On a lovely balmy Dublin day in 2008 I was first introduced to Martin Ryan – a budding young Industrial Design Graduate from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. I was in town for the Dublin Horse Show and also the International Society for Equitation Science’s annual conference – conveniently held at the same iconic location – the Royal Dublin Showgrounds.
Martin was in the midst of designing a saddle that would be nothing short of revolutionary – not only was it modular, but the tree was unlike anything seen before – a cantilever. As Martin presented his design to the conference attendees I became increasingly interested in trialling it.
When we chatted afterwards and Martin heard I was a dressage rider (these are as scarce as hen’s teeth in Ireland!) it was decided that I would be a trial rider for the prototype. It was with great excitement that I got on that first horse and had a feel of the saddle. I enjoyed the experience and gave Martin the feedback he was looking for:
“The first thing that struck me when sitting in the saddle was the overall comfort and balance it provided. The saddle compressed as I sat down in it then felt immediately stable. I was impressed by the amount of feel the saddle allowed the rider to have. It was extremely easy to gauge each footfall and have good connection with the horse’s back via the saddle interface. It was also apparent that the horse could more easily pick up the cues of the rider’s seat aids compared with more traditional flock packed saddles with a traditional tree. The Cantilevered saddle was very comfortable to ride and jump in, offering a superb reduction in concussion on the horse’s back if the rider sat heavily or lost balance and fell back into the saddle”
I often wondered in the years that ensued, just what had happened to the Bua Saddle. Had it ever actually made it to manufacture? Or was it still “on the drawing board”, or worse still, now in the bin or nothing more than an ornament?
It was fantastic news when I made contact with Martin again some four years later to discover the saddle had just been launched in onto the market in Ireland. Not only that, but my name was mentioned in the big Dublin Daily newspaper and I was featured in the product flyers too! With a typical Irish lad’s charm and Blarney, Martin Ryan talked his way through the fact he was using me for his advertising…. I secured my first Bua saddle not long after and loved it so much I then decided to sell them into the New Zealand market on Martin’s behalf.
What makes a Bua so special? Sure, they look different – very sporty and almost space-aged. But for me the main factors that make it a stand out saddle are:
· The fit – from the narrowest to the widest horses I have seen, the Bua sits well on 95% of horses. It’s not adjustable at all, it just fits! The tree design is such that it sits on top of the horses back, with no tree points to get in the way.
· The lightness – about 4kgs makes it so easy to carry and light on the horses back
· The feel – super comfy seat and the knee blocks seem just in the right place
· The travel factor – I can take it apart in less than a minute and pop in my suitcase or bag to travel with it.
· The horse – the saddle panels sit flat on the horses back and have a great deal of play in them – they really move with the horse. The seat has just the right amount of “give” in it to ensure that the horse’s back is cushioned from any downward pressure of the rider. The shoulder panels allow for great freedom of the shoulders and are great for jumping
· The bonus – it never needs repacking as there is no packing there to pack!
The Bua comes in a range of colours with two types of jumping flap, a GP and Dressage option to – there’s plenty to choose from whether you are a traditionalist wanting the black on black option, or something a little more “out there” – the Bua has something to cater to your taste.
My personal favourite for the shock and awe factor is the red saddle with the crisscrossed cushioned stitching on the seat and flaps. I call it the porn-star saddle and it’s a cheeky number from anyone brave enough to try it.
People have asked why I have decided to support the Bua saddle out of the hundreds of saddle brands around the world. Well here’s the answer. I love what it stands for. Innovation, technology, and being ahead of the crowd. I love the science behind it and I love how my team of horses feel in it and respond to it. I love hunting in my Bua just as much as I love it for breaking in the babies. And I love the Irish people and their horses. Who needs an excuse to fly to the Emerald Ilse? Not me that’s for sure.
Why not a book a trail of one of my Bua’s? You just may find the answer to your saddle fitting woes. Your horse will love the experience and I’m sure you will too.
The Bua retails at just Euro 2000 plus shipping and import duties.
Postage and Duty will add about $1000 more $ onto your purchase or you can pop one in your luggage to bring back with you any time you are flying to the UK, Ireland or Europe. Easy as!
I occasionally have a trial saddle available for purchase for around the $4200 NZ mark.