English saddles came to Australia when the British brought horses and our traditional stock saddles are still made on a pattern similar to these early saddles. An English saddle is normally very flat with small knee rolls under the flap and the panels are lined with leather. However, this pattern needed some modifications to suit the harsher conditions in the early 1800s in Australia. The leather panels were soon discarded in favour of serge-lined panels as the woolen fabric has more insulating properties than leather. The small knee rolls were put above the flap to offer more security which was necessary due to long riding distances and the wide variety of horses being ridden. As early as 1810 there were wild cattle in the hills around Sydney so bigger knee-pads were needed to do the fast and wild riding necessary to bring the cattle in. Over time, it was found that if the pads were bigger and placed higher up the flap, it would save riders a long walk home when dealing with touchy horses and/or cattle.
Our own Mathew Murray traditional stock saddles have gone through a number of modifications through the years. Originally we were building the Mathew Murray “Burdekin Poley” which Mat designed when mustering in North Queensland. It was designed as a cattleman’s saddle with a bigger, shorter pad and deeper, wider cantle. In 2014, Mat won 1st prize in The Royal Easter Show with one of his “Burdekin Poley” designs.
When Mick Axsentieff joined our business, Mick and Mat spent a great deal of time re-designing our traditional stock saddles to be more of an all-round saddle with the panels evolving to offer the best saddle fit options across a range of horses. The current design has the pads as high as they can comfortably go on the head of the tree while still offering great leg support which allows the rider to feel secure and sit with good body position and have freedom of leg movement. The wool in the panels is designed to ride-down into the horse’s shape to make the saddle as close-contact as possible to offer the most comfortable fit for horse and rider. Finally, we looked at the style and lines of the saddle to make it visually appealing while also honouring the traditional style that has evolved in Australia.