Hot or Not: Bua Saddles

Have you guys heard about Bua Saddles?  Yeah, me neither.  An article about them popped up on my Facebook feed on Sunday night and I popped on over to the page to check out these brightly colored, flashy, odd looking things.

bua2From behind you can clearly see the cantilevered tree, with separated seat and tree pieces. Screenshot from the Bua saddles/vimeo.

All that seems to have been released at this point is a video (embedded below) and a Facebook page.  There are also print articles somewhere I don’t have access to.  I’ll sum up some of the points of the video for you if you don’t feel like getting through it (but adorable accents make it a worthwhile five minutes).

Bua Saddles from Standpoint Media on Vimeo.

It sounds like the creator of Bua Saddles, Martin Ryan, set out to design a saddle that met modern standards of comfort and performance for both horses and riders.  In doing so, he completely changed the shape of the tree, and created something… else.

Okay so it’s still a saddle tree.  But it’s a cantilevered saddle tree.  The portion of the saddle that affixes to the rider’s seat is not connected directly to the horse’s back below it; instead, the force translates through the attachment point of the tree (which is at the pommel of the saddle).

Technical diagram of a cantilever. We all know what these are — close to every saddle rack I’ve ever used is a cantilever system.

The tree itself is made of a “thermoplastic composite” which basically means “really really ridiculously high tech plastic” to me.  I know really really ridiculously high tech plastics are used in all kinds of sport and have some fantastic shock absorption, impact resistance, and durability features.  Just think about the way ski technology has changed in the last 50 years — if the skiiers can do it, it’s probably time for equestrians to catch up.

Additionally, every soft part of the saddle is interchangeable, allowing for a completely custom fit.  Hypothetically you could also pop off your jumping flaps and pop on your dressage flaps so that you don’t need two saddles to do two different disciplines.

They do the Ikea-style (okay, probably not invented by Ikea, but certainly prominent in their stores) repetitive motion testing that always makes me giggle.  Over 2 million reps and counting!

Photo from the Bua Saddles Facebook page

So, what are my thoughts on these newfangled butt cushions?

I will admit that at first I was like “we don’t need no new stinkin’ technology!!!!”, but then I squashed my inner 85-year-old neophobe and just listened to the video a bit more.  After opening my mind, color me extremely intrigued.

I have some concerns, because I know just enough about physics and engineering to be dangerous.  Doesn’t the cantilevered design mean that the way force is translated through the saddle is uneven?  Certainly the majority of the force would come down on the join of the two parts of the tree, and that seems to  be right where most people don’t want force slamming down on their horse’s backs.  On the contrary, the horse in the video jumps around some pretty big fences and didn’t seem to have any issues.

Also, the bouncing of the seat kinda weirds me out.  I’m not used to riding with a seat that has in built shock absorbers like that, and that is bound to change the way that we ride.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  As much as the movement in the seat makes a ride smoother, would it also not propel one up more in the case that forces were translated from horse to human in that direction?  I mean, the laws of physics are still a thing….

bua1

Looking at just the saddles, they definitely don’t have the visual appeal of a well-made traditional saddle (except the fact that they appear to be amazingly colorful, which I obviously love).  This is also a neophobia thing (lots of studies on neophobia in mammals, it’s a thing, we just have to live with it and try to work through it).  But it’s also a totally superficial/cosmetic/insomewaysextremelyridiculous thing.  With a rider up, the saddles don’t look that different from other English saddles I’ve seen, and I’m sure with time and demand the creators could easily adapt their unique design to something that appears more traditional.

Does this sound like it could be a fabulous innovation for horse’s backs?  Yep.  Is it worth looking in to more?  Definitely.  I’m very much looking forward to hearing and seeing more about Bua saddles as more people get the opportunity to try them out.

What do you think?  Hot or not?  Share with me your thoughts on these fascinating new saddles.

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29 thoughts on “Hot or Not: Bua Saddles

  1. I definitely want to try one. I agree that I am on the fence. Sounds great, but does it really work like it sounds? The bouncing freaks me out a little too. And I know this is exactly what it isn’t designed to do, but my gut tells me there would have to be extra pressure on the withers/scapula and that totally worries me. Overall, a neat concept and I love that it is reasonably priced. Now someone buy one so I can try it 😉

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  2. Huge lover of technology and innovation here, but I’m a bit skeptical. My two main issues are: 1) the recoil of the seat. I don’t really want to get slapped in the ass repeatedly by the saddle, 2) your balance point shouldn’t be the same in a dressage saddle as a jumping saddle, so merely changing the flaps out doesn’t fly with me. That said, I would absolutely try one if the chance came up, just to see for myself.

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    • Wait, you mean hearing my butt slap the saddle with every stride out on xc isn’t right?!!

      But honestly, both really good points. So maybe we’re not reducing tack for anyone. There’s apparently a way to tighten up the tree suspension which would, I imagine, cause less bounce. But at a certain point that defeats the purpose of the seat design, I’d think.

      Regardless, it would be fascinating to see if these composite trees can be adapted to other selliers!

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      • Some of the french saddlers already have fiberglass/carbon fiber trees, and/or fiberglass/carbon fiber tree points. Which is part of why I think my CWD has worked well for several different horses now. So it’s not a totally new idea, just a different execution.

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    • I would love to play with one of these (and I’m pumped that the price point is 2k instead of 7 COUGH CWD), but totally agree on balance points here. Plus, changeable parts tend to be more of a PITA.

      Still. I’m excited it’s out there. It’s definitely a different look and I want to get my mitts on one once they’ve started hammering out the kinks.

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      • The price point is a HUGE pro in my opinion. Another thing about the interchangeability of the soft parts — agreed the are a huge PITA — we all know that soft parts are NOT the only part of saddle fit. The actual tree is important too. So it’s not like this could be a one-size-fits-all solution even with the Fancy Plastics.

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  3. I think the concept is REALLY interesting and has a lot of potential! I’d love to see/read more about them and hear some independent opinions from top riders. It’s exciting that modern technology is starting to make an impact on the way we ride.

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  4. I watched the video (minus the sound… so, really, “watched”) and it looks super interesting. I’d love to try one and I appreciate the concept. I have to wonder if the bounce moves with you – if it would revolutionize the posting trot.

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  5. Okay, so I am a huge, massive traditionalist, and there’s a part of me that’s just screaming “NO DON’T!”. But… I also really like science.

    And I think this could be interesting! Obviously it may not work 100% as they like but I think it’d be really interesting to sit in one. I really want to see how they deal with the weight distribution… will riders sit differently in the saddle? I have so many questions.

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    • Me toooo! The weight distribution is honestly one of my BIGGEST questions. Someone needs to show me some force diagrams or equations or simulations or something to show me how this wouldn’t distribute force weirdly on a horse’s shoulders.

      Or you could put one on me and bounce a toddler around in it for shits. We could do that too.

      Really what needs to happen is that Bua needs to let the public get their hands on some of these babies to feel them for themselves. Ireland is too far away, bring them to us!! Because we can speculate all day long but without actually feeling the saddle we will never know for ourselves.

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      • They should have them available to sit on at some of the big shows around the world. I went to WEG and sat in a Devoucoux for the first time; I can honestly say that experience changed my life! xD (No other premium saddle has ever lived up to that for me: I hate CWD, I hate Voltaire; I’m meh on Antares…) If we could get to sit in them, even not on a horse, I think I would be able to form a much better opinion.

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  6. The seat totally looks like a WoW saddle! My saddle fitter is a rep for them so I’ve ridden in one. It’s different than the Bua in that it doesn’t have actual tree points so they’re not digging into the horse’s shoulder. It has interchangeable flaps and seats so you could switch anything out and go from dressage to XC. Also, the tree head can move side to side making for more “shoulder freedom”.

    Anyways, I’m all about science and new technology stuff so the Bua looks cool! I’ll have to do more reading into it. 🙂

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    • When I first read WoW saddle, I thought you meant a saddle in World of Warcraft. And this continued for more sentences than is reasonable.

      You know what we should do? Take one on the equicizer!!

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  7. inneresting!! saddles have stuck to the same general design (tho obvi lots of improvements in materials / angles / construction over time) since conception, and fit still tends to be a somewhat complicated issue. seems ripe for innovation, right?

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  8. I will be interested to see if these take off. They are certainly the talk of most of the horse forums right now. Personally, I have many of the same concerns as you, as well as thinking that these are likely only going to fit a very specific type of horse.

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  9. It’s 2015 and saddle fitting is such a complex thing- or I’m wondering if saddle fitting is much more of a $$ making thing. This is a saddle that looks like it could help the average person with this saddle fitting problem as it looks like it can be changed but someone with common sense and some instructions. Also the sideways U shape of the tree, if you think about it would distribute even pressure. If you make that shape then put pressure about 2/3rds along the top then across the bottom should be even, if I remember rightly from school science. I also like the cost. I’m sure WOW saddles are more around the $4-$5000 range? And this is more the $2000 so the price is really attractive. I am very keen to hear more and learn more because these people are right- we need new technology (and for me- if nothing more than to solve this saddle fitting issue that everybody has!) as for just changing the flap shapes to suite the different riding style (dressage/ jumping) I think for the pleasure/ riding club/ pony club rider this is fine but then they have some people jumping some pretty big jumps so obviously they have thought of this too. Look forward to hearing more!

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  10. I spoke to the makers at the Dublin Horse show and saw it in person. I also saw a tree, not in a saddle. I am worried about the pressure… When the tree sat on the table and I simply pushed down on it (not hard at all) the tree spread at the back and front, now imagine the pressure and movement a rider would cause. Under the middle of the seat the tree closest to the horse has a connection, hence why the back and front move but the whole tree rails don’t spread. also if the rider is riding and the pressure is going down the front where the seat joins the tree, when the rider is sitting, the back of the seat touched the tree so therefore we have a lot of pressure in the front and the back… known as bridging. Limited testing has been done on even pressure distribution. Also while it is all interchangeable the tree is not, so if the tree doesn’t fit the saddle won’t fit. If your horse has atrophy you cannot adjust flocking to fit (adjusting flocking within reason). The panels are made of wheelchair foam stuff which I found very firm and would imagine difficult if not impossible to adjust, for example I have some Irish sports horses that need very little in the front of the saddle but yet need a rear gusset- this saddle would probably not fit my horses. They also have not worked with any saddle fitters or makers throughout the process. They have ‘consulted’ a couple of times but other than that no saddle makers of fitters were involved in the making of the saddle. In the video the women claims ‘They saddle fits everything’ she has put it on but she is not a saddle fitter/maker as far as I am aware and there also was not one present, as far as I am aware. Also you cannot just change between gp/jump and dressage as stirrup bar placement is different to allow of different length of stirrups. SO not only is this saddle made by product developers with no saddle fitting/making back round it is also going to be sold to anyone and not through specially trained people who know how to fit this. The scary thing about it being so adjustable, is that a lot of people will think it means it fits everything, when it actually only ‘fits’ (as it has not been fitted by a trained saddle fitter) a very small shape of horse! So I am staying well clear of these!

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    • Hi Carol! Thanks for your thoughts. As you might note from the date stamp, I wrote this post approximately three months before Sam or Julia had the opportunity to ride in one of the saddles. In fact, at the time of this post the saddles weren’t available for the public to try. I’m also not entirely sure what questions you are referring to – the question of cantilever physics is fairly easily answered by a Google search, which I did. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts, Georgia, come back any time!

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