Laser Saddles

Cordia Pearson

Society of Master Saddlers Qualified Saddle Fitter

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Meet Cora, Barr, one of my favorite mares.  I started her in Dressage while she was carrying her now six year old daughter, Ellie Barr.  (This photo was taken that winter--Cora plus Ellie equaled major wide load!) 

Cora is tall for a Morgan, 15.3hh, 1142# and has the breadth of rib cage that comes with being the mother of four.  Her first Dressage saddle was a made in England Blue Ribbon, medium tree.  Once Ellie was weaned and Cora came back into work, she made it abundantly clear to me that something was not right with her world.  First trained at a Standardbred farm, when not happy her version of rushing could rip tears from your eyes.  (The first time I drove here, I couldn't keep the jog cart wheels pinned to the ground in the corners.)  A national search yielded limited options for wide tree saddles if I wanted to stay under $2000, so I went with the Niedersuss Symphony.

For those of you not familiar with the Niedersuss, I found it beautiful to look at and marvelous to sit on, . . provided I wasn't moving.  Keep in mind, this is one rider's opinion.  I have friends who ride the Symphony and love it.  I'll get back to why a little later.   I found this saddle's "home plate" impossible to locate.  I'd move all over the flaps, seeking the right position combination and whenever I found something that worked, I had to hold it with force, something Cora detested. 

After a year of this garbletey gook, Cora thankfully outgrew the 32cm tree.  We both let out a sigh of relief when Karla at Thornhill found us an especially wide cut 36 cm Germania Klasse. Upon reflection, my year with the Niedersuss convinced me that there are several saddle issues that dressage riders, especially classically oriented "back to front" riders, can NOT afford to compromise.  The reason I had to ride "on" the Niedersuss was probably a result of two construction factors.  #1:  the tree is molded plastic and #2:  the seat is "over-stuffed" with foam.  These two elements resulted in a saddle that repelled me off my mare's back rather than gave me access to it.  (And left me puzzled as to why the SRS rides in this saddle---my guess is that the Lippizanners are more through than my mare was at that point.  But this raises another issue that I referred to earlier.  Most Americans dressage riders are "in process."  We need saddles we can climb the levels in, not maintain a plateau of excellence upon.  The progress I made in the Niedersuss was fought for, tooth and nail.  Frankly, I was glad to put this chapter behind me.)

With the arrival of the 36cm Klasse, I thought we had it whupped.  Surely, Cora was done growing her back.  Karla at Thornhill described the tree as "big enough to fit an elephant" and made a few  other amusing comments about my broad-backed Morgans.  Cora and I put in a productive year on the Klasse.  (For more info about this very lovely saddle, go to this Klasse page.) 

But in the spring of the second year, Cora began to evidence subtle signs of saddle discomfort.  I did wither tracings, spot checks and played with positioning, all to no avail.  Her normal forwardness began to deteriorate.  Fiddling with positioning finally yielded the answer---Cora had broadened her back directly under my seat bones, an area difficult to assess manually.  I did a back tracing and confirmed my speculation---my lady had grown a back like a table top and therefore needed a whole new style of panel.

I "frequent" several dressage lists and a stray comment about the Laser 747 motivated me to search out their web site.   Libby Seybert and I had e-mail and phone conversations.  Frankly, at the beginning, it was pretty much tongue in cheek on my part because of all marketing hype I'd waded through, seeking advances in saddling.  I asked Libby to ship me a test saddle, figuring at worst, I'd be out shipping costs.  

The 747 arrived and with a few turns of the "key", I had the test saddle adjusted to Cora's back.  I get-ready in a stall rather than cross tie my horses----the idea being if something is wrong, a horse's behavior will tell me as much.  By the time the 747 arrived, Cora was walking all over the stall and pinning her ears and even swinging her head as if she might nip (not that she did<VBG>)  When I walked in with the 747, took some fairly pointed "Whoa's!" to get it on her, but the moment it touched down, she stopped "taking the tour" and turned her head to look at the saddle.  (Honest, I'm not making this up.)  She gave me her "Doubting Thomas" look, but held still for girthing, as normal, done bit by bit.  In the indoor, she didn't try to walk off before I was mounted.  (Depending on the horse, this is a training issue or saddle fitting issue---it's up to you to figure out which.)  

As usual, we began our warm-up at the walk, but about 30 feet down the rail, Cora stretched out her neck and began to trot.  I let her do her thing and when she departed, I remained passive, wanting to see how she would react.  Her canter was slow, collected, through.  Meanwhile, my seat bones were reveling in the comfort.  It took only a "suggestion" to keep my legs were I wanted them on diagonally pleated panels.  The Schrumpfleder seat had just enough "stick".  (Note:  this is a style issue.  Some riders want the ability to move freely on the seat.  Others do not.)

Laser 747 Dressage

Because Cora has such an extraordinarily broad back, her tree was custom built (one of the MANY  different things that Laser can do to customize a saddle for both horse and rider.)  She is a good example of the modern dressage horse---broad backed and in need of the extra wide panels that the 747 features.  (Examine your current saddle from the rear and evaluate for yourself just how many square inches it offers over which to spread the force of your presence in the saddle.  I venture that a comparison with the 747 will find your current saddle lacking in surface to horse contact area.)

The two material advances in this saddle are the ProLite Latex gel "flocking" and the InfiniTree.  If you've ever hefted a gel saddle pad, you know how much they weigh.  Not so the Lasers.  In these panels, the gel has been combined with latex, resulting in a 80% weight reduction.  Because the gel is inside a foam cell, there is no worry about piercing the panel and watching your "stuffing" leak out.  In three rides, the saddle takes the form of your horse's back.  If you cold-weather ride, by keeping your saddle in a heated tack room, you assist in the warm-up of your horse's back muscles.  (Note:  all saddles should be kept on a saddle rack, but this is essential with the 747.)  The adjustable tree is perfect for young, growing horses.  Yet years of experience with the Laser has convinced me that even "established" horses have changes, some very pedestrian like weight gain, LOL, in which the adjusting mechanism is quicker and cheaper than the services of a Master Saddler.  

In my opinion, good saddle design involves setting specific goals.  The 747 allows the horse to come through.  Without energy to shape, the rider either flounders or uses force, trying to make something out of nothing.  And without throughness, there is neither extension or collection.  One of the many delightful surprises that the 747 held for me, (something I did not pick up from the photographs) was the versatility of its "deck."  I don't know if anyone else uses this term, but that what I call the area of the seat where you position your seat bones.  The Laser is wide and flat in this area, so there is no "falling off the mountain" when you touch down a seat bone or advance it.  (Side note:  the Niedersuss is very narrow in this area and many women, myself included, find themselves falling off consistently.)  Back to the Laser, neutral seatbone positioning is easily achieved, and nuances amply possible, arising from the scooping behind the pommel and responsiveness of the Schrumpfleder leather.  

Originally designed to fit the backs of Lippizanners, Lusitanos and Andulsians, Major Jeremy Beale recognized that the panels of the 747 were perfect for the modern sporthorse with their broader, more muscular backs.   All Lasers feature a wide gullet to allow freedom of the epaxial muscles of the back.  The wide panels conform well to a large variety of horses and breeds, including Warmbloods, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds and Arabians.  

Arrange a life-changing test ride in a Laser saddle.  Call (651) 462-5654.

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