I was at Beval’s in New Canaan yesterday and I saw a beautiful and odd-looking saddle on a saddle rack by the door.  It was a Butet, but unlike any saddle I had ever seen before.

I’m a Butet fan from way back, and I’ve bought both a Butet dressage saddle (flat, brown, calfskin, close contact, light) and the hunt saddle that George Morris endorses, which I got when it was $2000 less than it is now and known as “The California.”

This new Butet looked like some curious cross between a trail saddle and a jumping saddle. It sat on a pad embroidered with the word “Pratique.”  I had to ask what it was.  Beval’s manager told me that it was a brand-new design, that she’d been to France to see it, and that they were very excited about it.  It was a “Practice” saddle, designed to help riders perfect their seats.  Zut alors!

If I had unlimited funds and several schoolmasters to give lessons on, I’d definitely buy this saddle.   It’s even more minimal than the close-contact saddles of yesteryear with their flat seats, lack of blocks, and lack of knee rolls (just like the Crosby Equilibrium that’s in my tackroom at home).

While it would be conceivable to construct a saddle similar to the Pratique from a saddle bought on ebay, it would have to be a forward-seat flat saddle with long billets and it would be quite the project for my Yankee-Irish horsewhispering boyfriend, despite the fact that he owns a copy of The Working Saddler’s Handbook as well as an antique stitching horse.

So for now, I’ll forego Butet’s Practice (and any facsimile) for my own traditional practice. I’ll keep dropping my stirrups and asking my students to drop theirs, and we’ll all work on perfecting our positions the old-fashioned way, on the flat and over fences.  Hint for dropping your stirrups:  pull the leathers down so the buckle isn’t under your leg, then cross your stirrups over the withers.  Or just pull off your stirrups alltogether.  If you can get on the lungeline and have your reins taken away, all the better!

Butet produced a video of a rider Practice-ing:

I’m not impressed.  I hope this is a “before” video.  I see an unsteady leg, an inability to sit the canter (bang! bang!), and the all-too-common and unappealing piston seat, which some refer to as “posting the canter.” Unfortunately, neither Butet’s new saddle nor any saddle, can fix that.  Only better biomechanics can.

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