We thought we’d begin a company blog to keep our customers updated about us, our products, services, news and events. You may be noticing changes like the fact we are beginning to consolidate our Facebook pages and blogs so that we can better keep all of our customers updated more easily. Please bear with us, as it will take a little time.
We weren’t sure where to start with our company blog so we have decided to start with our full history as we get questions about the company history, our saddles and their design. We apologise for the length of our first blog post, but we get so many questions we really wanted to provide you with a full picture of how we got to where we are today. We promise our future ones will be much shorter!
AH Saddles Ltd and Native Pony & Cob Saddles
Andrea Hicks is the owner of AH Saddles Ltd, which underwent a name change in 2014 from Native Pony & Cob Saddles Ltd. We changed our name from Native Pony & Cob Saddles to AH Saddles Ltd because, whilst our saddles had gone from strength to strength, the name Native Pony & Cob saddles had become too limited. Andrea’s new designs are working so well we now fit a much wider variety of horses. We still specialise in saddles for native ponies and cobs, it's just that we have extended our range with a much greater choice of models. Andrea has been able to improve and further our collection as she now incorporates more tree and panel options than ever before. We even have an exciting new array of specialist saddles with adjustable trees that we hope to develop as a range in their own right. All our saddles are made by master craftsmen in England using top quality English leather. They are of high quality and are made with superb attention to detail. All the staff at AH Saddles take great pride in the work that they do and at our heart is the goal to provide both you and your horse with the ultimate in comfort and customer service. As this blog progresses we plan to gradually introduce you to all of our team. We start with Andrea as she is the owner, the saddle designer and the place where it all began.
Andrea’s first introduction into the horse world came when she started riding at 6 years old (if we exclude the rocking horse she treasured at age 2). She instantly loved riding and could not help but fall in love with the two Welsh mountain ponies she started to ride at the Vowles Riding Stables in Weston-super-Mare called Sneezy and Blue Eyes. By 10 she was riding regularly and didn’t like any hindrances to her, or her pony’s enjoyment of the sport so she became rather frustrated when she experienced a problematic ill-fitting saddle. Not one to be set back by difficulty, Andrea decided to gain an understanding of why the saddle would not fit. This caused her to take the saddle apart and started her interest in saddle design and saddle fitting.
By the time Andrea was 18 she was buying and selling saddles and learning how to saddle fit. By 1990 she had started her first company called ‘Andrea's Saddles’ where initially she simply bought and sold second-hand saddles. However, she really struggled to source wide fitting saddles for large native ponies and cobs. Big wide saddles (xxw fits) were really difficult to find, but requests for saddles and for saddle fitting these extra wide breeds were increasing as they had become more popular to ride. To resolve a growing problem she began experimenting in designing her own saddles using tree types and panels better suited to cobs, extra wide and extra extra wide breeds. She excitedly took her designs to the heart of the British saddle making industry, Walsall, where she found master craftsmen and had them made. She steadily started to make, supply and fit her own saddles alongside the second-hand ones she sourced. She soon found it easier and better to fit extra wide breeds like cobs using her own newly developed saddle designs.
The Native Pony Saddle Company
Due to her increasing accomplishments in saddle making and saddle fitting in 2002 Andrea started a business with her then partner Dean Woodward. Together they set up a new business called Saddle Exchange. While working for Saddle Exchange Andrea was approached by Hayley Hyde-Andrews who owned "The Native Pony Saddle Company" that specialised in saddles for native ponies. The range of saddles that Hayley offered bridged a gap in the market and thus Saddle Exchange bought the name and some stock. Saddle Exchange became Saddle Exchange Ltd in 2003.
Pictured is the initial proposed contract from Hayley Hyde-Andrews to Andrea Hicks for the sale of"The Native Pony Saddle Company", which was later amended to also include Andrea Hicks' then partner Dean Woodward.
Through Saddle Exchange Ltd Andrea Hicks and Dean Woodward also sold a new additional range called "Comfort Saddles".
Saddle Exchange Ltd
In 2010 Andrea Hicks and Dean Woodward parted but sadly, as joint directors of Saddle Exchange Limited, they were unable to agree on how to take Saddle Exchange Limited forward. Saddle Exchange Limited also ceased trading in 2010. We apologise for any customer confusion that started to arise as both had equal ownership of Saddle Exchange Limited and so intially both continued to make saddles under the brand names "The Native Pony Saddle Company" and "Comfort Saddles." Andrea Hicks’ saddles were sold through Native Pony & Cob Saddles Ltd (owned by Andrea Hicks and now called AH Saddles Ltd) and Dean Woodward’s were sold through Woodward & Woodward Ltd trading as Saddle Exchange Saddling Solutions (a new and different company to Saddle Exchange Limited).
Although throughout the years "The Native Pony Saddles Company" range has been made by several different saddle makers, each bringing small changes to the look of the saddles, up to 2010 there was a single company point for assessment, quality control and design. From 2010 this was no longer possible as each company had its own quality processes in place, its own designer, own saddle makers and of course each had its own customer service and support.
Following 2010 Woodward & Woodward Ltd (trading as Saddle Exchange Saddling Solutions) used what had been the original saddle maker for Haley Hyde-Andrews and Saddle Exchange Limited until 2006, whilst Andrea Hicks used the Saddle Exchange Limited saddle makers that had produced the saddles from 2006 onward. At AH Saddles Ltd we feel that confusion is not good for the customer. We firmly believe customers need clarity in purchase for confidence and full customer support. For these reasons Andrea ceased using "The Native Pony Saddle Company" branding and "Comfort Saddle" branding. She no longer sells or designs for these brands. In 2011 she started Native Pony & Cobs Saddles Ltd (now called AH Saddles Ltd), where she has developed her own new set of specialist saddles for native ponies, cobs and wide horses.
Native Pony & Cob Saddles (now AH Saddles Ltd)
From 2011 Andrea Hicks started selling her own exclusive saddle designs through her new company Native Pony & Cobs Saddles Limited, retaining saddle design aspects over the years that she has found tried and tested to be beneficial such as wool flocking, 4 girth straps (where best suited for a horse/pony shape) and close contact panels (where it enhances and improves rider stability). She has carefully combined these types of features with the greater range of tree and panel options that have become available. Increased availability of tree size over the years relates to the general overall size in many breeds getting bigger due to improved feed and horse care, coupled with the ever increasing popularity of larger breeds. Each new model and its options has been designed to work well with a particular set of horse shapes. This means different models are suitable for different breeds, as they have been developed and constructed to resolve the frequently found fitting issues associated with particular horse contour type and width variation. Her designs are working so well, we now fit a much greater variety of horse types. This meant we needed to change our name.
That finally brings us to where we are today with the name AH Saddles Ltd. At AH Saddles Ltd we specialise in saddles for native ponies, cobs and wide horses. We are specialists as many of our saddles are designed to resolve the specific fitting challenges that come with native ponies, cobs and wider, more difficult to fit horse breeds and types. Our designs have been carefully crafted and developed to enhance security, stability and comfort, as well as to provide enhanced ease in the fitting process. Our aim is to provide you and your horse with the ultimate in comfort and to deliver the support and guidance you need to find the best saddle fit for your horse or pony. We are continuing to extend our range, and our goal is to help horse and pony owners with difficult to fit breeds avoid the problems they encounter in saddle fitting. Our well-constructed designs offer a comfort and ease of fit that you won’t find anywhere else. Coupled with our specialist models we have specialist saddle fitters to provide you with expert advice and guidance and really help you find the best saddle for you and your horse or pony.
For more information on the horse types that our saddles have been carefully constructed to cater for, please use the following AH Saddles Ltd website link:
Why Our Saddle Designs Are Specialist
If there is a horse that is not on the list that you find difficult to fit please let us know, we are always happy to try and help a customer resolve a fitting issue!
We hope our first company blog hasn’t been tiring to read, and has helped answer how we got to where we are today! It's been a long journey. Our new saddle designs are flourishing and feedback has been tremendous. We are really pleased to have been awarded the first Exmoor Pony Club Good Horsemanship Award for oustanding saddle designs, saddle quality, customer service and promotion of good saddle fitting. This means a lot to us as we work hard to achieve these aims, and really pride ourselves on our saddles and our service. We are also sponsoring the lovely Katy Marriott-Payne who has been providing us with excellent positive feedback on our saddles. We plan to add a customer testimonials page to our new website so that you can see how happy we make our customers, along with sections that show the differences between saddle fits and the models used. We are also gradually preparing to extend our distribution channels and have not long come back from an exciting time at BETA 2015, during which we had fabulous reactions to the quality and design of our saddles from top names in the industry (yes we'd love to tell you who they are but we weren't brave enough to ask permission). Please be patient if we don’t yet have someone as close as you would like in your area, customer service comes first and we want to be sure we maintain this as we expand. We would also like to gradually introduce you to the team that makes up AH Saddles Ltd.
All feedback is welcome, so please don’t hesitate to use our contact form to tell us what you think. We love to hear from you, and value advice from all of our customers.