Cadence Driving Saddle #1
What is a Cadence Driving Saddle#1?
A Cadence driving saddle is a specifically designed yet simple piece of equipment that is designed to fit under a carriage driving pad/saddle to improve the comfort and performance of the driving horse.
How does it attach?
It has been tested under a number of different brands of driving harness with much success but it is specifically designed to Velcro neatly to the underside of a Zilco classic or elite driving saddle.
How does it work or benefit the horse?
The Cadence Driving Saddle#1 has been designed on exactly the same principles as riding saddles designed by The BALANCE Saddle Company. The combination of design provides the horse or pony with the comfort to move well and the room to move in a bio-mechanically efficient way. The main focus being to allow the horse to engage its hind quarters, lift and widen its back when moving, as nature intended.
In addition to the horse-friendly design features found on the Cadence Driving Saddles, they are also fitted with more emphasis on matching the dynamic posture and back width, which is always wider than its static shape and width.
This requires that they be used in conjunction with a small and discreet pad (shim) underneath and a well designed comfortable numnah type pad that sits directly against the horse’s skin. This important shim was invented and given the name of ‘JB Pad’ by BALANCE. It is an essential part of this way working with the horse’s movement to allow expressive and free flowing paces.
The other features in the Cadence Driving Saddle#1 that allows the horse to lift and engage its back correctly are;
- Built on a tree that is the right width, shape and length to provide the following benefits.
- To spread pressures created by the traditional driving saddle
- To provide a physical reference that sits over enough of the horse’s back for them to engage up into.
- To allow the shoulder blade to fully and comfortably rotate when the foreleg is extended.
- A generous gullet width for comfort.
- Soft wool-flocked panels.
- Panels that are wide and flat enough to spread any pressure evenly along a healthily muscled back.
Where did the design come from and the story start?
Early in 2016 Chris Ainscough an international carriage driving competitor who also runs a carriage driving school at Thompson House Equestrian Centre, Lancashire started to use BALANCE riding saddles on his horses and ponies. For Chris the difference was immediate, the horses instantly felt softer, straighter, more regular, happier and more comfortable. Very noticeably the horses were significantly less happy when put back into a conventionally fitted saddle, the proof was in the pudding as they say, once he had felt the difference he couldn’t possibly go back.
A few months later Chris had the opportunity to meet the BALANCE Saddle Company co-founders Lesley Taylor and the late Carol Brett, conversation flowed about horses, the work that they did and how it had helped so many horses.
Carol and Lesley went onto explain how in the late 1990’s they had been involved in the invention and early development of the CARMAR saddle with Carol Pawson and Margret Wooding. They asked Chris if he had tried one on his driving horses? He hadn’t had the opportunity to try one but set about trying to find one to try, which proved impossible as sadly they were no longer being produced.
The next time Lesley and Carol were back in the local area it was arranged that they would meet with Chris at his stables and they would repeat what they had shown Carol and Margaret many years ago and led to the design of the CARMAR saddle. This involved using one of the BALANCE pony saddles underneath a traditional driving saddle on some of Chris’s ponies.
The difference in every pony was significant, they became more regular, softer in their bodies and movements, more relaxed, didn’t trail their hind legs as much, started to move their backs more and pulling the carriage appeared easier.
Chris was fascinated by the change, once he had felt the difference in the horses and ponies, he couldn’t then go back to how they felt before.
Due to the CARMAR no longer being in production, there was no option but to look at designing his own saddle so that his own horses and others could feel the benefits.
Lesley and Carol, with all their technical expertise in saddle design and years of experience in producing tack that meets the needs of the horse, together with Chris’s input on the practical driving side, they set about designing and producing the first prototype.
During this time Chris continued to drive his ponies with a BALANCE saddle under his driving harness. Previous to this experiment the majority of Chris’s driving horses, like a huge number of other driving horses had indents in their backs where the traditional driving saddles sat, caused by muscle atrophy in this area because the traditional harness doesn’t allow for the muscles of the back to lift and widen in movement, the pressure of the traditional saddle in a small area causes a lack of blood flow and the muscles become smaller rather than bigger and stronger. After a couple of months of the ponies being consistently worked with the BALANCE saddle under their harness, these pad marks disappeared as the muscles beneath the saddle now had room to move and therefore regenerate.
At the start of the process all of the ponies had their back profiles measured and drawn on paper, a few months later the ponies had their back profiles remeasured and they all had become wider through their backs as the muscles regenerated with their new found freedom under the saddle.
Five prototypes later and many months of rigorous testing with the protypes being used almost all day every day they finally settled on a final design which we have today.
The current CADENCE Driving Saddle#1 has been used for a number of years now by Chris competing nationally and internationally, in the Thompson House driving school and by a small number of people who have seen and felt the benefits and have purchased one through Chris, it has proved over these years its worth. We are now ready to bring the CADENCE Driving Saddle#1 and it’s benefits to more people and their horses.
Why the name CADENCE?
We have found that through wearing the Cadence saddles the horses move in a more natural manner, use their bodies in a more constructive way that is less destructive to their soundness/health and are more engaged in their hind legs and backs. The horses also often move with more Cadence.
Who is the CADENCE saddle for?
We have used the CADENCE Driving Saddle#1 on standard Shetland ponies through to 16.2 warmbloods and everything in between. In its current form it is slightly too long for miniature Shetlands and minature horses. We have yet to find a horse that is too wide for our range of widths but admittedly it hasn’t been tried on any extremely thick set horses like shires or Suffolk punches.
It is suitable for all drivers that;
- Have an interest in making their horse as comfortable as possible.
- Want to preserve their horse’s natural movement and posture.
- Want their horse to have a strong healthy muscled back.
- Want to improve their horse’s performance.
Although it is not a traditional piece of driving harness and to some can look a little unusual, we truly believe and hope that the welfare, comfort and quality of movement in our horses and ponies surely has to take priority over hanging onto traditional aesthetics.
Having said that, if the equipment used on a daily basis, which has the biggest influence on the horse’s health, soundness and welfare, is as good as the CADENCE Driving Saddle#1, it is sometimes possible to use a more traditional driving saddle specifically for the short amount of time needed to be judged in the dressage phase of an event.
It is often said that most driving horses have ‘pad’ marks in their backs, ‘high withers’ or dropped backs that lack muscle, this maybe the case but that doesn’t mean to say it is right. It is very interesting to look at the posture and muscling around the wither area of healthy 3 and 4 year olds before they are broken, very rarely do they have high withers, hollows behind their shoulders or lack topline. These problems or ‘conformations’ tend to arise as the horses start work and often get worse as their work continues, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves why this happens and is this acceptable? The horses that have been started in the CADENCE Driving Saddle#1 over the last few years have no change to their muscling or posture from their natural posture as young horses.
When worked in traditional harnesses it is often seen that as horses get fitter they get narrower around the withers and area where the saddle sits. It doesn’t make sense that as a horse gets fitter and therefore should get stronger that it should loose muscle in such a vital area as over its back. Human athletes would not expect to lose muscle as they get stronger or fitter.
How do I buy or try a CADENCE saddle?
The CADENCE Driving Saddles are available through Chris Ainscough at Thompson House Equestrian Centre. Test drive sessions are available so you can see if you and your horse can ‘feel’ the benefits and all saddles are fitted by Chris. Chris is prepared to travel to fit saddles or facilitate test drives in other areas.
We are very grateful to the help, support and phenomenal knowledge of Lesley Taylor and the late Carol Brett of the BALANCE Saddle Company in the design and development of this saddle to improve the lives of driving horses. More information about their work and constructive saddling can be found at their website www.balanceinternational.com