A COUNTY Durham saddle company has broken into the tough American market with help from Trade Partners UK.

The Free'n'Easy saddle company has taken more than £40,000 in orders following a trade mission to the USA, part-financed by the Government organisation which provides support services for UK companies trading overseas.

Les Spark, a partner in the saddle firm, visited Northern California, Colorado Springs, Nevada and Virginia to demonstrate his technically advanced saddle, which results in greater comfort for horses.

As a result, advanced riders in endurance, dressage and Icelandic riding are now using the saddle in the States.

It is also having success with riders in the same specialities in Europe as well as classical, eventing and show jumping competitions.

An engineer by profession, Mr Spark came up with his design after struggling to find a suitable saddle for his own horse, which suffered from back pain. The prototype has been refined and is now fully adjustable to fit any horse.

The integral stability and comfort come from large flexible panels in close contact with the horse's back. They automatically align to the lateral and longitudinal curve of the back with every move the horse and rider make. And the rider benefits from a comfortable and happy horse, which is able to move freely.

Mr Spark said: "Without the financial help from Trade Partners UK, we would never have made it to America. We are ploughing most of our profits back into the business and could not afford to make such an extensive trip.

"Everything has worked out incredibly well and we now have well-known riders buying the product there."