What is the concept & philosophy behind the Bua Saddle? Why is it designed with a cantilevered tree?
During Martin Ryan’s (designer of the Bua Saddle) final year of university, studying product design, he had an open brief to redesign a product of their choosing. The saddle was an obvious project for Martin, as the basic saddle design was relatively unchanged for decades, if not centuries. So many other great sports, including golf, skiing, tennis, car racing, and all sports that rely on technical equipment for performance, have advanced so much by embracing the latest technologies and materials, but not equestrian sports. Martin had the right training in product design, and when combined with an understanding of horse riding, Martin wanted to re-evaluate the saddle from first principles. Martin spent many hours in veterinary libraries reading up on and researching the bio-mechanics, muscle groups, and gate analysis of horses, amongst other things. To help him break free from traditional approaches to saddle design, he re- imagined the saddle, as though it had never been designed before. He asked fundamental questions like ‘how should the rider be transported on a horses back’?, where exactly should they sit?, what does the rider require from a saddle when jumping and riding other disciplines?, and so on. Two key conclusions were most notable; for the rider the saddle is necessary to provide support and balance, central to achieving this is the tree design; for the horse the saddle must distribute the rider’s weight evenly across its back while at the same time offer flexibly so as to minimise any restriction to horse stretch and freedom. Of course there are many more considerations, but these were fundamental.
The solution was a bit of a ‘eureka’ moment, and the cantilevered tree was born. However, in design a solution often comes quite easy once you are appropriately informed around the problem area. This was the case for the saddle. Martin was able to free himself from long established assumptions of how a saddle should be made because he had never made one. When you manage to free your thoughts like this, really innovative ideas often arise. The concept of a cantilevered seat seemed logical. By its natural shape it affords a separate and customised shape specific to the horse and the rider which, ultimately leads to better comfort for both. By the natural c-shaped structure of the saddle it further offers dynamic flexibility which moves with the horse while still supporting the rider in a balanced position.
While the central idea came quick, moving from concept to product has taken many years. This design poses big questions of modern production and materials. For this reason it has taken many years of prototyping and testing and a whole lot of help from many brilliant people and organisations.
What is a cantilevered tree?
The cantilevered tree, by its natural shape, affords a separate and customised shape specific to the horse and the rider which, ultimately leads to better comfort for both. By the natural c-shaped structure of the saddle it further offers dynamic flexibility which moves with the horse while still supporting the rider in a balanced position.
How can one saddle fit a large range of horse’s backs?
The cantilevered tree allows for ‘dynamic flexion’. The saddle in material and form offers a natural flexion which ensures the horse can move and extend freely during riding. Because the saddle also expands and contracts with the horse’s movement, it accommodates many horses ranging between broad and narrow, and accommodates a horse transitioning through different stages of fitness. Riding schools particularly like this as one saddle can truly fit an array horses. In schooling they simply move one saddle from one horse to the next, and the next and so on. Because of the interchangeable panel system, you can change the panels to fit different horse’s as needed, instead of changing to a completely different saddle. The Bua saddle is designed to fit an array of horses, and like all saddles, it may not fit every horse. We recommend trying the saddle on your horse to ensure you have the correct fit. You can watch our video on how to fit a Bua Saddle to make sure the saddle is fitted correctly.
How does the cantilevered saddle benefit a horse?
The cantilevered saddle is like two saddles in one. Through its cantilevered tree, the saddle offers a seat customised for the rider, while at the same time a seat customised for the horse’s back. This means the tree already conforms to the shape of horse and rider before it is padded with foams. This is also due to the dynamic flexion within the tree, because of the carbon fiber material used. Carbon fiber offers natural flexion allowing the tree to move freely with the horse’s natural movement. This also allows the saddle to naturally expand and contract depending on the build of the horse, as well as allow the saddle to accommodate different levels of back muscle development.
Because of the interchangeable panel system, you can change the panels to fit different horse’s as needed, instead of changing to a completely different saddle.
Thirdly, the saddle allows the rider to optimise the tree compression between two settings; ‘TREK’ and ‘SPORT’ mode. Trek mode offers a softer ride where maximum comfort is the priority; and is particularly suited to long leisurely rides. Sport mode on the other hand stiffens everything up, optimising response between horse and rider, and is the preferred setting of professional and competitive riders.
There are a number of other key benefits, including the saddle’s incredible lightweight; its modular structure, meaning all soft components of the saddle are interchangeable. This allows the event rider to quickly change the flaps from jump to dressage, for example. Alternatively, one can completely upgrade the style of the saddle at a portion of the cost of investing in another brand new saddle.
What is the benefit for the rider? Does the cantilevered tree still allow for a close seat connection to the horse?
Time and time again we are told of the incredible comfort the saddle affords which is second to none. Further still, riders report a secure seat with close contact between seat and leg. Here’s what one international champion said:
“The first thing that struck me when sitting in the saddle was the overall balance and comfort it provided. The saddle compressed as I sat down in it then immediately felt stable.”
“...I was impressed with the amount of feel that the saddle allowed the rider to have. It was extremely easy to gauge all four hoofbeats of the horse and have a good connection with the horse’s back via the saddle interface. It was also apparent that the horse could more easily pick up on the cues of the rider’s seat aids compared with more conventional flock packed saddles with a standard tree.”
“The Cantilevered Saddle was very comfortable to canter and jump in, offering superb reduction in concussion on the horses back if the rider sat heavily or lost balance and fell back onto the saddle.”
Jody Hartstone New Zealand Grand Prix Champion Dressage Rider
Winner of Tri Nations Dressage Derby South Africa 2007
International Coach of Equine Learning Theory
But don’t take our word for it, try it yourself!
What makes the Bua saddle tree and design different to a traditional saddle tree?
The cantilevered tree makes the Bua Saddle tree different to a traditional saddle tree. The cantilevered tree is like two saddles in one. Through its cantilevered tree, the saddle offers a seat customised for the rider, while at the same time a seat customised for the horse’s back. This means the tree already conforms to the shape of horse and rider before it is padded with foams.
The second benefit of the cantilevered tree is ‘dynamic flexion’. The saddle in material and form offers a natural flexion which ensures the horse can move and extend freely during riding. The saddle also expands and contracts accommodating many horses ranging between broad and narrow, and accommodates a horse transitioning through different stages of fitness.
Is it treeless?
No, the Bua Saddle is not treeless, it utilizes a cantilevered tree, which is like two trees in one. Because it uses a cantilevered tree as opposed to a traditional single tree most commonly seen in saddles, the tree sits upon panels that allows for dynamic flexion. The saddle in material and form offers a natural flexion which ensures the horse can move and extend freely during riding. The saddle also expands and contracts accommodating many horses ranging between broad and narrow, and accommodates a horse transitioning through different stages of fitness. This is often a mis -conception with the cantilevered design. The Bua cantilevered tree is much more forgiving and comfortable on the horse’s back due to its design, making it a more comfortable option of a treed saddle for a large range of horses.
What makes up a Bua Saddle?
The Bua saddle is made up of:
-The patented cantilevered tree
-A soft seat
-Two sets of flaps, that can be changed for your discipline. There are GP flaps, jumping flaps or dressage flaps that can be purchased. Because of the modular design, these flaps can be interchanged, without the need of a second saddle.
-Two sets of panels: The panels sit under the cantilevered tree. These panels can be modified and changed as needed to adjust to different horses, or as your horse’s back changes over time due to increased muscle development. They can easily be removed and reworked as they velcro on and off, and you can easily zip the panels out of their outer material case to add, subtract or shim as needed.
How is it tested for durability?
The product was tested through millions of cycles. The rigorous testing regime, conducted under laboratory conditions, proved the materials, the production process and the final design concept were durable and built to last.
All our Bua Saddles come with a one year warranty on all parts. Our tree comes with a two year warranty.
What disciplines can the Bua saddle be used for?
The Bua saddle can be used for any discipline of riding. Whether you are a showjumper, eventer, dressage rider, endurance rider, or just ride for leisure, the Bua saddle is suitable for all riders.
Why is it only available in one size?
Currently, the Bua saddle is available in a 17.5 inch tree size. This is due to the nature of the cantilevered tree design. We do find that people who typically fit into a 16.5-18 inch saddle seat fit into the Bua Saddle. We are looking at ways to offer more seat sizing, and will update as these become available.
Can I have the saddle fitted to my horse?
Yes you can. Because of the interchangeable panel system that is used in combination with the cantilevered tree, it is very easy to adjust the panels to fit your horse. You can add or subtract the foam to your liking, or add shims into the panels to to ensure the saddle sits properly on your horse’s back. This is also a great tool because you change the foam as your horse’s back develops. We do find that the standard foam panels accommodate the largest variety or horses, but you can tweak the panels on your own as needed. We do not provide shims, but find most standard saddle panel shims work with our panels.
What options of the Bua saddle are available?
Currently, we offer the Bua saddle in four options: A Jumping Saddle, a General Purpose Saddle, a Dressage Saddle and an Endurance Saddle. The Bua’s innovative cantilevered tree design is the same for all models, it is the flaps that are different to accommodate the different disciplines. Because of the modular design, if you buy the jumping version, you can order a pair of dressage flaps and switch the flaps as needed, depending if you are flatting or jumping.
Will the Bua saddle design bounce me out of the saddle?
When first riding in a Bua saddle, it may feel a bit different at first than what you are used to, and this is because of the cantilevered tree. Many riders find that after a few minutes they adjust to the saddle, and absolutely love the way it feels for them riding and they can feel their horse much better. The saddle concept itself is designed for the comfort of the horse and rider, and is not designed to bounce you out of the saddle. From first glance, it may look like it would bounce you out of the tack, but when riding in the saddle we often are told that riders feel more secure in a cantilevered tree than a traditional saddle tree. The saddle allows the rider to optimise the tree compression between two settings; ‘TREK’ and ‘SPORT’ mode. Trek mode offers a softer ride where maximum comfort is upmost and is particularly suited to long leisurely rides. Sport mode on the other hand stiffens everything up, optimising response between horse and rider, perfect for competitions, and the preferred setting of professional riders.
How much does the Bua saddle weigh?
The Bua saddle is one of the most lightweight saddles available on the market, weighing in at just 4kg.