A new saddle named “The Sarmatian” and designed by a US based Australian saddler is being billed as the lightest leather trail saddle in the world.
The 12-pound bareback saddle made by Colin Dangaard of the Australian Stock Saddle Company in Malibu, California, is made of solid leather on a tree that moves with the horse.
The saddle’s name, The Sarmatian, is inspired by the culture credited with making the first saddle (in Sarmatia) in 500 BC. There is also a model built on Merino sheepskin, with solid leather “poleys” and cantle.
Dangaard said he started on the design of The Sarmatian seven years ago, when he got the idea to build a pad with plates that would prevent a pressure point from getting through to the horse from the saddle.
“Just adding more blankets to me never seemed like a good idea; it removes the rider from the horse. I have been fitting saddles to horses now for almost four decades, and it can be a challenge because the biggest problem is getting people to discard bad information they have got from trusted, ill-informed, though well-meaning friends/trainers/relatives, etc,” Dangaard said.
“The horse is the easy part of the saddle fitting procedure because horse has only one opinion: does it hurt, or not hurt. And they will always let you know immediately.
“The other problem to deal with is the reality that a horse changes shape constantly. The back of a galloping horse is quite different to the back of a cantering horse, a trotting horse, a walking horse. I have shown this quite dramatically by using computerized pressure plates under a saddle. Such a print-out is quite startling!”
Dangaard hit on the idea of developing a plate that would bend, and never break, that would form to whatever shape the back was at any given time.
He set about building plates into a pad, and after trying many different plastics, settled on lexanne, because it is flexible, unusually tough, will not break, and is readily available.
He called the pad the Equalizer Saddle Pad and it was an immediate success. The idea for The Sarmatian grew from this. “Because the saddle pad was so successful I thought why not cover it with Merino sheepskin and made a bareback pad.” He went a step further and fitted it with a Western girthing system, and rings for leathers, and saddle bags and a breastplate and a crupper, eventually making an all-leather model that is The Sarmatian.
The girthing system uses a tackaberry buckle on the near side, and a securing strap on the offside. Incorporated in this webbing are securing rings for stirrup leathers, in the dressage position, and loops for saddle bags and a back cinch.
He says the saddle is very secure with the tackaberry system. “Stays in place, does not roll. I now have over 600 of these plates on horses and I have not had a single sore back, which I think is truly remarkable.”
The leather is from Australia and the tree is twin lexanne plates positioned independently on either side of the spine. The plates equalize rider weight and eliminates pressure points. The underside is solid wool felt. The Big D Western-style girth ring is secured with heavy-duty webbing.
The saddle was recently reviewed by longtime riding instructor Heidi Melocco for The Trail Rider magazine. She said: “I loved the comfort and look of this saddle. It felt great and provided lots of ‘feel.’ It’s perfect for active riders to ride in all day and for any rider to use for short rides to promote balance and active riding.”
Melocco also praised the girthing system, noting that the saddle felt secure, while the close contact allowed her to feel her horse’s “every leg placement”, adding: “With the saddle’s plates, the stirrups felt secure, and the saddle’s seat seemed to stay put.”