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Posted: Nov 10, 2018 10:13 AM
Updated: Nov 10, 2018 10:32 AM

When Julius Caesar rode into battle during the height of the Roman conquests, it's likely his saddle looked more like a spatchcock chicken that its modern-day equivalent.

With four horns and no stirrups, its only similarity with the modern saddle was that it was made of leather.

In the 2000 years since, structural and stylistic changes to the saddle have seen it evolve to offer support, stability and comfort to both horse and rider.

"As you're galloping down to a meter sixty oxer (a type of jump,) you don't want to be thinking about your saddle," American showjumper, Lillie Keenan told CNN. " And I would say that's the best test for a perfect saddle -- that you're not thinking about it as you're riding."

READ: "He was a little rascal for sure!"

Keenan is one of the young riders competing in this year's Global Champions League competition, part of the New York Empire team along with top riders like Olympic gold medalist Scott Brash and her trainer, Cian O'Connor.

At showjumping's highest level, the saddles used by professionals are carefully fitted to suit each horse and rider. Saddle makers will measure the size and shape of the horse's back, including the length of the spine, width of the withers and their muscle composition.

They also consider the unique riding style and comfort preferences of each rider, using an array of gadgets and techniques -- from lasers to impression pads -- all with the goal of achieving the perfect customized fit.

For Keenan, a comfortable fit means adding knee rolls to support her leg, a slightly deeper seat and the use of a soft, yet durable, leather.

"It's critical that the saddle is really the connect between the horse and rider so that they become one entity, rather than it being the middle part between two individuals," she said.

Though the options for customizing a saddle can be endless, the basic structure had scarcely changed in the last 100 years -- until recently.

READ: Ben Maher roars to LGCT title

In 2005, Martin Ryan was finishing up his degree in industrial and product design. As a keen showjumper and eventer, Ryan wondered why the technological advances seen across other sports were lacking in the equestrian disciplines.

"I was satisfied with what I had in terms of saddles, but I knew no better," Ryan told CNN. His curiosity and passion for show jumping inspired him to go back to basics, and he spent the next few years researching horse biomechanics while designing and testing materials. And, in 2015, the Bua saddle was launched to market.

"Traditional saddles are great, they're tried and tested through centuries, but a horse moves differently to the rider, and the structure inside a traditional saddle is for the rider, and secondary for the horse," " he said. "I wanted to balance the needs of the horse and the rider better."

The foundation of most saddles starts first with a structure called a tree. It acts as the bones of the saddle, balancing the rider and allowing the weight to be evenly distributed across the back of the horse.

"A standard tree conforms to the seat of the rider, and then for it to accommodate to the horse, it has padding attached to the underside," Ryan said. "With the Bua tree, it's in two -- it's a tree for the rider, and a tree for the horse. And it's joined at the front, which means it gives it a natural suspension between the two."

The cantilevered tree in the Bua saddle is made from a composite material often used in aerospace engineering, making it lightweight yet durable. Traditional materials like leather, then make up the soft components that provide padding and protection.

Ryan is the first to call his approach to saddle making somewhat unorthodox. Especially when describing the modular technology that makes the Bua saddle a flexible and interchangeable option that can fit various horses.

Since launching, Ryan says that the reviews of the saddle have been surprisingly positive, with their most common criticism being that the aesthetic was too unique -- to put it mildly.

"We had a few comments from people saying it was ugly," he said. "But we do recognize that to make the saddle more mainstream we have to make the appearance a bit more conventional."

For the company, this means making saddles in colors already recognized and accepted across the sport.

Aesthetics aside, the company says it usually only takes one ride to convince the skeptics.

"The first reaction is that they say it feels a bit different but then after five minutes they find they really enjoy it," says Ryan, "and that the horse moves more freely."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 448268

Reported Deaths: 6013
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin931011480
Ramsey40016739
Dakota33072340
Anoka30999364
Washington20164228
Stearns17871187
St. Louis13690241
Scott1195496
Wright11614104
Olmsted1048475
Sherburne821365
Carver694836
Clay653280
Rice606868
Kandiyohi554371
Blue Earth541033
Crow Wing482774
Otter Tail457167
Chisago452732
Benton420186
Winona389646
Douglas374166
Nobles370846
Mower365529
Goodhue347958
Polk328658
McLeod325345
Morrison311744
Beltrami310347
Lyon302236
Becker284939
Itasca284543
Isanti282841
Carlton280043
Steele27379
Pine266713
Freeborn245321
Todd231730
Nicollet224636
Brown215134
Mille Lacs214246
Le Sueur210015
Cass207623
Meeker199733
Waseca189316
Wabasha17083
Martin170026
Roseau165416
Hubbard149338
Redwood139727
Renville137539
Houston135913
Dodge13474
Chippewa131332
Cottonwood127218
Fillmore12355
Wadena120116
Rock110212
Sibley10857
Aitkin108433
Watonwan10668
Faribault105916
Pennington99215
Kanabec97818
Pipestone94423
Yellow Medicine93714
Murray8815
Jackson85610
Swift83418
Pope7385
Marshall70215
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake63715
Wilkin6259
Koochiching59610
Lincoln4841
Big Stone4573
Unassigned43768
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3174
Traverse2503
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 305606

Reported Deaths: 4278
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45754449
Linn17795275
Scott15444163
Black Hawk13773236
Woodbury13016175
Johnson1211749
Dubuque11387150
Pottawattamie8992112
Dallas888671
Story869434
Webster469771
Cerro Gordo466768
Sioux455157
Clinton450361
Warren443938
Marshall427761
Buena Vista393429
Muscatine390477
Des Moines381841
Plymouth350368
Wapello344198
Jasper321959
Lee317130
Marion304952
Jones271349
Henry264330
Carroll255434
Bremer245048
Crawford231022
Boone218417
Washington217632
Benton209444
Mahaska193136
Jackson192031
Tama187757
Dickinson186026
Delaware173736
Kossuth173644
Clay168820
Wright164824
Fayette162322
Hamilton160029
Buchanan159923
Winneshiek155719
Harrison155162
Hardin154729
Cedar153219
Clayton151448
Butler148224
Page144715
Floyd139636
Cherokee139027
Mills136416
Lyon135332
Poweshiek132724
Hancock130224
Allamakee127928
Iowa125422
Calhoun12279
Grundy121226
Jefferson120724
Madison12039
Winnebago119429
Mitchell116234
Louisa115030
Cass113341
Chickasaw111612
Sac111215
Emmet110831
Appanoose110538
Union108822
Humboldt105519
Guthrie103024
Shelby102926
Franklin102418
Unassigned9310
Palo Alto9079
Montgomery85622
Keokuk85026
Howard84219
Monroe81218
Clarke7957
Pocahontas77611
Ida74630
Greene6927
Davis69121
Adair68820
Lucas6508
Monona64016
Osceola6409
Worth6113
Taylor5949
Fremont5126
Van Buren49712
Decatur4894
Ringgold4389
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Wayne41421
Adams2963
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