I started riding when I was 10, at a riding school in Helsinki, Finland. I rode the riding school horses for some 5 years, then started doing regular dressage classes and hiring private horses for hacking etc. I desperately wanted my own horse but my family could not afford to keep one – I had to wait for another 25 years before I finally got my very own horse! But now, I have four horses and ran a private livery yard in Surrey for 10 years. In November 2005, I completed my Monty Roberts Preliminary Certificate of Horsemanship and I am interested in classical riding and Le Trec.
It was first on Kelly Marks’s Intelligent Horsemanship courses that my attention was drawn to correct saddle fitting and to how many problems a badly fitting or a poorly made saddle can cause. Since then, I have been hooked on the subject, studied it in great deal and participated in saddle fitting workshops with Dave Johnson of the Saddle Company and Kay Humphries. Finally, I was given the opportunity to train with Vicki Dunster, who started Better Saddles, and to carry on her fantastic work and reputation.
Better Saddles was born from Vicki’s passion for showing riders the dramatic difference that a correctly fitting and comfortable saddle can make to the physiology and mental welfare of the horse. In fact, not only the horse will benefit – a rider who is in balance and comfortable will also help their horse to work better.
It is a sad fact that many riding and horse behaviour issues can be traced back to poor saddles. It is not uncommon to find saddles with significant twists and warps in them only to find the owners saying, ‘he never seems to want to flex to the right’. Or if too tight fitting, a horse that becomes ‘jumpy’ out on the roads because he has learnt that if he should shy, it hurts, so he becomes extra tense in anticipation.
A good saddle is not, of course, the instant answer to all problems. As a holder of the Monty Roberts Preliminary Certificate of Horsemanship and having trained with Ben Hart on positive reinforcement and clicker training; I can help people and their horses to better understand their partnership, and overcome any behaviour problems that may have been an issue for years. By combining my saddle fitting skills and my horsemanship skills, I will be able to help horses and their owners towards discovering harmony in horsemanship.
Mariaana Batterbury (ex Heinonen)
M Sc. in Forestry
Holder of MRPCH (Monty Roberts Preliminary Certificate of Horsemanship)