Stübben leather goods have been a staple of equestrian sport since 1894, and they continue to
create products with two simple values in mind.

1. Comfort for the horse above all else

2. Value of product to the consumer

With those values in mind, Stübben's spring tree remains the number one reason to invest in their saddles over another brand. Their revolutionary design focuses on the comfort of the horse's back by allowing the tree to bend and flex with the horse's movement and properly absorb the rider's weight while transmitting the rider's seat aids through the saddle to the horse's back.

Stübben starts off with the frame of the tree.

The blue sections of the tree are made of a molded composite (not plastic, wood or fiberglass) that will not break under normal circumstances. Jim spoke of an instance where a dually truck accidentally backed over one of these trees at a show, bending it pommel to cantle, popping most of the rivets off the steel but left the composite unharmed!

Steel makes up for the rest of the framework, including recessed stirrup bars strategically attached to the points of the tree to distribute the rider's weight evenly across the horse's back.

Within the pommel, the steel plate designed to protect the horse's withers has ridges to add strength and help eliminate the possibility of a properly fitted saddle ever damaging the horse's spine.

Ridges for added strength and stability in the steel

In contrast to most saddle companies that carry a small assortment of tree sizes (usually Narrow, Medium, and Wide), Stübben's entire line has 7 different tree sizes (27 centimeter to 32 centimeter, and an additional extra wide) to accommodate everything from narrow, high-withered thoroughbreds to broad draft crosses and warmbloods. Most other companies try to fit a wider variety of horses with a limited number of trees by simply adding more padding the the panels. The best way to understand why the tree size is so vitally important to the horse's soundness is to consider a long distance backpacker buying gear. If you were to purchase a backpack for a long distance to carry heavy equipment, you would be advised to consider a backpack with a rigid frame in place to help distribute the weight of your gear across your back. A soft backpack with lots of padding and cushion will allow shifting and movement to occur, stressing the back and leading to soreness, even if it feels lighter and more comfortable in the store. However, if you use a backpack with a rigid frame, and light padding to help protect your muscles, the weight will be distributed evenly and allow you to go longer with less stress.

Once they have the molded composite, steel frame and variety of sizes, Stübben's next step is to tension the tree and add strapping.

To tension the tree, it is bent from pommel to cantle and strapping is strategically positioned on the frame and stapled in place. The whiter strip in the picture is used for the billets. Stability and longevity is added to the billet straps by attaching them in this manner. As depicted in the image, four main straps are used to tension the tree; two from pommel to cantle, and two across the deepest point of the seat (where the rider will ultimately sit). This allows the rider's weight to be properly absorbed by the spring of the tree as the webbing works with the steel frame. Also, once girthed down, the saddle can bend and flex with the horse's back and movement.

Once the saddle is placed on the horse and is properly balanced, the circle in the above image will become the deepest point of the seat. This is where the balance of the saddle becomes very important; a rider to far in front or behind the deepest point of the seat will not allow the saddle to distribute the weight across the horse's back.

Additionally, the cantle can move in a twisting manner, consistent with the horse's motion of his back, while staying stationary at the pommel and protecting the withers.

There are a lot of saddles out there, many will be very viable options for you and/or your horse. Some manufacturers forget that the main goal of creating this vital piece of equipment should put the horse's comfort above all else, and instead focus more on their profit margin. Stübben is strongly dedicated to designing, producing, and distributing quality products for both horse and rider where the horse comes first. After all, it's hard to stay in business for 120+ years by providing saddles and strap goods in barns across the world that don't live up to equestrian's expectations for quality equipment.

Text and images from blog

Check out the Neue Schule Bit channel on You Tube for heaps of information on each type of Neue Schule bit and how to fit your Neue Schule bit.

Neue Schule Bits, made from Salox Gold –
why might your horse like it?

Faster heating: the facts

There is good reason why the words COLD and STEEL go together so well. Steel is the one metal that we associate with being cold and hard. Joni Mitchell sings of "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire” (released on the album, "For the Roses”, 1972). But we use other terms for metals to help us describe the world; "hard as iron” and "bold as brass” come to mind and to this we might now add "kind as Salox”. Why is this?

Steel feels cold because compared to many materials it transfers heat from your body fairly quickly – so-called "thermal shock”. The problem is that all the while it is doing this, you feel the cold sensation in your hand (or mouth!). Salox transfers heat from the body up to 8 times more rapidly than steel so why do we think horses accept it more readily than steel?

Research on human subjects in 2006 (for those with access to the scientific literature see: Ploner et. al. J. Neuroscience, 26, 10879, 2006) showed that reaction times to pain applied in a sudden impulse lie between 300 and 500 milliseconds (0.3 to 0.5 seconds). A metal mouthpiece that remains significantly colder than the body for much longer than this will likely produce an aversionary response. Your horse will try to avoid the feel of the cold steel. This is the bitting equivalent of the so-called 'cold backed' horse who has become behaviourally conditioned to stiffen against the anticipation of the discomfort of an ill-fitting saddle. However, if the metal mouthpiece reaches body temperature much more quickly, and crucially if this is fast enough, the time taken to sense the mouthpiece temperature may be comparable to the heat-up time of the metal. In other words, by the time the sensory information has reached the brain the bit has warmed up and the horse decides that nothing need be done to avoid it.

But objects can also feel warm for the opposite reason. As we describe in the next section, if the thermal conductivity is very low and the heat capacity and/or density are high the heating and cooling rates are very slow and the body has time to slowly adjust to the temperature differences. This explains why plastic horse bits will feel warm in your hand even though they may have a very different temperature. Read on...

What material properties determine heating rate?

The answer is that it is a combination of three properties, thermal conductivity (l), density (r) and specific heat capacity (Cp). For any object of a defined size and shape we can say that heat transfer rate is determined by the ratio; l/r.Cp. Faster heat transfer occurs when l is high and both r and Cp are low. This ratio (the thermal diffusivity) is calculated for the materials we have discussed above and is presented in the table below.


Transferring this information into the rate of heating, the following graph shows the heating rate of a selection of metal bit mouthpiece materials. Clearly the temperature of Salox rises by far and away the fastest and we believe that this high rate of heating exceeds, or is comparable to, the reaction time of the equine nervous system. A comfortable temperature is reached almost before the horse makes a cognitive reaction to the change.

* Thermal conductivity of Salox measured to be 118 W/m.K (+/- 5 W/m.K) at the University of Durham, UK, using the method described in R.A. Fairs, Phys. Edu., 23, 378 - 379, (1988). Values for german silver, stainless steel and titanium alloy are calculated using literature data. "Plastic" refers to polypropylene as a typical polymer example.


Taste: what do we know?

Answer this question: "What does chocolate taste like?” Actually therein lies the problem here; what can we measure about the taste of anything and how do we explain the chocolate experience to each other? Science has defined four basic taste types; Sour, Sweet ,Salt and Bitter, that in combination, produce all the various tastes we sense. This is similar to the mixing of the primary colours, (for example, red, yellow and blue) to create subtle shades across the whole spectrum.

Sweet metal?

The idea that metals can be sweet is not new. Victorian charlatans added lead salts to bread when sugar was scarce and cases of lead poisoning of children licking lead salt-based paint (containing lead carbonate) were well known in the early part of the last century before lead-based paint was banned.

But, note what we just said: Lead salts are sweet - what do we mean? A 'salt' in this context means that the metal is in its ionic state (positively charged) and is available in this form for binding to the sensory receptors (taste buds) on the upper surfaces of the tongue. The lead metal on its own (not charged) is unable to bind to the taste buds so it would have to be converted to its ionic form to be detected as a sweet taste.

This brings us to that mysterious material, "Sweet Iron”. This metal, a form of iron containing a small amount of carbon, was found to be favoured by horses. Sweet Iron rusts readily, turning the iron into iron oxides; salts of iron. These salts then are responsible for imparting flavour to the metal.

Metals such as copper were later introduced into horse bit mouthpieces with the hypothesis that horses would enjoy the flavor that this imparts and once again, this appears to be the case for some horses. Once again however, copper metal needs to be in its ionic form, as the salt, copper oxide. The oxides of copper makes this metal available for sensory reception by the taste buds by changing to the slightly different forms of copper hydroxide; Cu(OH)2 and Cu(OH). These two types reflect the multivalent (different values of positive charge on the copper) states of copper and, as we show below, there are large differences in the solubility between the two.

In saliva, it is the solubility of these metal hydroxides that is perhaps the one measurable property that we are looking for. Saliva is an electrolyte, containing dissolved ions (carbonates, phosphates etc.) and although it has a pH of around 7 and is therefore neither acidic nor basic, pH conditions in the mouth can vary depending on a number of factors such as whether food residue is present or whether lactic acid is present. With this in mind, the table below shows a value known as the 'solubility product' of hydroxides of metals in water (pH7) and provides an approach to answering our question on taste.

Although these numbers may not be familiar, what they tell us is that iron (III) (ferric) hydroxide (on the right) is nearly insoluble compared to the corresponding iron (II) (ferrous) hydroxide. The two forms of copper hydroxide show a similar, but less dramatic, difference. Cu(II) (cupric) hydroxide is 40 000 times less soluble than its monovalent Cu(I) hydroxide. The more soluble hydroxides are therefore likely to be those that are available for receptor binding on the horse's tongue. In fact, copper (I) hydroxide is 40 times more soluble than ferrous hydroxide based on this analysis and it is this hydroxide, produced from Cu2O, that is more abundant at normal temperatures.


Isn't salivation the key?

We should just touch on salivation here, after all, Pavlov showed that dogs could associate with food by observing them salivate at the ringing of a bell. We make an assumption that salivation shows us that the horse is enjoying the taste of a bit and while we all know that a crunchy apple leads to a happy mouthed horse, the question over what is going on with salivation during riding remains open. We've been reading up on Hilary Clayton's work at Michigan State University and her study on salivation ( "Effects of different bits and bridles on frequency of induced swallowing in cantering horses", Equine and Comparative Exercise Physiology, 2(4); 241–244, 2005). This focused only on whether horses were restricted in their swallowing during performance riding and did not make a direct assumption about the taste of the mouthpiece, only that the mouthpiece might encourage salivation through a 'parasympathetic' nervous system response. It is too much of a leap to invoke taste as the sole trigger for this response. Horses that are comfortable may well be producing extra saliva - but, ridden without restriction and therefore swallowing this excess, may well not show it at the mouth.

What do we mean by "Oxidation" and why is it beneficial?

Oxidation naturally forms on the surfaces of metals, except, at normal temperatures, for gold and platinum and some others. Brown rust on sweet iron bits or the colourless protective chromium (III) oxide (Cr2O3) layer on stainless steel bits are both examples of surface oxidation. In Salox the surface layer comprises a mixture of oxides. The copper and zinc oxides are the more soluble among them but we have taken advantage of colourless and nearly insoluble (see table above) aluminium oxide (alumina, Al2O3) to restrict the amount of soluble oxides that your horse will ingest when using the product. Aluminium oxide helps to trap the more soluble salts inside the mouthpiece and limits the oxidation of these components††. In this way we help to minimise the amount of unintentional feeding of metal ion nutrients. As an additional bonus, the mouthpiece remains relatively free of coloured oxides which helps to reduce tarnishing.

Summary: The Three Key Benefits of Neue Schule Bits

- Salox Gold is faster to warm up than other sorts of metals.
- Promotes relaxed and faster acceptance and communication.
- Bits have a protective surface to minimise metal mineral absorption by the horse.

Stubben EZ Control Bits

Optimal adaptation through the unique bit-design - flexibility on the sides

• Enhanced effect with minimun pressure on the reins
• Allows gentle and sensitive aids
• Enables easier communication between horse and rider
• Top-class and professional show jumpers inspired us in the development of the EZ-CONTROL-BIT.
• Their horses (show jumpers) often have a very strong impulsion, making it difficult at times for the rider to bring the horse back before each jump.
• When using too severe bits however, horses become too cautious, resulting in a lack of speed and power in the jumping course.
• With the EZ-CONTROL-BIT we have developed a bit which is very effective and has a strong action on demand, yet positioned soft and comfortable in the horse’s mouth.
• The effect of the bit comes into action gently. When the horse accepts the bit, it lies smoothly between tongue and lower jaw.
• Only in moments of disobedience, when the horse resists the riders aid, the leverage action of the bit is initiated. As soon as the horse backs down and accepts the riders aid, the bit acts flexible and soft on the horse’s tongue and bars.
• This particular effect of the EZ-CONTROL-BIT has proved its worth also in the training of young horses. Horse trainers speak of a self-learning-aspect, because many horses begin to correct themselves as soon as the leverage action is initiated.
• The problem when horses become too strong in the riders hands and run away from the rider's aid occurs quite often, not only in show jumping. We have also had very good results in tests with children, who sometimes did not have enough strength to control their ponies when they were too strong or disobedient.
• With the EZ-CONTROL-BIT riders have a more effective impact on the horse, requiring less pressure on the reins.