Five year old Lily-mae Pollitt has been riding her seven year old, Welsh section A called Dylan, for a year and a half. She suffers with Cerebral Palsy which affects the left side of her body and has caused her problems furthering her riding. Mum, Emma Pollitt explained: “Lily could only walk and do a few strides of trot without losing her balance. I realised we needed a specialist high backed saddle that would support her lower back.”
“This was extremely difficult to source, for over six month I contacted various saddlers and searched through Facebook, Twitter and sent emails without success. I really needed someone who would be prepared to come and see Lily ride to understand exactly what was needed. I then found Mike Davies from Pony, Cob and Horse Saddles Ltd. Within ten minutes of me sending an email, Mike had called me up. It was totally unexpected as I had had such a lack of response from other avenues I had tried. Mike really went the extra mile and took on board exactly what I wanted.”
Mike explained: “We put a lot of thought into the saddle design, Emma just wanted something functional for Lily but we also wanted to make the saddle look attractive and not unusual. The main two things we needed to do was build up the back of the saddle to support Lily, who has very little strength in her lower back, and also create support for her left leg which she struggles to keep still when riding Dylan.
“After quite a lot of debate we decided to try to create a sort of extreme dressage style saddle with a really deep seat and big adjustable knee and thigh rolls. The deep seat is to support Lily’s back and the knee and thigh rolls to support her legs. Of course we had to get all of the measurements and dimensions right so the support would be in the right area.
“The problem is that on adult dressage saddles with deep seats, the shape of the seat is created by using a saddle tree that is constructed to do just that but for pony saddles there is a very much more limited choice of saddle trees which tend to very flat seated. Of course the other side of the equation is that the saddle had to fit Dylan. So for Lily’s saddle which is a 14 inch saddle there was simply nothing available that would come close to meeting our needs. We used a little flat saddle tree which is normally used for show or working hunter saddles and we built up an artificial seat on it by hand to create the shape Lily needed.
The rest then came down to good traditional saddlery skills to complete the saddle. The seat is made from suede to provide a little more grip. It was really rewarding for us to complete the project and it work so well. It was great to see how confident Lily now looks on her pony and we have received some lovely feedback from Emma.”
Lily has had her new saddle since the end of January. “It has really helped her position,” explained Emma, “she can now rise better and from only doing a few strides in trot; we have now built up to doing figures of eight. Lily’s riding not only more enjoyable but also so much safer. We are now aiming to show this season perhaps up to county level. We competed at the weekend and Lily came first in her class! She gets so much enjoyment from riding, it’s so much better than being stuck in hospital.”
Photos by Dave Gaskell