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Back in June 2020 I had the incredible experience of having two amazing saddles delivered on my doorstep. I promised you a six month update review on both, and if you would like to read my first impressions (link) for the Jerez SKL first, you will find all sorts of info in there about the style of saddle, what sizes I have, and more.
We’re a bit past six months. Most of the comparisons will be with photos from the time period I promised, though. Time, and well, covid, got the best of me (and everyone else I think!). The El Campo update is being written while you are reading this – Link will be provided here if it’s published!
First, let’s have a bit of a superficial comparison. Can I just point out how much sexier the saddle got, once it had a chance to develop some patina? WOW! On the left it was straight out of the box, and on the right it was pulled right off my saddle rack. After almost daily use, the black aspen leather has gotten a much richer colour. And the antiqued havanna on the rest of the saddle, has gotten this wonderful shine to it.
In the beginning, I was a little worried that ordering the Aspen leather had been a slight mistake. It has a rougher surface, meaning the adherence is a lot better (similar to nubuck), and I wasn’t sure I enjoyed it. After riding in it for a while though, I am so pleased with the choice I made. The Jerez has a fairly open seat – and the Aspen leather provides the perfect amount of “gotcha”, when my trusty steed turns out to not be as trusty anymore. I’ve sat a fair share of teleportation attempts in it, and the unique seat not only brings me along for sudden shenanigans, it also helps me ride it out – and not just hang on for dear life.
But superficial looks aside, I have taken quite a deep dive into my thousands of pictures, to find you good comparisons for what it has done to my seat. Because oh boy, my seat needed a lot of improvement, and riding in a proper school saddle has done some interesting things to my posture as a rider.
There is still so much to be done, but I personally think is the most impressive change, is that I now have something to work with. My old posture was frozen and stiff, and no matter what I did, I could not get myself to move. This didn’t help my horses at all. My old saddle fit them very well, but the drafty boys are wide. The saddle was treeless – and I simply wasn’t lifted up enough from their backs. As a result, the seat got far too wide for my small hips, not at fault of the saddle – just a simple mismatch between rider, horse and equipment.
Most noticeably, in the old photo, I am not really sitting. My heels are aligned with my hips, but I am locking my hips, and tipping my pelvis forward. This makes it almost impossible for Brego to engage his hind properly – because I am blocking him. The little engagement he was able to create, was not allowed to carry on over his back, because I was in the way. As a result, he can’t collect himself. In the new photo – I am sitting.
My shoulders are aligned with my hips, my hips are not tense, my neck has straightened up naturally, and what happens? Brego is able to collect himself a lot better. As a rider, I carry myself and I have balance. My weight is in the middle of my horse. When his hind engages, I can let the movement flow from his hind, over his back, through my hips, and into my hand. Let me try to illustrate what I mean by making some lines for you – it’s a very simplified visual of course, but some of you might find them helpful.
Since my lower leg has tipped a little forward (idk why, maybe I’m giving him a cue, maybe I’m a little out of balance), it’s might be easy to mistake my new seat is a bit of a “chair seat”. I am not leaning back, my upper leg isn’t pulled up, and my feet are not using the stirrups for support – so that’s not quite what is happening here (but worth a debunk still). My tattoo is a dead giveaway that I have yet to master the skill of keeping my shoulders back though. Next up on the list; shoulders, elbows, lower leg.
So, is this “just” the saddle?
Well, yes, and no. Of course; it’s hours spent in the saddle, working on my posture. But I can tell you; no matter how hard I worked on my seat, in my old saddle, I could not get anywhere. Movement used to throw me out of balance, so I would freeze up and just sit still. I mentioned in my “first impressions” blog how the Jerez gently guided my pelvis into the correct, classical position. With time, this gentle guiding has given me constant little reminders; and I have been able to stretch my stiff tendons little by little. I remember I used to be sooo sore after a simple hack, when I first started riding in the Jerez.
I have another comparison photo for you, this time at an almost identical moment in time, in a canter transition. Please notice that yes, the “before” photo is in my new DP El Campo saddle, but it was my first ever ride in it, so my poor posture hasn’t had a chance to get corrected yet. It’s a photo I haven’t shared before, mostly because Brego is very mad at me, and honestly… Can we blame him?
Still loads of work to be done. My leg is a little off due to the canter cue, my shoulders need to be further back, and my hands could be lowered even more. My pelvis could with an advantage be tilted back even further (we’re getting there!), and my inner hip raised to give him more space in the transition. But look! I am sitting! And look at what it is doing to my horse!
I have a Lillen comparison too. Before? Surely, that line from head to shoulder to hip to heel, is impressively straight. But how uptight and stiff does it look? It was a useless posture, and you can tell Lillen isn’t happy with me. His back is hanging, since I’m in his way. I’m even using my left hand to hold myself down. Because I am too stiff to allow his movements to travel through my hips.
The second photo is from a bit of a different angle, but I still think it is fairly clear that I am now riding him. My body is alive, it’s working, it’s following his gaits and giving him space to go. Again, I have no idea what my lower leg is up to, most likely asking him to move his ass over, but you can tell it’s a more confident cue. Even my arms and hands are more relaxed. My old seat was afraid to move, because moving would throw me out of balance. My new seat isn’t afraid to be a little “here and there” if something happens. I am finding new nuances in my own range of movement, and it’s honestly quite liberating. I, uh, also seem to really enjoy this outfit haha, given that it’s about a year apart and not much have changed.
These saddles, and perhaps especially the Jerez, has for sure been an incredible turning point for me and my horses. I feel like we have made more progress since they arrived, than we have done in all the years before. In my update for the El Campo, I’m going to add a little bit more about what I feel like the main differences between the two saddles are – and why I keep saying that the Jerez has been doing the majority of the workload of changing my seat around. I planned to put it down in this one, but alas, I have already provided you with a painful word count.
The saddle and tack have been sponsored by DP Saddlery LP (US+) and Deuber&Partner (Europe), but I do feel a need to say that all of these words are my own. As a long-time DP fan and saddle owner, I can wholeheartedly recommend their products, and they have not pushed for this update at all 🙂
Thank you for reading!
Emma and Brego