Sue and Graham Newell, and their son, J.D.
"It's exciting and exhilarating," exclaims Sue Newell of the launch of N2 Saddlery, the custom fitted saddle sales and service firm she and her husband Graham launched earlier this year. The Newells are familiar faces on the California dressage circuit, as well as in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Both are qualified saddle fitters, certified by the Society of Masters Saddlers in the U.K., and they've been fitting and adjusting saddles for horses and riders in these areas for over five years.
The decision to add to what seems an already crowded market by designing saddles themselves was prompted by the conviction that evolving needs were not being met. "Based on what we've seen in horses and what we've heard from riders, we tried to talk to saddle manufacturers to address the void we saw, but nobody wanted to listen," Sue explains. "So, we did it ourselves."
Built by master saddlers in Graham's native England, the five models that comprise the Newells' N2 Saddlery line address various forms of changing equine conformation. "The modern dressage horse is changing physically," Sue says. "We really feel like we have to recognize that one of the reasons we are seeing so many issues with horses' comfort and performance is that saddles have not changed over the years to accommodate the ever evolving conformation of the horse."
Of course, every horse continues to be built uniquely, but common denominators exist. "We are seeing the horses predominantly thicker through the base of the withers, with shorter, flatter backs because their movement is evolving to improve performance and becoming bigger and more spectacular," Sue shares. "Their shoulder has more movement, too. That's what we are finding here in America and Canada, even though a number of horses are imported from Europe."
Although they've had little time to devote to marketing, the saddles are already selling themselves, Sue says. The five models are built on different trees and with features that can be adjusted beyond that in infinite ways. The Vincitore has been particularly popular, she adds. It's a "true monoflap" designed to provide more room in the horse's trapezius area, around the wither and at the base of the wither. Its "fairly curvy" tree fits a variety of horses and a slightly wider gullet space is working out well for horses with "normal" and "wider" backs.
It's easy to find out what the riders think: "super comfortable" has been the overall reaction to all models, Sue says. And there's plenty of specific praise reflecting N2's ability to address personal issues in horse and rider. Jane Arrasmith, head trainer at Iron Horse Ranch in Malibu, offers one example:
"My horse Etoo and I are riding in an N2 Primus Buffalo Long Roll. I am so thrilled with this saddle. Being a short lady it sometimes is difficult to find a saddle that sits you deep enough for leverage but still allows you to get your leg on. Etoo has very large elastic gaits and my Primus allows me to sit right at the center of gravity to be my most influential. I have also found that Etoo's back feels super.
ometimes horses with these gaits get a sore low back because of how hard they push and sit. This saddle has me in a place where I can keep his hind legs organized but give him room enough to stay loose. I am so grateful for my new Primus."
Horses express their appreciation in their actions. "They move spectacularly in our saddles," Sue says.
The process of purchasing an N2 Saddle begins at the barn. Sue, Graham or one of their growing list of carefully selected and trained fitters evaluate the conformation of the horse first to determine which models to suggest. "We never bring out a model that we don't think is appropriate for the horse," Sue notes. "Because inevitably, that's the one the rider falls in love with!"
When the right model is selected, it can be adjusted in many ways to suit horse and rider. The priority is on the practical aspects that affect comfort and performance, but N2 provides myriad options to fit personal preferences, too. "We can do colors, patents and different leathers, embroidery," Sue explains. "All kinds of fun stuff!"
The fitting process at purchase is just the beginning of N2 Saddlery's relationship with its clients. A horse's conformation changes significantly, due to aging, training, recovering from an injury and other factors. N2 saddles are sold in areas where Sue, Graham or a member of their team can maintain the fit through these changes. They have the West Coast and Canada well covered and are currently bringing a Florida-based fitter on board. "Our long term relationship with our customers is huge for us," Sue asserts. "We are riders, horse lovers and we understand the trials and tribulations of dressage. We are not just selling somebody a saddle."
The Newells' vision for N2 Saddlery is to "stay ahead of the curve," Sue says. Being active members of the Society of Master Saddlers provides access to constantly evolving independent research that is a big advantage in that goal. And so is staying in close touch with their customers. "I think we can grow by being innovative and listening to what our customers and the horses are telling us."
For more information, visit www.n2saddlery.com.