Christiane Yeardsley, of Narrawin Stud in Australia, has an interesting and diverse collection of saddles. The one pictured, for example, is a Maremma saddle from Italy. It is treeless - instead the leather is heavily stuffed with padding. The quilted floral pattern on the seat adds a decorative touch.
Since Narrawin Stud specializes in easy-gaited horse breeds, from the Paso Fino to the Icelandic, Christiane has many saddles specifically designed for these horses. Christiane says, "My goal was always to acquire functional equipment, and everything I own, I use."
I asked Christiane how she started collecting. She said:
"I acquired the first few interesting ones in about 2002. I've always had an interest in the horse breeds, riding cultures and equipment of other countries. I'm from a German background. When I first started riding in the Seventies, every self-respecting person there still had a Warmblood. The Icelandic horse and the lifestyle that it brought with it was just getting off to a roll. Equitana in Essen was just starting to feature exotic breeds, and I remember seeing Peruvian horses and gear; Spanish, Western and Camargue horses and saddlery for the first time. Ever since then, I was hooked.
"We had Haflingers when in Germany, and soon I was experimenting with fancy costumes and bridles but didn't have enough pocket money for fancy saddles. But the acquisition of an old and only partially intact German army saddle led to hours of fun in returning it [to useable condition]. I was also lucky to have friends who had lived in Afghanistan for several years and had brought back with them a selection of saddlery. I spent hours looking at their gear and used every opportunity to borrow and try things out.
"After coming to Australia in 1982, I spent several years just competing in various disciplines. I found Australia to be a land of horses, but no breadth of horse culture. Knowledge of 'other ways' of riding, horse breeds and gear was, and still is, very limited. I was thrilled to discover the Australian stock saddle when I came, and I still regard this type of saddle highly, using it daily when I start young horses. However, when I started working with gaited horse breeds (American Saddlebreds, Pasos and later on Icelandic Horses), I really became interested in alternative methods and equipment again."
I asked Christiane what's still missing from her collection. She said, "I'm particularly fond of Spanish/Portuguese saddlery, but love the variety of the South American gear that can be found. I would like to add a Camargue saddle to my collection. And then there is Asia! [...] I'm fascinated by the saddles of Japan and the stirrup design. My books about Samurai show several such, but frustratingly, never in enough detail to determine the rigging and other attachments. So much more to learn!"
Photos from www.narrawin.com, used with permission. Thanks, Christiane!