International Dressage Rider Joins Black Country Saddles Team

Denise Hallion

BLACK Country Saddles are pleased to welcome international dressage rider and trainer, Denise Hallion to their team of sponsored riders.

Denise, who is based in Southampton and trains with Carl Hester, currently rides for South Africa competing at Grand Prix level and in 2011 and 2012 competed at many international competitions including the Spring and Sunshine Tour in the run up to the Olympics.

Denise has also successfully competed eventing in South Africa and show jumping on the national circuit up to Grade A level. Now in the world of dressage she is looking for a place on the South African squad for the Rio Olympics in 2016 with her top horse, Wervelwind, otherwise known as Verve at home.

The pair represented South Africa at the World Equestrian Games and also recently won the Grand Prix Special at the Dressage at Hickstead meeting.

Said Denise: “I am delighted to have the support of Black Country Saddles. In the past my top horse, Verve, had been struggling with wither pain despite regular physiotherapy and massage. He was diagnosed by the vet who said that his saddle was pinching him and impacting his performance in a negative way.

“Since having a Black Country Saddles Vinici dressage saddle, fitted by Jill Tremmil from Meadowlea Saddlery, Verve’s back has not had any saddle-related issues for the last 10 months and he is very much enjoying his work now. Whilst competing at Grand Prix level every little detail makes such a difference to my horse’s work and outlook.”

Said Mark Bryan of Black Country Saddles: “It’s great that Denise has joined our team of sponsored riders and we are excited to follow her progress this season nationally and internationally.”

Black Country Saddles Sponsor Kirstine Douglas


BESPOKE saddle makers, Black Country Saddles has welcomed show rider and producer Kirstine Douglas to their sponsored team.

Based in Dumfries, Scotland, Kirstine has been showing since she was three-years-old and worked for well-known showman Robert Oliver for five years before setting up her own yard and she has been highly successful ever since.

Besides her competition career, Kirstine has judged extensively and is on five judging panels. Her duties have taken her to Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as well as all the major UK shows, a role she very much enjoys.

Kirstine’s most prestigious win came in 2012 when she landed the Cob Championship at HOYS with the lightweight, Barneebus. She has also claimed a Reserve Champion spot with the Connemara, Sydserff Lord Of The Dance. Wins at RIHS and Royal Windsor add to the many other placings she has achieved every year at HOYS.

Kirstine currently has 20 horses on her yard, including leading names and a host of youngsters being carefully produced.

The yard caters for a range of horses and ponies from Cobs and Riding Horses to Hunters and Lead Rein Ponies. The Middleweight Hunter, Primitive Dancer who was placed second at HOYS last year on only her third outing with Kirstine has already qualified for RIHS this year as well as standing Reserve Champion at the Northern Spring Show. She joins four others who have also secured their RIHS tickets.

There are two particularly talented cobs on Kirstine’s yard at the moment. The Lightweight, Captain Morgan stood champion at Area 1B and the Novice, Johnny Walker went champion at North Eastern Counties, when shown in the Open category. Kirstine also thinks a lot of her Novice Hunter, Annaghmore Huntsman who recently took the Reserve Championship place at the Scottish Spring Show.

Kirstine’s team are ridden in Black Country Saddles, which she says have made a remarkable difference.

“I have noticed exceptional balance in the saddle and also much more freedom of movement. I really love Black Country Saddles,” she said.

Kirstine has also spread the word about the saddles to many of her clients, with one having her horse recently fitted to give fantastic results and a Championship Title the following week.

Added Kirstine: “It is great to have the support of Black Country Saddles which combine quality with great fit and exceptional performance.”

Fantastic Run for Sophie Wells

Black Country Saddles sponsored rider Sophie Wells is continuing her fantastic run of success. Having claimed her first able bodied championship title at Hartpury in April, she contested the Roosendal CPEDI*** with great success.

Sophie and C Fatal Attraction, better known as Jorge, hit the road to representTeam GB at Roosendaal in the Netherlands. This was Jorge’s first international outing without Sophie’s 2014 WEG gold medalist Reece (Valerius). Fortunately Jorge remained settled without his companion and Sophie was delighted that he was on fantastic form.

Starting the competition as she meant to go on, Sophie and Jorge won the Grade IV Team Test with 74.3%, then the individual test with 74.4%, setting two international best scores with Jorge.  In the Freestyle Sophie and Jorge scored an amazing 76%, leaving them in second place behind Frank Hosmar.

Sophie had nothing but praise for this young horse, saying how much he has physically and mentally developed since his last outing in Deauville “I couldn’t be more proud of Jorge this trip, he has grown up so much, and started to put his mark on the international scene. He’s still so young, and has a promising future.”

Sophie now has her sights firmly set on the National Championships at Hickstead and Rio 2016 selection.

Black Country Saddles Roadshow

WITH the aim of promoting the importance of saddle fitting and the requirements of each individual horse and pony Black Country Saddlers are taking to the road with their new trade stand.

John and Wendy Hartley are well known on the show circuit supporting their daughter Cassie and this season they will be educating horse and pony owners while promoting the Black Country Saddles brand and range from the eye-catching Sovereign designed and made vehicle.

Said John: “We are delighted to have received the new lorry, it is stunning and will make it much easier to display our full range of saddles and accessories.

“The lorry is great and is very smart indeed. We are looking forward to getting out and about in it.”

John and Wendy, together with the help of business partner Rob Cullen and the team, will be touring the country so watch out for the lorry, fully logoed up with the Black Country Saddles branding.

Added John: “The vehicle has ample room to transport all the saddles, bridles and accessories to shows and events and also offers a great place to stay overnight. It will be perfectly suited to promoting the wide range of saddles we have available.”Show unit 1

Baby Joy for Gemma and Brett

Black Country Saddles Client Executive, Gemma Cullen and her partner Brett Gollick are celebrating after the birth of their baby boy Caleb.

Their first baby, Caleb arrived a few weeks early on May 26 but still weighed a healthy 6Ib 3oz and both mother and baby are doing well.

Said Gemma: “We are thrilled about the arrival of our beautiful baby boy, he is gorgeous and has light brown hair.”

Gemma is the daughter of Black Country Saddles partner, Rob Cullen and his wife Carol who are overjoyed with the newest addition to the family.

“We are over the moon and so excited to be grandparents,” beamed Rob.

Little Caleb has already visited Black Country Saddles HQ and maybe it won’t be too long before he’s an active team member too!

Black Country Saddles is well known for its family connections with partner John Hartley and his wife Wendy’s daughters Cassie and Rachael both working for the business as a Client Executive and Bridle Maker.

Carol’s sister, Judy is employed as book-keeper while John’s sister’s son, Simon Newitt is a Cutter and was overjoyed four months ago with the birth of son Joshua.

Adding to the family tree, Tom Langford, also a Saddler, is the son of Wendy’s brother and also has a young toddler, Hollis, now 15 months.Gemma and Caleb

Lilly Ahern-Lee – Going Places

Lilly Ahern-Lee

There are times raw talent is there for all to see.  Is it due to the family genes? Is it due to starting to ride when so very young?  Who knows, both are certainly true for Lilly Ahern-Lee, the Black Country Saddles sponsored tot with a big personality.

At just three-years-old Lilly Ahern-Lee already has a fan base!

With her Lead Rein Show Hunter Pony – Caridines Little Lord – she has taken the spring show season by storm and captured the hearts of many spectators around the ringside.

Certainly full of life and with her own character, it was her personality that also secured her sponsorship from Black Country Saddles.  Lilly makes regular visits to their stand at the shows where she chats away with owner Wendy Hartley who couldn’t resist supporting this tiny talent.

Based in Keighley, West Yorkshire, Lilly is a member of Team Ahern, well known for their successful Aireview Equestrian Centre and she has many people to turn to for advice not least her mum Alex and auntie Kirsty who leads her in the ring.

Says Kirsty: “We decided from the outset it might be better if I was on the end of the lead rein as maybe she would focus more with her auntie doing the running.”

With Caridines Little Lord and her other pony the Lead Rein Show Pony – Barkway Sweet William – turned out to perfection in their Poppy Black Country Saddles, it was then down to Alex to source riding attire that would fit Lilly for the season.

“We had to have everything made and altered but it is so important the overall picture is right,” laughs Alex.

Owned by Vicky Fahay, Caridines Little Lord has proven a star pony for Lilly who took Reserve Restricted Champion with him at the BSPS Winter Championships.

As Lilly is so small Black Country Saddles developed a bespoke strap to go from one D-ring to the other on the saddle for her to hold on to when in the ring, an aid that is permitted in lead rein classes.

When not in the arena, Lilly has made a bucketful of friends on the circuit, including the many children supported in their showing by Team Ahern.

Having grown up together, her show time ‘boyfriend’ is young Thomas Quinney, just a year older than Lilly and also making a name for himself in the showing world, while her current hero is Poppy Carter, the young talent Black Country Saddles named one of their show saddles after.

Adds Alex: “Lilly and Thomas have played together since they were so young and are great mates at shows.

“Poppy is simply the star she looks up to and when she is watching Lilly from the ringside she is so proud that someone so successful is taking time out to follow her progress.”

With so much support from mum Alex, dad Andrew, grandparents Paddy and Jayne, auntie Kirsty and everyone else at the yard there’s no doubt any major successes are going to be well celebrated for young Lilly.

And one supporter also well known for celebrating the highs of showing – Wendy Hartley – is sure to be having a glass of champagne or two along the way as well.

Successful Rolex Kentucky for Black Country Saddles Team

The Black Country Saddles team had a fantastic trip across the pond recently for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day-Event.

Rob and John caught up with many of their valued customers throughout the event which was a great success.

Regular visitors to this fantastic competition, Rob and John 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.


The top place at Rolex Kentucky went to Fischerrocana FST and Michael Jung of Germany.

Their score of 39.3 penalties beat Tim Price of New Zealand on Wesko, who finished on 40.3 penalties and Jung on his second mount, La Biosthetique Sam FBW who came home with a score of 44.7 penalties.

Fischerrocana, 10, show jumped first of the three top-placed horses, and she put the pressure on her rivals by completing an absolutely faultless round. When Jung returned later on Sam, he lowered fences 8C and 10.

Still, Price had to be perfect to win the $100,000 winner’s prize. Riding Wesko he also lowered fence 10, and had to settle for second place and $44,000.

This was the 35th consecutive year that Rolex Watch USA has sponsored the Kentucky Three-Day Event, the longest corporate sponsorship in horse sports. Jung returned to Germany wearing the Rolex watch that always goes to the winner.

Black Country Saddles Reign Supreme at North of England Spring Show

THE team at Black Country Saddles were pleasantly surprised when they added up the number of riders, ponies and horses taking championship titles at the North of England Spring Show – all riding in one of their saddles.

Said Wendy Hartley of Black Country Saddles: “The Show Pony Championship was the class that really hit me.  I forgot to watch the actual ponies going round as I became engrossed on counting the number of competitors riding in a Black Country Saddle.

“Showing is a wonderful discipline for us and the feedback we get from competitors about how comfortable our saddles are is fantastic.

“In the Show Pony Championship five out of the six riders were riding in a Black Country Saddle which gave me a real buzz, it was brilliant to see.

“Watching Poppy Carter and Rotherwood Rainmaker take the championship was amazing, they looked as good as ever at the start of the season,” she added.

Poppy & Rupert 2

The Classic Show Saddle is a winner with so many competitors, not least Poppy’s mum Katy who is well known for her ultra-high standards when it comes to turn out and that overall picture of style and elegance.

Katy relies on the Black Country Classic Show Saddle for the horses and ponies she produces recognising the importance of a saddle that both fits correctly and helps to enhance the appearance of horse and rider.

Says Katy: “The Black Country Classic Show Saddle is simply the best saddle available for show ponies.  Soft leather makes it comfortable to ride in from day one and the design and craftsmanship help to put the rider in the correct position, to produce the perfect winning picture.

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

A Busy Season Gets Underway

Leading showman Robert Walker has amassed a host of major championships over the years whether riding Show Hunters, Riding Horses, Hacks or Cobs. Well known for his attention to detail and making sure his horses look in fantastic condition, Robert’s horses are always a picture of health.

Name: Robert Walker

Location: Cheshire

How and when did you start riding?

I probably sat on a pony even before I could walk, but certainly as soon as I was able to sit upright on a pony. My dad Tony was keen to get me started and I never looked back.

During your career has there been a particular horse that you consider to have really helped you ‘make it’?

I would have to say the Small Hunter, Double Coin. I had him when I was 16 and we went to the Royal International Horse Show for the first time. I was pulled in top out of 43 and suddenly everyone sat up and took notice. We eventually finished third but it was very much a turning point.

Which top horse do you personally most admire and why?

I would have to go for Caesar’s Palace as he combines real quality and class with a trainable attitude. He just knows he is special and if he were human would be George Clooney!

Tell us about the tack you use?

We are very fortunate to be sponsored by Black Country Saddles. The team at Black Country Saddles have many years’ experience when it comes to fitting and making saddles and we are delighted to have their support. When it comes to showing, the overall image and look is just so important when you are in the ring and as well as being the perfect fit for horse and rider, the saddles also have to be comfortable for the judges to ride in. We are very impressed with the saddles and are looking forward to riding our Show Hunters, Hacks, Riding Horses and Cobs in them this season.

If you could give one piece of advice to readers, what would it be?

I think it is very important to be committed to your chosen discipline and also to watch and learn from the professionals. Everyone is happy to provide advice and we want to encourage amateur riders to come up through the ranks and be as professional in their production skills and outlook as they can.

What are your plans for 2015? 

We have a great team of young horses to get out and about on the show circuit this year so at the early events it is our job to educate them and provide them with a good experience they will remember at their early shows. Once the season is underway we always look forward to Royal Windsor Horse Show and then it is all about qualification for the Royal International Horse Show followed by HOYS.

Horse Profile

Caesars Palace


Horse name:            Caesar’s Palace                         Stable name: Caesar

Owner:  Jill Day        Colour:  Bay             Sex:   Gelding           Height: 16.31/2hh

Age: Six-years-old         Breed: Irish Sport Horse            Sire:   Emperor August


Caesar’s Palace took the Show Hunter Championship at HOYS last year after winning the Middleweight category. We first caught sight of him at the Royal Dublin Horse Show. His owner Jill Day had seen him and wanted us to take a closer look. You could see he was a star even as a two-year-old and went on to be Youngstock Champion at this prestigious show. Like all top class show horses he just has that ‘look at me’ attitude that horses are born with. You can improve them in many ways but they have to stand out from the rest in a class and attract the judge’s attention.

Three things you did’t know about him:

1)         He is very fussy

2)         He is a good-doer

3)         He is always relaxed and ‘good to do’

Frelsi Icelandic

The Frelsi saddle has been designed specifically for Icelandic horses. After facing many challenging fit issues, much work and research within the Dutch market we have a greater understanding of what is required.

Typically Icelandics have short backs limiting the seat size, however this tree features a new cantle design allowing more room for the rider. We offer three different styles of back gussets and other panel options to accommodate the range of profiles within the breed.

It comes complete with extra D rings and the choice of 5 standard straps or dressage style straps.

The Frelsi Icelandic saddle is suitable for trail riding, dressage and gaited competition

Vinici GP

Even if it’s an All Purpose saddle for everyday that you want, why not spoil yourself with a Vinici.
Whatever your level of riding this truly superb saddle will give you and your horse the ultimate in comfort, style and performance.

Built on the principle of the GPX model. The girthing system lies neatly between the cushioned sweat flap, so as to avoid any discomfort.

Take advantage of all the benefits that a Vinici single/mono flap, close contact saddle has to offer – just for everyday! – “ a true indulgence”

Vinici Ballina Jump

The Vinici Ballina Jump offers sophistication and style, combined with the latest cutting edge technology.

Designed with close-contact in mind, the Ballina is a single/mono flap saddle but with girth straps positioned between the flap for added comfort and neatness.

The single/mono flap maximises closeness to the horse and the medium seat and knee roll offer support without restriction.

Made from soft vintage leather, the Ballina includes detailed stitching and a superior finish.

Vinici Ballina Dressage

The Vinicia Ballina dressage saddle offers sophistication and style, combined with the latest cutting edge technology.

Designed with close-contact in mind, the Ballina is a single/mono flap saddle but with girth straps positioned between the flap for added comfort and neatness.

The single/mono flap maximises closeness to the horse and the medium seat and knee roll offer support without restriction.

Made from soft vintage leather, the Ballina includes detailed stitching and a superior finish.

New Etienne Pony Jumping Saddle

LOOKING for a pony jumping saddle that offers the very latest in design and materials?

The new Etienne Pony Jumping Saddle is the latest addition to the Black Country Saddles collection.

The saddle has been developed specifically with the pony jumper and rider in mind.

Made from top quality calf leather, the Etienne has a forward-fitting seat to allow freedom of movement over the highest jumps and is custom-made for each individual rider.

A discreet knee roll provides support without blocking the leg position and the forward-cut flaps help the rider’s balance and security.

Built on a close contact tree, the pure wool flocking helps to offer the perfect fit and allows greater adjustment options.

This bespoke saddle provides attention to detail and design and craftsmanship that is second to none.

The Etienne Pony Jump Saddle is available in a range of width fittings and comes in sizes 15in to 16.5in, colour Havana – £1195.

Jumping into the Saddle

Here the team at Black Country Saddles provide advice on what to look for when buying a new show jumping saddle…


I am looking at buying a jumping saddle for my horse, what should I be looking for in my new purchase?


Rob Cullen of Black Country Saddles replies:

Both show jumping and cross-country requires the rider to be athletic and in balance with their horse at all times.

Making sure you have the right saddle that fits the horse and is comfortable for the rider is key to success whether competing at a local or international level.

The modern jumping saddle has been designed to provide a close contact fit to help the rider sit close to the horse and with their weight balanced.

As ever, designs vary in style and colour and there are some saddles that are made using a single or mono flap system that allows the rider to have a closer feel around the horse.

It is important for a rider to feel their horse working underneath the saddle in order to get the best out of them. This level of communication is greatly enhanced by a single flap jumping saddle.

Jumping saddles are designed with knee and thigh blocks to help support the rider’s leg position, and the forward cut flap helps assist balance in the saddle.

When deciding on which saddle to buy make sure it is one that is designed to allow maximum performance from the rider as well as the horse.

As with all saddles we recommend that you use an experienced saddle fitter to get the very best advice.

Always pay great attention to the saddle’s flocking, it needs to provide cushioning to help reduce trauma to the back when jumping. A saddle that is over-stuffed will be too hard causing soreness on the horse’s back.

The forces involved with a big horse taking off, stretching over a fence and landing on the other side are tremendous, so the saddle must sit well and minimise the effect of jarring to the horse’s back.

If comfort, style and longevity are what you are looking for a saddle made from top quality leather is just what you need. Remember cheaper leather can have a tendency to be slippery and not provide a secure seat with good grip.

Choosing to buy a bespoke saddle will help ensure it is fitted by trained experts who understand your horse’s needs.

Compromise should not be an option when deciding on your new show jumping saddle. Ideally the saddle should maximise your partnership with the horse and balance comfort with style and performance.

Talking Tack with Robert Walker

Black Country Saddles sponsored showman Robert Walker discusses the importance of correct tack and turnout for Show and Working Hunters and provides advice on how to make your horse look his best.

First and foremost, it is important to realise that every class and type of horse is required to wear different styles of tack. However one thing is a necessity…. no matter what class you enter all tack must be fitted correctly and be comfortable for the horse. Turnout is also extremely important therefore special attention should be paid to how your horse looks in the ring.

Show Hunters

Ideally, Show Hunters should be ridden in a double bridle and the noseband must be a simple, plain, flat cavesson. The size of the noseband used depends on the horse’s head. You can make a lot of difference to whether the head is large or small by making sure the noseband enhances the appearance.

I like Show Hunters to wear a straight cut saddle with a plain brown or black numnah.  The Black Country Classic Show Saddle offers style and elegance when in the show arena.

It 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 neater appearance with the close profile of the saddle helping to show off and enhance the overall picture which is so important in the world of showing.

For turnout, Show Hunters must be plaited with a neatly pulled tail. Make sure all whiskers, ears and heel feather is trimmed to give your horse a more defined outline.

For Working Hunters the turnout is the same as a Show Hunter however the tack differs. I would always opt for a General Purpose or Working Hunter style saddle which gives enough security for you to jump in, whilst at the same time does not cover too much of the horse’s shoulder, hindering the appearance.

Bright numnahs and square saddle pads are a ‘no no’ whilst brown or black numnahs – which aren’t too big for the saddle – are the norm. In Working Hunter classes you are also allowed to use a martingale if you need to.

10 Things You Didn’t About Katy Carter

Black Country Saddles sponsored show pony producer Katy Carter, from Stoke-on-Trent had a very busy and successful 2014 season.

Here we catch up with Katy to catch a glimpse of her hectic lifestyle.

  1. I went to Moorside High School in Stoke-on-Trent but I didn’t like school much as I always wanted to be out riding.
  2. My nickname was Budge!If
  3. I hadn’t become a show producer in the equestrian world I would have liked to have been a fashion designer or run my own restaurant.
  4. My Dad is the person who inspired me most and is still involved in producing show ponies.
  5. I have a dog called Widget, he’s a real character!
  6. I am fortunate to be sponsored by Black Country Saddles and my daughter Poppy has a saddle named after her!
  7. I help promote the saddles which not only fit extremely well but also enhance the overall appearance when it comes to showing.
  8. My favourite show of the season is the Horse of the Year Show which is a really prestigious event and you have to qualify to compete there.
  9. I could not live without my partner Jason, my two sons Harry and Harvey and daughter Poppy.
  10. I am a BSPS, PUK, Chaps, BSPA and Veteran judge and I have my BHSAI and BSPS Accredited Trainers Certificate.