Assessment clinics

Many people have expressed an interest in having their own horse assessed by our various specialists. Others have said that they would relish the chance to learn about it by "sitting in" on such a session purely as spectators. From our point of view we are delighted that this is the case, not just because it is good for business but because we feel that the more knowledge there is about equine back and saddle problems the greater will be the benefit to the horse.

At this stage we have not arranged any dates or venues, as we are focussing firstly on getting our courses established, but our minds are open to all suggestions. We envisage individual owners bringing their horses for assessment before an invited audience. Our specialist instructors will each bring their expertise to focus on the combination and will share their mental processes with you by means of head microphones. This is how we envisage it working:-

Initially Saj Southey-Stewart will assess the horse from a functional and structural viewpoint. This will include seeing the horse stood, being led up and, where required, observed under saddle. She will explain the imbalances she can see and will analyse their implications. For example this may illustrate where a back problem has caused a saddle problem. She will complete her appraisal with recommendations for further action or referral.

The horse and rider will then progress to Thea Maxfield who will discuss the placing and fit of the saddle and will assess the visible balance, suitability and condition of the saddle. She will take a wither template and compare it with the existing saddle so that the audience can see for themselves if a disparity exists between the two. Her inspection will end with her recommendations for repair, re-balancing, or re-flocking and whether the saddle has been the primary cause of discomfort. If possible Thea may change knee and thigh blocks or make other small alterations to the saddle/rider balance.

Lastly, if further investigation is required, the saddle will be passed on, and examined and described from a saddler's point of view. The panel will be 'dropped out', enabling the audience to see inside the saddle, which may be very different from what you might expect. Finally, if appropriate, a saddle will be re-flocked.

Our experts will conduct question and answer sessions after each of these separate assessments so that you may follow a single horse and saddle through three different examinations. However once Saj has passed the first "case" on to Thea she will move on to the next, so that each stage will be happening simultaneously. You can therefore follow a single case or stay and concentrate on one specialist area.

Venue

We anticipate staging the first Assessment Clinic at our course venue in Worcestershire, but have no objection to "taking the show on the road" for subsequent ones. If you would be interested in taking part, with your horse, as an assessment subject, or would simply like to spectate, please contact Horse1st Training by email to horse.first@virgin.net. We would like to know your area and availability. Once we have sufficient interest we will invite you to join us.

Suggestions

If you want to suggest an alternative to the concept outlined above we would be more than happy to pick your brains. Again an email to us would be ideal.

Horse-owners 'self-interest' short courses in Remedial Saddle Fitting

We have been approached to run these short courses by people who want to know more about the skills of saddle fitting but do not want to commit to an extended training.

Quite emphatically this will not be available. We have seen, in other specialist fields, the almost indecent haste to assume knowledge and to set up as experts that is the outcome of such exercises. The damage that unqualified saddle fitters can do to a horse, and the danger that the riders are consequently placed in, is unthinkable.

We take great pride in trying to ensure that Horse1st Remedial Saddle Fitters are properly selected, motivated and thoroughly trained to the highest standards and with the welfare of the horse and rider in mind. Our Lantra accreditation is the result of this. There can be no 'quick fix' ways of accessing this knowledge.