High Country Saddlery is a small, family business run from our farm near Taupo, in the central North Island. (The photo above is taken from the deck of our little slice of paradise!) High Country Saddlery was established in early 2012, after I realised how hard it was to source a good quality, new stock saddle within New Zealand. I use my saddles working cattle on the farm, teaching horsemanship, training dressage and riding in the mountains of the central North Island. I found that prices were very high in the few saddleries stocking these saddles in New Zealand and there was very little choice of design.
Between 2012 and 2014 I sourced my saddles from a supplier in Australia. But with multiple people in the supply chain and the enormous cost of freight, importation duties and GST, these saddles were not good value for money. I felt we could sell better quality saddles at a competitive price if we developed them ourselves and worked directly with the saddle maker. This also meant we could include all the design features that New Zealanders wanted, many of which were are not found in Australian saddles. The key one being the need to find a range of saddles better suited to the wider, stockier shape of New Zealand horses. In 2012 one third of the Australian designed saddles we sent out on trial were returned as they just did not fit and we had no alternatives to offer. This left a lot of frustrated customers and meant a lot of unrewarding work for me.
Therefore, in 2013 I decided to develop a new line of saddles. Throughout 2013 & 2014 I worked on developing a number of improved trees with an established and highly respected manufacturer in the USA. I also worked here at the farm, on building a range of saddles to go on these trees that had the features New Zealanders were requesting. This was a great learning experience for me and proved extremely rewarding. Interpreting why one saddle was a great feel to ride in when another wasn't was a big challenge but I had done a great deal of research and had over 50 saddles from a variety of sources to compare at the time. Leather is the most superb material to work with and I am finding the finished saddle the most balanced, secure and comfortable stock saddle that I have ever ridden in, but my fingers took a while to recover from all the handstitching! Below are photos of my first two saddles in the unpadded one piece (Ngamatea) and the padded (Kaimanawa).
This design is proving to be a very good fit on many horses here in New Zealand and the seat shape, balance and comfort are getting extremely positive feedback.
In 2017 I added a further two designs to our range, the Kaimanawa V2 and the Stockman. These were built for riders wanting a little more security or a deeper seat. This is the prototype being used out on our farm.
The quality, long term fit and durability of any saddle is determined by the design and build quality of the tree. We are now building all our future saddles on these superb trees which we are totally confident will be completely symmetrical and consistently shaped as each component of the trees is machine cut to our exclusive template, out of timber which is then fibreglass coated for additional strength and durability. These trees carry the 5 year industry standard guarantee but you will seriously struggle to break one!
We always try to source items and parts domestically if we can, but have been unable to find a tree or saddle maker in New Zealand who could produce sufficient numbers of saddles and at an affordable price. However, some of the components are made here.
A small, custom saddle maker in the US is manufacturing the saddles for us and we now have a large variety in stock. By working directly with our saddle maker we are able to offer high quality saddles at a superb price.
We will do our very best to bring you good quality saddles, supported by friendly, helpful advice. Our aim is to help you experience the safety, pleasure and comfort of the modern New Zealand Halfbreed Saddle.