We speak to elite dressage rider David Shoobridge about all things Equipe.
David Shoobridge, one of Australia’s top Grand Prix dressage riders, is based at Salisbury, the equestrian property he built from the ground up in central Victoria, and from which he runs his very successful breeding, training and coaching business.
Taking selected students from the lower levels to Grand Prix, David and his team also occasionally campaign competition horses for a handful of lucky owners.
On the breeding side, Salisbury is home to some very promising youngsters courtesy of a herd of truly exceptional mares, and David’s four outstanding stallions: KWPN Toto Nation De Jeu, a combination of some of the world’s best Grand Prix stallions; Vittorio DS, the Australian Champion Hanoverian on Tour 2022 and the highest scoring stallion at the licensing; Maracaná, who qualified for the Bundeschampionat with a to die for score of 9.2; and DeLorean, a Premium Hanoverian stallion who won his Stallion Performance Test with a score of 10 for rideability and canter, and 9.5 for trot and character.
Underlying David’s considerable success is hard work, a carefully considered approach, and attention to detail. It underpins everything he does, and it’s one of the reasons why he chooses Equipe dressage saddles.
When choosing a saddle, he has some very specific criteria; “First and foremost, it’s got to be the right fit for the horse. And then we want a saddle that’s going to give us a really close contact between our seat and the horse’s back. The saddle is fundamentally one of the main mediums between us and the horse. So we need to ensure that we have a really clear way of communicating with the horse, and it’s absolutely imperative that we have a saddle that allows us to do that.”
When it comes to Equipe, it was the company’s approach to technology that attracted David. “It’s the way they apply the technology to their saddles that’s state of the art,” he explains. “It’s absolutely phenomenal. What we’re after is a really good surface area with the back and really good balance. We want to make sure that the saddle is as close and as comfortably fitting as possible.” And Equipe ticks all those boxes.
David has been riding in Equipe saddles for 10 years now, and over that time has ridden in most models, from the Emporio, the company’s entry level dressage saddle, to the Viktoria and Kalifornia, which are both built on a carbon fibre tree. While this type of tree has previously been very rigid and fixed, the new generation of Equipe saddles have fully adjustable carbon fibre trees that are not only very light, they also enable a closer fit.
But what if you have one of those horses for which fitting a saddle is close to a nightmare? Turns out that Equipe has that base covered too. “Part of the flocking system in the Equipe saddle has always been really high-quality hospital grade memory foam, and there’s an option with the new saddles to have flocking panels,” David says. “Riders with horses that are difficult to fit tend to head towards a flocking filled saddle, and now Equipe have developed a panel designed to cater for those really tricky horses.”
In his opinion, Equipe technology is second to none, not only allowing for a superior fit but also offering the option for you to customise your saddle. “And that’s really important too,” David remarks. “If you’ve got a rider with really long legs and a tiny bottom, you don’t necessarily want a 17 or 18 inch seat, but you might need the length of flap that those size saddles give – and Equipe saddles can be customised to suit every rider. The customisation is done at the Equipe factory in Italy. Once the saddle has been made specifically to order it’s flown out to the customer wherever they might be in the world.”
Currently in David’s tack room are a variety of Equipe models. When a horse is about to be ridden, the saddle chosen is the one that’s a good match for them. “It depends on the shape of the back and the fit. We most commonly ride our young horses in either Emporios or Olympias, and then the older competition horses in mostly Viktorias or Kalifornias.
If by now you’re thinking of investing in a new saddle, David has some sound advice, starting with ensuring you have a clear understanding of what you want from the saddle and what your riding goals are. “Next,” he says, “is to understand the shape and mechanics of your horse, the balance of their back, and the areas over their back where the muscle quality and density might change with work.”
And finally, chose a saddle that fits your horse like a glove and fits you comfortably too. “But,” David adds, “I would go for fit before comfort, because if the saddle fits your horse, then it will be comfortable to ride in. If the saddle doesn’t fit, then it’s not going to work for you or your horse.”
For the full range of Equipe saddles head to Trailrace, the sole importer of Equipe in Australia.