All about tack

SA showjumper Lorette Knowles-Taylor needs equipment she can depend on when she rides her horse, Nissan Catwalk 22 in competitions. Photo: Fine Photography

Although equestrian athletes make showjumping look easy, there is a pretty exact science behind the sport, especially when it comes to the equipment used.

Fourways Review had the chance to speak to local experts to learn more …

“Keeping your heels down when riding is essential, a rider must be able to subtly shift their position to follow a horse’s movement without disturbing balance and centre of gravity,” explained Anita Haltmann, Kyalami resident and the managing director of Nu Angle, a market leader in the world of stirrups.

“To achieve steady balance, the rider must have their lower leg as still as possible and this is better achieved with the heel lowered.We started research [on stirrups] around 2007 and achieved the designs we liked around 2010.”

Haltmann added that their stirrups come in two designs with a broad footplate and a downward angle relative to the stirrup, both being patented by the company.

Its equipment is used by a host of top South African showjumpers including Lorette Knowles-Taylor, one of South Africa’s best athletes in the sport. “I have bad knees, so the angle in which the heel is kept supports both my knees completely and I am thus pain-free,” said Lorette Knowles-Taylor, who also co-owns Farnham Stables in Chartwell, Fourways.

“We are showjumpers, not ballerinas. Heels down is an important part of a correct riding seat and this encourages strength in your legs to support your upper body. On the flat, ideally, you would like your shoulders, hips and heels in a vertical line and then, in an ideal jumping position, you would like shoulders, knees and heels in an imaginary vertical line.”

Joint director at Espoir Equestrian, Mari-Lize Giovannoni, said that the horse is as much of an athlete as the rider in showjumping. “As any good rider would not be comfortable in boots too big, for example, the horse too cannot reach peak performance without the correctly fitted tack [equipment],” she said.

Having recently opened their second store in Kyalami Corner Mall, Giovannoni said she and her partner Carolyn Coetzee started the business as they identified a need for a quality product at an affordable price.

“Most of the high-end brands are all imported from Europe, and by the time it makes its way to SA, the price has escalated and is almost unaffordable. We saw this gap in the market and, with our backgrounds in the fashion industry, the horse-riding industry as well as marketing, we knew we had all the tools to make a brand succeed.”

Team Nissan showjumping captain Barry Taylor said a saddle is a lifetime of riding investment, and he recommended that you buy the best you can afford. “Firstly, it has to fit the horse perfectly in order to get the best out of the horse. Secondly, it must feel great for the rider – it’s like your favourite takkies,” Taylor said.

“When it comes to the bit, most riders think a bit is a wonder-piece of saddlery that’s going to fix all their schooling problems – this is very far from the truth.” Taylor instead recommended that riders first school the horse in a snaffle bit so that it can be ridden before worrying about biting.

Horses help to heal Diepsloot children through the Shumbashaba Community Trust

” It’s imperative to ensure that your tack fits correctly, which you can start learning about at a pony club or learn from a professional rider or groom. It’s a very important part of horsemanship that’s usually left to grooms.”

So whether it’s your stirrups, saddle, bit or clothing, comfort is key to success, keeping in mind that shopping smartly can save you money in the pricey sport of showjumping.

Ultimately you want your horse to be happy so that working as one becomes the norm.

The former SA number one, Lorette Knowles-Taylor, offered some sage advice, “Be kind to everyone, especially your horses; always stay humble, work hard and never ever give up!”

Robyn Kirk

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