Wellington, FL – Well before bling was the thing, Betsy Steiner made FEI dressage rings sparkle with her broad smiles and joyful riding style. Two decades since representing American dressage on the 1990 World Equestrian Games squad, Steiner is still dancing with horses and from her Frenchtown, NJ and Wellington, FL facilities, she is using Sommer saddles to make the connection. Steiner understands the relationship between comfort and performance, as founder of the EQUILATES cross-training program for riders, and author of 'A Gymnastic Training System Using the Mind, Body, Spirit Approach.' It was master saddler Marty Haist who suggested a Sommer to fit a Lusitano stallion, Conego, Steiner had in training. Knowing Steiner values a deep seat, he suggested the Spezial, one of the models he and his wife, Beth, offer as U.S. dealers through their store and website, The Horse of Course. The transformation in her horses has been apparent.
'Connie is a much happier horse and so much freer in the shoulders,” says Steiner. “And I have a Young Rider's horse, Roberto, who is a big, rangey mover and he loves this Sommer saddle. I asked him for a medium trot down the long side of the arena and I could feel all this horse respond underneath me and his shoulders just open up. It was awesome!
“I love everything about these saddles, from their lightness to, most of all, their comfort for the rider and the horse. It puts you in a place where you don't have to think about the saddle and your legs just wrap around the horse.
“It fits horses that are hard to fit and they go really well in it. You can feel their haunches come up and underneath you more, and feel their shoulders open up and move more freely. These saddles blend with the horse."
“You feel like you're riding the horse, not riding the saddle. You hardly notice it's even there.” The key, says Beth Haist, is in Sommer's FlextraEQ cutting edge technology. “The tree has the ability to move with the horse. There's no disconnect between your seat and your horse's back, just great, close contact between your seat and legs. It cannot over-flex, but it actually makes a horse feel like nothing will interfere with its shoulders and allows them to move in a more natural way.”
“The size of the panels,” the master saddler who put Steiner and the Spezial together, “are also really big and wide, and when we put pressure on them, they flatten out and take up a lot of surface area, which the horses seem to appreciate. They distribute weight better across the horse.”
Steiner, who has never shied from dropping her stirrups a notch in pursuit of a deep seat and long, elegant leg, was still surprised when Haist advised that using a Sommer saddle usually meant dropping two to eight holes in stirrup length: “We advise first-time owners that the saddles are very 'female-friendly,' and to expect to go down several holes as the saddle allows them to open up their hips and drop their legs down and around the horse.”
“It truly felt like I was melting into my horse. I love everything about Sommer saddles,” says Steiner, who plans to continue using them as she closes her winter Wellington season and returns north.
The Horse of Course carries an extensive selection of Sommer saddles, including the FlextraEQ Savoy, Lars Flextra and Spezial Dressage, and is a proud supporter of the equestrian community, traveling cross-country with a convenient mobile store to bring stylish clothing, accessories, saddles and products to shows, and sponsoring classes.
To learn more about The Horse of Course, visit their website at www.thehorseofcourse.com.