is brilliant, I couldn’t be more pleased. In fact the saddle doesn’t move at all and when I had Roscoe’s back checked, the physiotherapist was also really pleased with the good shape he is in and with how good he felt overall.

“Not only does the saddle fit Roscoe well, I also absolutely love riding in it!  The saddle is so comfortable and well-made that I am now riding far better given the support it offers.”

Kate was that impressed with the Eden Dressage Saddle that she has now also purchased the Ricochet jumping saddle as she is starting to show jump him through the winter months.

“Roscoe just seems to move well and freely whether on the flat or over jumps.  It was so brilliant to find both a saddle fitter and a manufacturer who knew what they were doing which resulted in a first class service and a first class product!”

The Perfect Show

Recently taking the Intermediate Championship at Area 5 – Three Shires with her fantastic partner Archeval Boutique Amadeus, here Cassie Hartley of Black Country Saddles provides some top tips for ringcraft and the perfect individual show.

First things first, before you get into the ring make sure you are ready to impress. Take time on turnout and presentation making sure your plaits are neat and suit the characteristics of the horse.

Make sure your tack is pristine and also enhances all the good characteristics of your horse.  Your saddle must fit the horse well and also be comfortable for you and any judge who may ride in it.  I ride in a Black Country Saddles Classic Show Saddle which is straight-cut to show off the horse’s front and to help catch the judge’s eye.

Finishing touches such as a coat shine, hoof oil and a little make up can also go a long way to make you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Showing Off

Once you get in the ring it is time to shine and really show off your horse! Showing is about making an instant impact and creating the best picture possible for the judge. As well as emphasising all the horse’s finer points it is also important to try to improve on any weaker points the horse may have.

It is crucial that you present your horse at his best whenever the judge is looking at you. As you enter the ring, try and place yourself in a good position so that your horse looks even better.

Once you are in the ring make sure you concentrate on what you are doing but keep your eye on the judge so that you know when they are looking.

When the steward asks the class to move forward into trot, the trot needs to be well paced with an even flowing rhythm covering the ground well. It is important that as you move up a pace that you keep plenty of space around you so the judge can see you at all times.

When moving into canter you might find it easier to use a corner to help get on the correct lead. This should be smooth, flowing and balanced with the horse showing good self-carriage.

The steward will then ask the class to change the rein and perform the same on the other rein. You will usually be asked to change the rein at the next corner using the diagonal. Judges can often use this to look at how straight your horse moves along the line.

The gallop is used to show that your horse can extend and lower his strides without rushing. Ensure you prepare your horse for the gallop down a long side of the ring, accelerating smoothly out of a corner.

After the initial ‘go round’ the judge will be looking how to position everyone in the first line up, so don’t get boxed in make sure you are seen.

Show Time

Depending on the class after this preliminary line up you will be expected to perform an individual show or the judge will ride your horse.

If you are required to do an individual show it should be no more than two or three minutes and the aim is to really show your horse off – you have the sole attention of the judge so make the most of it!

Walk out of the line and halt in front of the judge who may ask a few questions. It is important to be polite and smiley!  When starting your individual show, walk away in a straight line for five strides and move into trot. 

Whilst maintaining a good forward rhythm do a figure of eight in trot and then in canter. Once you have done this show a lengthening of strides down one long side and end the show by trotting towards the judge before going forward into walk and finish with a square halt in front of the judge.  

If your horse or pony has an impressive trot, enhance your show by spending most of your time at this pace.  You can add more trot at the beginning and end of the show before you halt for the judge.

 If the canter is your horse’s strong point then start with the canter figure of eight as you head way from the judge. When changing legs across the diagonal try and perform only two strides of trot and then strike off onto the correct leg. This will demonstrate control, manners and submission.

Five top tips to remember:

  •  Find and create a space around you and try to avoid being in the crowd.
  •  If you get too close to the horse in front, circle into the centre of the ring and find a  better space so you can show your horse off in better  view.
  •  Make sure your halt is square in front of the judge.
  •  Make sure your transitions are smooth and balanced.
  •  Above all else remember showing and riding is meant to be fun, so don’t forget to  stay relaxed and smile!

Success for Sophie at Winter Dressage Championships

Black Country Saddles sponsored Paralympian, Sophie Wells, was in fantastic form at this year’s British Dressage Winter Championships.

On back-to-back nights, she rose to success, firstly winning the Magic Prix St Georges (PSG) with C Fatal Attraction, then winning the Superflex Inter I with her Rio gold medallist, Valerius. Not surprisingly, the crowd went wild.


Sophie herself said she couldn’t be more proud of C Fatal Attraction. She really didn’t think they were going to crack his changes for a while, so to deliver this performance was amazing.

In the Inter I, Sophie rode to the Tom Hunt programme that won her the grade IV Paralympic medal in Rio. However, she increased the difficulty to Inter I level and this was the first time she had ridden the floorplan in competition. Emotions were running high as Sophie wanted the audience to recognise that para work is no different to able-bodied dressage.

However, Sophie herself admits that on the night, Valerius felt on edge, and having already made the floorplan more difficult, she did have a last-minute wobble, wondering if she should have done a warm-up test beforehand. But when the time came, Sophie may have been out of her own comfort zone, but ultimately she was able to rely on the horse she knows so well, and has worked with for 10 years.

Sophie and Valerius were magnificent. Their fantastic extended trot out of halt, and canter piroutettes straight out of her tempi changes were spectacular. Quite unbelievably, after the competition, Sophie said she couldn’t remember the test when she began as she was completely focused on keeping Valerius’s energy levels in tune.

Valerius was beautifully in time with his music, ending with a fresh and cheerful, quiet, soft walk section.

For further information on Black Country Saddles please telpehone 01543 578 243 or visit


Black Country Saddles Heading to Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials

THE Black Country Saddles team is looking forward to this year’s Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials where they will showcase their latest collection of stylish, bespoke saddles.

The Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky – April 27 to 30.

Once again the stand will be supported by a strong team of highly qualified Black Country Saddles Dealers from around the United States.

The team at Black Country Saddles see this event as a great opportunity to promote and explain the many benefits of riding in one of their saddles whether competing at the highest level or choosing a saddle for leisure activities.

Said Rob Cullen of Black Country Saddles: “The Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event is always a fantastic event and allows our team of dealers to share their extensive saddlery knowledge with the great number of enthusiastic visitors to the stand.

“The new Dante collection, with its unique seat position, has proven a huge success worldwide and we are looking forward to meeting customers old and new to keep them up to date on our latest developments.”

Black Country Saddles Dressage Range

The Black Country Saddles team of designers and Master Saddlers have once again utilised and combined their extensive knowledge and skills in developing a new collection of saddles for dressage riders.

The Dressage range offers ultimate choices to help achieve perfection whether training at home or travelling the globe to world class competitions.

The Optima Dressage Saddle has a knee-roll which can be placed to an exact position for the rider, allowing greater flexibility whilst still giving maximum support. This saddle is styled in calf leather and comes with a close-contact flap ensuring clear and effective communication between horse and rider.

The Optima Deluxe Saddle has been designed to be a close-fitting saddle. Thanks to softeners between the flaps and skirts the saddle is extra comfortable. Made to the very highest level of expertise, this saddle has uniform weight distribution with pure wool flocking.

The Adelinda Dressage Saddle also incorporates a close-contact designed flap, allowing for greater communication between horse and rider. With an anatomically contoured knee block on the top of the flap, it can be custom made for each individual rider.

The Eloquence Dressage Saddle is the most popular dressage model in this range offering a medium deep seat, giving stability without restriction and excellent centre of balance. Knee rolls are of medium depth but can be custom built if required.

The Bellissima Dressage Saddle is a deluxe model of the Eloquence Dressage Saddle keeping the same features but adding extra refinements.  It is covered in a superior calf-hide for flexibility and closeness in the flap and reversed doe-skin on the seat and pads for the ultimate in softness.

The Eden Dressage Saddle as ever also continues to be popular. The design of the tree in this saddle lends itself to ‘dipped backed’ horses, helping to maximise the weight distribution. This is reflected in the deep seat which gives far more security and encourages a long, classically correct leg position. The narrow twist of this saddle is also a favourite.

The Kur Saddle includes a flatter seat and a lower cantle than most dressage saddles which allows the rider more freedom in the seat making it a great choice for new dressage riders who are used to a flatter seated saddle.

Walker’s Winning Ways at North of England Spring Show

Team Walker were in amazing form at North of England Spring Show with 11 wins, four championships and three reserve championships between them.

©Real Time Imaging/Steve Dawe

Robert, wife Sarah, son Sam and clients Rae Colosso and Zara Brookes hit a purple patch with wins, championships and reserve championships galore over the three days.

The Black Country Saddles rider was delighted with his win on Corniche Chill heading the four and five-year-old class before taking the Novice Hunter Championship.  He was backed and ridden away over the winter months.

Stable mate Our Kingsman won the Novice Hunter over six-years-old and then took before the Novice Hunter Reserve Championship award.

HOYS winner Chantilly Bojangles won the Small Hunter class and next followed the turn of the Open Hunter classes.

These led to another clean-sweep when Viewpoint won the Lightweight, Caesar’s Palace took the red rosette in the Middleweight section and Patrick’s Choice was triumphant in the Heavyweight category.  Viewpoint headed the Hunter Championship with Patrick’s Choice finishing Reserve Champion.

The following day Robert had a slightly quieter time with just two horses to show and two youngsters to acclimatise to a competition environment.

Wins continued with Comberton Clarence heading the Novice Hack class and Randalstown Rolex winning the Lightweight Cob section before securing the Cob Championship.

On pony day it was the turn of Rae Colosso, Zara Brookes and Sam Walker.

Rae and Chantilly Bojangles won the Intermediate Show Hunter and headed the Intermediate Championship, Zara won the 138cm Show Pony class on Chanley Delightful Dan before Sam secured the 133cm Show Hunter Pony on Millwood Kaiser Chief and then claimed the Reserve Championship.

Improving the Walk and Canter

A horse sometimes gets into the habit of moving its front and back leg on the same side at the same time, thus developing a two-beat pace rather than taking four individual footsteps. This is known as a ‘lateral’ walk.

To correct this, you need to keep the horse in front of your leg. You also need to encourage him slightly sideways. To visualise what you are aiming for, you are trying to place the inside hind leg between the two front legs. This should prevent any further lateral walking and recreate the four-beat rhythm.

The overall aim is to prevent your horse learning to develop a lateral walk in the first instance. You should manage this if you ride slightly in a shoulder fore position. This will also improve the suppleness of a young or stiff horse.

You can assist further by turning your own shoulders in slightly and this will help the horse to follow you. This, in conjunction with accurate use of the reins for a slightly enhanced inside bend, should fix any problems of a lateral walk.

The Canter

 One of the basics for a correct canter is to ensure your horse stays relatively straight. The more relaxed you and your horse are, the easier this becomes. It is important to keep him soft in his outline and active with your leg.

Once again, rhythm is important and with the canter, you are looking for a clear three-beat rhythm. This is helped if your horse has an active hind leg, pushing him forward. It is important that the horse does not lean on the rider’s hand.

The choice of saddle that Gary uses for dressage is the Black Country Dante Dressage.

Said Gary: “I have recently been involved in new saddle designs, coming up with ideas and providing feedback on latest developments and innovations with Black Country Saddles.

“The saddles are just fantastic and as soon as you sit in one they are really comfortable. The leather is soft and supple from day one.”

For more information contact Black Country Saddles on 01543 578 243 or visit


Gary Trains with Carl Hester

Black Country Saddles sponsored rider Gary Foggon lets us in on his training session with the legendary Carl Hester as they are now on the count d
own to the British Dressage Winter Championships.

Gary trains with both Carl Hester and Stephen Clarke and recently headed to Gloucestershire for a lesson with Carl and his elegant mare Gypsy Fortune (aka Pikey).

Says Gary: “As the Winter Championships get ever-closer all thoughts and energies are on the preparation required so that both myself and Pikey are ready to do our very best.

“With this in mind Carl structured the session towards developing a more relaxed up- hill way of going, using passage steps to gain height and cadence then developing the rhythm forward into an expressive collection.

“Carl reminded me to make the transitions fluent with a forw
ard hand allowing Pikey to develop her own self carriage.

“We then moved on to the canter which was all about control and relaxation. Carl asked me to canter slow enough so that he was able to walk alongside while I gave the reins to enable Pikey to relax the neck and back enabling her to take more weight on the hind leg.”

“I am so excited with Pikey, she is really developing quickly at the moment, every day she just keep feeling better and better. I’m incredibly lucky to get the help from such inspirational trainers and looking forward to riding at the Winter Championships with the new Dante Saddle from Black County Saddles which has been made to match with burgundy stitching and welting.” 

Black Country Saddles Sponsor Ridden Hunter Championship at Equifest 2017

Equifest 2017 will once again see Staffordshire-based Black Country Saddles sponsoring the Ridden Hunter Championship, following the success of last year.

Well-known for supporting leading names including Katy Carter, Kirstine Douglas, Jo Bates, Robert Walker, Sarah Parker and Simon Reynolds, Black Country Saddle’s Classic Show Saddle has become hugely popular amongst riders.

Equifest takes place at the East of England Showground, Peterborough – August 9 to 13.

Said John Hartley of Black Country Saddles: “Equifest is a brilliant event and we are thrilled to be sponsoring the esteemed Ridden Hunter Championship again, particularly as Equifest celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

“Attracting a host of competitors and spectators each year, from all over the UK, we are delighted to be sponsoring one of the championships.”

Many leading competitors now ride in the Black Country Classic Show Saddle  delivering style and elegance when in the show arena.

This saddle is straight-cut to help accentuate the horse or pony’s shoulder, but has a subtle knee roll to help keep the rider in the ideal show position.

The low cantle helps provide a flatter seat for a neat appearance with the close profile of the saddle helping to show off and improve the overall picture, so important in the world of showing.

Made using pre-oiled vintage leather, this saddle offers an exceptionally comfortable seat and is flocked with pure wool to allow for greater bearing pressure and fitting adjustment.

Over 25 years of expertise has been combined to produce the saddle, using the very best materials available today.

Jayne Ross Showing Tip

The bigger the show means a bigger arena, therefore your horse will need to be fitter.  With the major shows remember to anticipate what the judge will require when riding. Ensure you have long enough stirrup leathers, big stirrup irons and ensure that your saddle fits correctly with extra padding for a taller and heavier rider.

Looking pretty is what some riders will be concentrating on. In hunter classes when riding in the ring you should focus on setting your horse up for when the judge comes to ride him. If you are riding a riding horse or hunter, a gallop will be required. The gallop isn’t to show the horse can win a race; it is there to simply show that the horse can go from A to B and can keep up with everyone else.

Jayne’s final tip across all levels would be to do less but do it well, rather than seeing attempts at more not being executed properly. But above all enjoy yourself and take in the experience. It will help your confidence for when you next get out there.

The Classic Show Saddle from Black Country Saddles, is her favourite piece of kit. It offers style and elegance when competing in the show ring.

Added Jayne:  “The show saddle is so comfortable and is a fantastic fit for the horse and rider. The minute you sit on one you feel completely at home and you know you will not have to spend time bedding it in.

“They also allow plenty of freedom of movement which is so important for the show horse in order that they can move well and have presence when in the ring.”