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.
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).
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….
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.