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Third edition, fully revised and updated, by Elwyn Hartley Edwards, softcover; JA Allen. 316pp. RRP £14.99. ISBN: 978-0-85131-931-5.

February 22, 2008

The latest edition of the equestrian classic Saddlery was released just a few months before the death of its renowned author, Elwyn Hartley Edwards.

This is a welcome update to the original work. My old copy of Saddlery is a 1977 reprint from the 1963 original, and the newly updated work adds much.

It's a larger format book for one thing, on a semi-gloss type of paper, which lends itself well to the addition of colour photographs and a greater number of line drawings.

But that is all merely cosmetic. The text has been substantially updated to include information and commentary on new practices and equipment.

There are no two ways about it - there is a mind-boggling array of equipment that is used - and misued - on the horse. Some are heinous and probably no horse deserves them, but such devices will be always be used by the incompetent rider in an attempt to conquer their unfortunate and probably confused horse.

In Saddlery, all items used with the horse, are explained, and some items that are no longer in use - such as the Bucephalus noseband - are lamented, while the purpose of others which are commonly used but misunderstood by many are outlined.

The book starts out with in depth look at the sort of leathers used in saddlery, how it is made and how to care for it. Then bitting systems and bit families and proper fitting are discussed. The main bit families have their own chapters - snaffle, pelham, gag, bitless and double bridles - and the use of derivatives of these are explained, as are some of the "newer" types of bit such as the Myler and Mikmar.

When should you use either a continental, chambon or de gouge martingale? What about a balancing rein?

Then it is on to saddles. The development of the saddles we use today is explored, firstly looking at the contribution of Caprilli, Toptani, and others. How a traditional saddle is made and the parts that it is made of are explained, and a new inclusion to this edition is the development of synthetic and treeless saddles. Many pages are devoted to the art of saddle fitting, and the importance of correct girth fitting is emphasised. From there each type of saddle is analysed - dressage, show, jumping, polo, distance, racing, side-saddle, and western. And then, the author notes, we come full circle. In the early days of equine domestication a "saddle" was "no more than skins or pads thrown over the horse's back"; bareback and treeless saddles and their benefits are looked at.

After stirrup leathers and irons, the book moves on to protective accessories - boots - and then on to horse clothing; rugs, hoods, masks, sheets, and then stable equipment and vices. Here we look at virtually everything you might find in use in a stable, as well as items that are used with an injured horse - for example cradles, boots, sweaters and hobbles.

After breaking in and schooling equipment is looked at, the book closes on whips and spurs.

I think that all horse people would benefit from this book - even the basics that most have forgotten learning are reiterated and clearly explained. It is indeed a classic after all these years, and to have it be widely read again would be a fitting tribute to "EHE".



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