New to halfbreed saddles?

Browse the following articles for interesting information designed to help you make a well informed decision when choosing a saddle.  We have also included quite a few topics we felt would be helpful for those customers new to halfbreed saddles, such as how to set up your girth for the first time, how to check the saddle fit on your horse and how to adjust the fenders.

For any further questions you may have please give us a call or email us. Click here for our Contact details »

How do I take a wither tracing?

How do I take a good Wither Tracing?

This Guideline will explain how to take a good wither tracing and send it to us by email.  

If you do this we can make a corresponding wire and use it to assess the likely fit of a variety of our saddles. We explain how we do this so that you can do the same for other saddles that you might be considering. 

Also included is some discussion on the issue of correct saddle placement.  This is discussed in relation to positioning the tracing wire and the subsequent saddle for the best possible comfort of your horse.  The information has been provided for those readers wishing to better understand the value and limitations of wither tracings as it relates to better fitting saddles. Read more>>

What Girth do I need?

What are the important features to look for in a girth and how to measure for the correct length. 

Read more »

How do I set the Girth up correctly?

A latigo girthing system is a very simple and effective girthing method but if you are new to this arrangement, this information will show you how to set it up correctly the first time. 

Read more »

What is your Trials Policy on saddles and Tack?


Apart from occasional Sale items, we offer TRIALS on all saddles purchased directly out of the saddlery ( ie not forward ordered).  Our aim is for you to get the very best possible saddle for you and your horse and to be really happy with your purchase. 

For full details of our Trial Policy  


What type of seat is best for me?

Find out what choices of seat there are in our range of saddles and what difference this makes.

Read more »

What sort of decoration is on these saddles?

See some close up photos of the patterns and hardware. 

Read more »

What is the right fender position?

I often get asked this question and my response is that it is up to you.  Often people like what they are used to and stick with that but other times when they trial a more balanced position I have had very experienced riders start to see the benefits and choose to purchase a saddle with a more balanced fender position. 

I personally ride all my horses, irrespective of the discipline (cattle work on our farm, steep hill work, starting a young horse or training my dressage warmblood) in a saddle with the balanced position.  I believe that this is more comfortable for the horse and it definitely helps me to be balanced and to sit still and not have to lurch forward every time I rise to the trot.  This ensures your hands are quiet and your leg aids are controlled and consistent.  I also feel WAY safer, when my feet are underneath me, not stuck out in front.  You try standing up and then trying to put both your feet out infront of you.

If you are reasonably supply and have sufficient core strength to maintain your upper body balance, then you may find you prefer the balanced position too.  I would not necessarily want to ride in this position in a western saddle as I do not feel there is enough in front of me to stop me going off the front of the horse in a bad trip or spook, but with the halfbreeds the poleys offer enormous security against falling forward and I strongly recommend that all riders try this position before sticking with the more traditional 'arm chair' position of the traditional stock saddle. 

Below is a good article I just found on the web, discussing this issue. 


I have also covered this further in this FAQ topic sheet  Why did you start making these saddles »

Why are they called 'Halfbreeds'?

The modern Halfbreed stock saddle

The modern halfbreed stock saddle has evolved from the traditional stock saddle that had saddle flaps, standard stirrup leathers and often steep, restrictive poleys ( knee pads).  These traditional stock saddles were built on an English tree. In contrast, the halfbreed stock saddle has been designed as an improvement on the traditional stock saddle by combining the very best half of the features of the Traditional Stock with the best half of features common on Western saddles.  The result is a saddle that provides more comfort for both the horse and rider.  

The halfbreed stock saddle is far more versatile than the original designs and is not just suited to working farms. It is now commonly used by riders in a diverse selection of disciplines from cattle work and trekking to endurance, dressage training and even pre-race training.

Most stock saddle makers in Australia now make the halfbreed design in far greater numbers than the traditional flapped and flock panelled stock saddle. 

Features taken from the stock saddle include:

  • the poleys ( thigh pads) for security
  • lighter weight
  • comfortable padded seats
  • stirrups on stirrup bars (also known as 'stirrup hangers') creating the common Australian term 'swinging fender' saddle


 Features taken from the western saddle include:

  • western trees that are built on bars which give great stability and spread the riders weight over a much larger surface area 
  • flat skirt panels at the back, rather than flock pads
  • fenders


The halfbreed saddles in the High Country Range have been developed to better suit the modern New Zealand riders requirements in terms of weight, gullet shape, seat shape and riding position. 

Why did you start making these saddles?

Why did we need a new range? The modern stock saddle, known as the Halfbreed Stock, is built on a western tree and has fenders unlike the previous stock saddles that were built on an adapted English tree and with flaps and stirrup leathers. The Halfbreed has taken over in popularity from the original Australian stock saddle in Australia and here in New Zealand, as it has proved to be a more versatile and comfortable saddle.  It is more stable and is kinder on the horse, due to its much greater weight bearing area. More and more New Zealand riders are also realising the benefits of the halfbreed saddle and trying to get hold of one. They know what features they want on their saddles, a good example of this is a really comfortable and balanced seat or maybe a crupper attachment. 

Then they start looking and soon find out how difficult it is to find the saddle they want, especially if they ride a horse that requires a wider fitting saddle.  I have found it equally difficult to source saddles that are of good enough quality that I am happy to sell them, of suitable fit for New Zealand horses, with the features people want and at a price they can afford. The only source of such saddles to date has been custom made Australian saddles.  No doubt that they might be what we are looking for but not many people could afford one as they would start at $3500 and go up from there! Hence my decision to start the process from scratch, design some saddles from the tree up, and provide all the best features of all the halfbreed saddles I can find, and provide it all in one product and at price you can afford.

Read more »

Where are these saddles made?

All the saddles in our High Country Range were developed here in Taupo. I made all the prototypes initially here at the saddlery on our farm near Kinloch.  Once I finalised the designs I managed to find a very good saddle maker in the US who was willing to make them for us.  All our saddles are now being built by this one saddle maker in America who established his business with his wife, to exclusively make our saddles for us, both the halfbreeds and western saddles.  He makes all our saddles out of Grade 1 American skirting hide.  I supply them with American made, high quality wooden trees that are fibreglass coated and are also made exclusively to my design.  Some of the exclusive stainless steel componentry I get made here in New Zealand, in order  to ensure the precise shape is replicated accurately in each batch.  

All our saddles are currently being marketed exclusively in New Zealand but are available for purchase by overseas buyers.

What trees do you use?

We only build our saddles out of top quality materials and on quality trees.  Our carefully designed trees are being built exclusively for us by a tree maker whose family have been making western trees for over 180 years!  Our halfbreed trees combined the bar and cantle shape of the western tree, with the pommel and poley shape required for a stock saddle. We worked with the tree maker to develop a range of trees with bars that sit beautifully on many New Zealand horses.  

We developed the cantles to provide a superbly comfortable seat shape that avoids the rider bearing their weight primarily on their pelvic bones. We developed the poleys with a height and angle suited to a balanced fender position and complete freedom to post to the trot, whilst retaining the safety features of a well shaped poley.

The prototypes were developed and we went through several versions, each time shipping the trees back here to test the fit on New Zealand horses until we were happy that the final range would provide a great fit on many horses. Just developing the trees took over 9 months.

The trees in our High Country Range are now being made in larger numbers, on a laser jig, to ensure guaranteed consistency in shape between all batches.  This can be a significant quality issue with handmade wooden trees unless the craftsmen is very highly skilled and can take days to make each tree.  The resultant tree generally being superb but significantly outside the budget of many of our customers.  

The wooden trees are coated with a strong, fibreglass skin not only for strength but to meet the New Zealand MAF import requirements. Fibreglass coated wooden trees are the trees of choice in the majority of quality western saddles, the alternative and more expensive option for a quality tree being rawhide coated wooden trees.  The labour involved in rawhiding a tree is considerable and again reflected in the increased cost.  

Wooden trees are used in the majority of western saddles in America.

Customer Support

We recognise that many riders find buying a saddle to be fraught with problems and often has not resulted in the outcome they wanted. We want to ensure that if you buy one of our saddles you will love it from day one and so will your horse.  We want to see more riders enjoying this style of saddle.  Their enjoyment and their riding skills often improve out of sight when they find a saddle which really fits and they feel secure enough to ride with confidence.  We have lots of customers who can vouch for this!!

​We recognise the great importance of not only providing these saddles but supporting customers and assisting them in their choice of saddle.  We spend many, many hours with each customer offering personal advice and assistance on assessing their riding style, what they want from the saddle and most importantly, what their horse needs to be comfy and perform to its best ability.

Most customers thank me over the phone but occasionally I manage to get them to put a sentence of feedback down in an email and these I have put on our 'Customer Feedback' page.  

If you would like to find out more about the saddles, which designs we have currently in stock or just want a chat about our saddles and accessories then please contact us »

We will work with you to provide guidance on how to take photographs and wither tracings to narrow down the options and how to choose which seat size you need, followed by one on one support when you receive the trial saddle, to help you check the fit on your horse and how to set up the girth and fender for yourself. 

Will importing a saddle myself save me money?

If you are comparing the cost of one of our saddles with the cost of importing a halfbreed saddle from Australia, this information is important for you.

If you think that an imported saddle is going to cost you less then make sure you check the full costs carefully as you may be in for a surprise when you get unexpected bills from Customs in Auckland. 

Once the saddle has got to Auckland Airport, you have paid for it and there is no option not to pay the invoice you receive from Customs, or you loose the saddle.  So you may end up spending a lot more than you had budgeted for, unless you are aware of the full costs.

What many people do not realise is the considerably costs associated with importing.  As a business I also face all these costs, which is why on seeing the comparative costs, people often think they can get a saddle much cheaper by importing it themselves and then end up paying more than they planned.

If the saddle proves unsuitable in size for you or your horse, you will have to onsell it as a second hand saddle and will almost definitely have to discount it to well below what you ended up paying for it. If you try one of our High Country Saddles you have the option to return it if it is not suitable, so remove this risk.  Even if it is perfect for you both, you may end up paying a lot more for it than you thought, unless you are aware of the full costs.

Below are two riders who also thought they would import their own saddles.  Sadly they now both have saddles that do not fit, they are having to discount them considerably in order to sell them and they probably cannot afford a replacement until they are sold.  Not a great outcome for anyone other than the saddlery who have made their sale and the Customs department!!

The saddles below were imported from two different companies in Australia and were different prices. You can see that the import costs are quite considerable. The second example shows a full breakdown of the costs.  In neither case was there anything wrong with the saddles.  In fact they are both good saddles and I have owned and ridden in saddles from both these manufacturers.  But like these purchasers, the saddles were not what I wanted when I got them.  Relative size, weight, fit and how they feel to ride in, are all quite impossible to ascertain from a photo!












Is it possible to soften new fenders?


High Country Saddlery halfbreed saddles have fenders which are made with high quality skirting Leather.  This is thick and strong but can feel quite stiff when you first ride in your saddle. I strongly suggest that you prepare the fenders in the following way, before riding for any length of time, for both your comfort and safety.

On a new saddle, fenders naturally hang so they lay flat against the sides of the horse rather than at right angles, where you want them when you are riding. This can cause hip, knee and ankle pain for some riders and can make getting your foot in and out of the stirrup difficult, when mounting and dismounting.  The angle of the stirrup also means you are more likely to find your foot comes out of the stirrup  and if they are laying flat against the horse it is difficult to get your foot back into. Sometimes it can be quite dangerous not being able to quickly and easily reinsert your foot into the stirrup so the following information explains how to very simply make your fenders nice and soft and permanently sitting at right angles to the horse.  Please do not set the fenders on a new saddle until you have decided to definitely keep it, but once you have made that decision try the following:

  1. Put the saddle on a rack or rail, somewhere that it can safely sit for a few days.
  2. Oil and wax the fenders well to encourage them to be soft and supple before starting this exercise.You MUST oil and wax them first to lubricate the fibres.If you bend them when they are dry the leather can crack and they will not take soften or take a flex anywhere near as effectively.
  3. Once fully oiled, work the leather in your hands.Flex the widest part in EVERY direction by rolling it up one way, then reverse it and roll it up the other way, both across the width and up and down the length of the widest part, until it becomes very soft.The more you work them and stretch the fibres gently, the softer they will become.This technique avoids you having to ride with stiff fenders for months before they soften.They can be soft from day 1.
  4. After softening them, turn one of the fenders to the position you want it to sit at (ie rotate the front of the stirrup out towards you, the way you would to put your foot into it).Then continue turning it another quarter turn and put a pole through the stirrup.A pole such as a broom handle works well.
  5. Push the pole through the stirrup and under the saddle, ready to put the other stirrup on.
  6. Go around the saddle to the other side and again twist the stirrup out and around a full half turn until you can get the pole through this side as well.

See the following photo. The result should be both of your stirrups turned like they would be when you're riding the saddle, with the pole holding them in position.




Hanging a weighted bucket (containing a bit of water or sand) in the centre of the pole, can also help the leather take the bend more effectively.

After the stirrups are trained, you can keep them in this position by putting the pole back through your stirrups when you're not riding your saddle.

Depending on differences in leather and other factors it usually takes a couple of days to a week for your stirrups to become trained to stay in this position when you're riding. If the saddle is in a warm position so that the leather is softer, the fender will take this new position quicker than if it is cold. Oiling and working the fenders before hand, as described above, will also speed things up.

If you want a really strong and very quick set then sponge your fenders thoroughly on both sides with warm water and then set them with a pole and leave them to dry.  This method avoids the need for the flexing.  Once the leather is dry and set, oil it thoroughly and wax on the back of the fenders as this is the part that will frequently get sweat salts on from your horse’s flanks.




My horse has a short back, can these saddles safely extend past the last rib?

I get asked this question regularly, by people who are coming to halfbreed saddles from English saddles.

The simple answer is YES, but there are provisos.  If you are any larger than a 10-12 year old child then the western tree that you need in your saddle will not physically fit on your horse's back without extending past its last rib.  Yet for many years people have ridden in western saddles, for long hours, with their horses showing no consistent detrimental effect from carrying weight on the loin region (over the kidneys and soft musculature behind the 18th rib).  How can this be so if the 'last rib rule' is correct?

The pertinent point is that any pressure back past the last rib wants to be minimised by ensuring that the rider's weight is spread over the largest part of the underneath side of the bars as possible and the tree has adequate flare on the underside for the horse that is carrying it.  

If your horse has a steeper than 'average' rise to its spine, from the centre of the saddle to its croup ( standardbreds commonly have a slight 'hump' here) then it is essential to check and make sure there is adequate flare at the back of the bars so that they are not pressing down hard when you slide your hand in at the back.  

A well balanced rider's weight will be concentrated under where they sit, which is forward of the cantle and significantly forward of the bars that extend beyond the last rib. However, some riders sit with their legs forward and leaning back, thus putting their weight more on the back of the saddle; this creates additional pressure on the back of the bars and the loins and can result in a sore horse in its loin area.  In this situation a horse can be made sore by the rider whether or not the saddle actually fits.  It is very important to centre your weight in the saddle, with your feet underneath you, just as they are when you are standing and balanced on the ground; this ensures that you are balanced and have an independent seat ( don't need to hang on the reins or horn) to remain balanced.  It also ensures that your weight is centred in your saddle and this maximises the chance for your weight to be spread evenly over the full length of the tree, from front to back. 

I am sure plenty of readers are disagreeing with me here so don't take my word for it, there are vastly more experienced tree makers and saddle designers out their whose opinions you can rightfully respect far more than mine.  Please have a read of the following articles for just two of their writeups on the topic:

This one is from Rod & Denise Nikkel, some of the most widely respected and top western tree designers in the World. 


The following one is a good English saddle maker's opinion on the topic.


I hope you find these interesting.