Carmi Weininger knew she was onto something when the third of seven upper level horses went ‘round the dressage court, noticeably freer in his movement. The first one made her feel lucky, the second one... is this really happening? But a third... well, it was a real pattern emerging.
The world-renowned Dr. Hilary Clayton was running the test, and the results were stunning. Seven competitive dressage horses, all but one with their own high-end custom saddles professionally reflocked and recently fitted, were recruited to try this unique saddle concept that Carmi had invented. All were outfitted with sensors and heart rate monitors, and six of the seven showed remarkable and immediate improvements – with the seventh (a sensitive imported Lusitano) taking a few additional rides to get used to the freedom afforded by the new saddle. Five of the horses, including the Lusitano, were ridden by a single rider, USDF Gold Medalist Jennifer Marchand.
A giant breakthrough, but like many great inventions, it was accidental genius.
Carmi owns ReactorPanel Saddle Company, which specializes in a unique tree-and-panel system that eliminates pressure points across the horse’s back. Much beloved by the endurance population, this saddle is used by top competitors around the world.
One day John Crandell III (2006 COTH Horseman of the Year’) approached Carmi. He had been training his competitive horses in her saddles, but needed something lighter to make FEI weight. She was able to solve his problem by removing the flaps, with a caution that she wasn’t sure how he’d feel in it. He loved it so much that he asked to have it named for his multi-champion horse “Heraldic”, who wore a flapless Heraldic saddle for his final competitive years, including a win at Old Dominion. As the word spread, amateurs and trail riders started adopting the flapless version because they, too, wanted a lighter saddle, for easier saddling.
The real head-scratcher is that these riders universally reported they were more comfortable and felt notably more secure in this saddle.
Carmi had to see for herself, so she went to observe and had to agree: the flapless saddle promoted a neutral pelvis, improved the ability to sit the trot, and made riders more stable.
Enter Dr. Clayton. She agreed to compare pressure profiles for the horses’ own saddles versus the flapless saddle, and the first of her official papers is soon to be published. The “sneak preview” of this report is that it focuses on the movements of the rider’s center of pressure, with the results revealing that the rider’s seat is more stable in the flapless saddle.
Carmi said, “Beyond center of pressure, the objective data for future papers suggests both lower equine heart rates and horses that move more symmetrically. After the study, we asked the participating riders to use a 10-point scale — much like scoring a dressage test — to rate 19 criteria such as stride length and rhythm, responsiveness to the aids, straightness and impulsion, and this subjective data matched the objective. As rated by the riders, their horse’s own saddles rated 59.6% and our EQ Flapless averaged 80.2%. To say we’re excited about the results of this test is a bit of an understatement!”
With this resounding win in hand, Carmi and her team have created an entirely new saddle company called EQ Saddle Science. Building on all the strengths developed in creating the ReactorPanel endurance platform but dedicated to the comfort and performance of sport horses, this new organization is devoted to the science of creating saddles that will help horses and riders redefine the upper limits of what they can achieve.
For more information, please visit EQsaddlescience.com.
About EQ Saddle Science
EQ Saddle Science is an organization as unusual and high-quality as the saddles they make, and represent a true revolution in the sport horse world. Riders and their horses are constantly changing, and the conventional approach to saddle design does not address this dynamic, resulting in saddles that can't evolve with the horse and rider. Over time, these conventional saddles, no matter how high-end or how frequently re-fitted and -flocked, may hinder freedom of movement, skill development, and training progress. EQ’s proprietary technology provides a better outcome for both horse and rider than this conventional tack allows, with innovation based on horse and rider biomechanics, and extensive verification of the remarkable functionality of our saddles with scientific testing. EQ permits horses and riders to realize their full potential, to a level they may not even be aware they can reach. For moe information visit http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/overall-horseman-year-john-crandell.
It should be noted that Dr. Clayton’s papers will report on the five horses that were ridden by a single rider, in saddles of a variety of brands all professionally fitted to the horses, in order to limit the variables.