MH “Uppsala” Saddles

MH “UPPSALA” SADDLES AGENT

That the  Scandinavian countries have a deep history in riding from courtly manège riding and hunting, to cavalry combat to many Olympic champions of equestrian disciplines is little known today. Because I am so interested in both equitation and history once I realized this, I started researching the facts. One doesn’t have to look far to find truly fascinating stories, like that of Queen Kristina of Sweden (shown here) who was renowned for her superb and absolutely fearless riding skills both aside and astride.

In fact the riding academy at the Swedish University of Uppsala, second oldest still existing riding institution in the world after the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, celebrated its 350th birthday in 2013. It was established in part by Queen Kristina who provided funding for horses, stable and riding hall for the academy. 

It is in honor of the lineage of this historic academy that Markus Holst has named his first and very uniquely advanced dressage and general purpose saddle models “Uppsala.” I am proud to be the U.S. agent for MH saddles.

If interested, please contact me below.

Saddle Technology:

Classic Minimalism Where the Function Creates the Design

The design of the MH saddle is simple and functional. The light weight, the position of the stirrup bars, the position of the girth straps (billets) and the shallow seat offer a seamless interface and superb feel between horse and rider, providing comfort with good freedom of movement for the both horse and rider and facilitating a good seat and aid application.

These saddles are designed to be very close to the horse. With the saddle warm and the rider sitting in it, no more than 2 fingers should fit between the withers and the underside of the pommel. [If there is a bigger gap, the saddle is likely to be the wrong fit for the horse.] The points of the tree will sit around the horse, not on it and will consequently never pinch. They leave the shoulder completely free to move. The panels are therefore positioned a little higher into the front arch than is seen in other saddles, which gives a secure fit while retaining the shoulders’ freedom.

The above features give MH saddles excellent stability, particularly on wide and/or round backs, without any need for an overly-tight girth.

 THE TREE

The light-weight, flexible tree, designed to follow the movement of the horse, is made of two thin layers of Finnish birch, with a layer of kevlar on the bottom for stability, to prevent too much flexing, and a leather layer on top. Free of metal, the tree aligns with the horses back in its entire length and width and follows the horse’s movements. The points are angled outwards to eliminate the risk of pressure on the shoulders. The rails are flexible and move with the horse’s back. They are parallel to the horse’s spine along their entire length, ensuring optimal distribution of the rider’s weight. The points play no part in weight carrying, they simply provide lateral stability. The saddle therefore sits AROUND the horse, NOT ON IT. The tree is made on a special mold and is therefore always symmetrical.

The 6 types of the MH saddle tree are not categorized according to width at the points, as they vary in several dimensions. They are designed to fit flush on different types of back, i.e. they take variations of shape from wither to croup (flat or curved) and from side to side (A-frame or flat) into account. This ensures a proper fit, i.e. even weight distribution without having to rely on the panels to achieve it. Saddle-fitting issues often occur if the typical trees used in the industry do not follow all the back’s contours, the saddle may seem to fit initially but will fit less well once flocking in the panels has settled and need constant correction.

The gullet is available in the following types:

  1. For thin or non muscular horses. Suitable for more delicately built horses, such as TB’s and slightly built Arabs, as well as other backs with an A-frame shape side-to-side and a slight curve from wither to croup.
  2. Fits most warmblood horses. Suitable for more solidly built TB’s and lighter-weight Warmbloods, also some Iberians. This tree fits A-framed backs that are straight, rather than curved.
  3. For more curved backs like Iberian horses. Very suitable for Baroque horses (PRE, Lusitano, Lippizan), some Arabs and many other wider backs with gentle curves.
  4. For wider warmblood horses. A bigger cousin to the #2, but much less angled side-to-side. Suits substantial Warmbloods or any other back which is fairly wide and flat, yet still has some wither.
  5. For cob type horses. Great for the table top back found in draft-types or native breeds (flat in all dimensions, very little wither), but also useful for very wide individuals of many other breeds, including Arabs.
  6. For horses with very wide and muscular withers. Suitable for wide-withered Baroque shapes, such as Friesians, but also Haflingers, Welsh Cobs etc. Suits a gentle curve from wither to croup, not as flat as the #5.

Those six variants can be combined with three different angles over the back and loin area for a total of 18 tree type variants:

0    For horses with narrow and steep backs.
A    For most warmblood type horses.
B    For horses with a wider back.

THE PANELS

The shock-absorbing panels in memory foam adapt to the horse’s back.The panels support the rider by being under the tree and automatically mould to fit the horses back. (In most modern saddles the panels are not always positioned directly under the tree which increases the chances of pressure points at the front and rear of the saddle.) Although the material we use in the panel absorbs shock, it cannot cause the saddle to bounce due its slow recovery characteristics at body temperature.

The panels consist of a dense visco-elastic shock-absorbent foam, which reacts to heat and pressure. Firm when cold, they are quickly softened by the horse’s body heat plus the rider’s weight and reach a consistency best compared to raw steak. They mould completely to the horse’s back, follow every movement and are extremely comfortable for both horse and rider. Having adapted to the horse while in use, the panels always return to their original shape. They require no maintenance of any kind.

The panels can be made in 3 different thicknesses (24mm/.94″, 30mm/1.18″, 36mm/1.4″), giving a wide range of options for different types of back.

GIRTH AND BILLETS

The girth position and attachment is under the saddle flap to prevent interference with the foreleg when moving in extension. Billet straps are available in 2 long, 3 short or 4 short.

SEAT AND FLAPS OPTIONS

The open seat provides a good placement of your pelvis with a relaxed and upright seat.

Since the tree is designed to be anatomically correct for the horse, the open seat is flatter than in many other saddles. While this may initially feel slightly strange to some riders, most find it comfortable as it will allow them to position their pelvis in a way that is right for the individual, rather than having it forced into a specific place and angle. The stirrup bar is not recessed in any way, to avoid pressure on the horse’s back. Its location is designed to allow the rider a natural leg position.

Option for extra cushion layer on seat

Standard flap length is 21.5″, with an option for an additional 3 cm longer/1.18″.

Seat is 17.5″ overall, 15.5″ from saddle nail to center of cantle, and only 13.5 pounds.

COLOR OPTIONS

Three leather colors available include black, Sedgewick brown (80% dark chocolate) and Newmarket tan. The saddle can be ordered in one color matching in its entirely or in multi-color with options for skirt and flaps color, stitching color, piping color, panel and gullet color, and seat and knee pad color.

Knee rolls options are smooth leather or suede, seat can be smooth leather or suede.

Fittings can be brass or nickel-plated, leather keeper or plain.

MANUFACTURE

MH Saddles are all custom-made saddles individually made, to order, of all English leather and manufactured in Europe. Manufacture time is about 8 weeks with shipping time 2-3 weeks additional.

PRICING

Currently a custom-made MH saddle is $3485 U.S, which includes shipping to the U.S.

FITTING AND TRIALS

The saddles are only sold after fitting, either by visiting you or via video call.

MH Saddles saddles are not sold in shops. They are only distributed by MH Saddles and fitted by agents who joined MH Saddles because they bought an MH saddle for themselves and were impressed by it. They are all experienced riders and will understand your concern for your horse’s comfort.

AFTER SALES SERVICES AND OPTIONS

If there are dramatic changes in a horse’s back, as might be the case after illness, long periods off work or when recovering from muscle atrophy, or if the saddle is permanently needed for a different horse, the tree can be changed, i.e. the saddle can be reassembled on a different tree type. Changing the panels to new ones of a different thickness is also possible.

All MH products are guaranteed for 1 year against faulty materials and/or workmanship. We like to maintain contact with our customers and to offer a personal service. If you have any questions about your saddle, your horse or your riding in general and think we could help, I am now an MH Saddles agent, so please, get in touch.

ABOUT MARKUS HOLST

Markus Holst was born in 1960 in Gothenburg, Sweden. At 12 years old he started riding at an academy, where the teachers were retired from the Swedish army, having served in the cavalry during World War II. He began teaching riding as a teenager, and later become a student at Strömsholm, one of Sweden’s three national equestrian centers, where instructors have Olympic credentials, professorships, and deep experience in their areas of expertise.

Markus graduated as an approved riding instructor second grade, and since then he has had a career as dressage rider, instructor, breeder, and showing stallions for breed licensing evaluations. He has been valued instructor in classical riding all over Sweden and is today a retired dressage rider with leisure horses and riding students.

Markus always had an interest in developing better horse tack, such as bits, hackamores and cavessons. He was never satisfied with any commercial saddles so he began making his own, until he met David Bowler, designer of Strada saddles, which he recognized as the saddle he was looking for. Markus became a distributor and is now directing Strada International. He has begun his own line of saddles, Markus Holst Saddles (MH Saddles) based on the Strada models but with added innovations and options.