ENGINEER Simon Hurdley’s lack of interest in sport has changed dramatically.

It all changed when he saw Mary King and the British eventing team of Zara Phillips, William Fox-Pitt, Nicola Wilson and Tina Cook take the silver medal.

Mr Hurdley, from East Road, Bridport , can claim to have played a small but important part in their triumph.

Mary King, who lives in East Devon, was riding on a Barnsby Xtreme saddle which he helped to develop.

It is built round a lightweight carbon fibre saddle tree.

Saddles are traditionally built on a steel and wood tree but the technology Mr Hudley helped develop with the new carbon fibre tree gives the added advantage of lightness with rigidity.

Earlier in the year Mr Hurdley and his partner Peter Sajic won an innovation award for their adjustable carbon fibre saddle tree.

Mr Hurdley will also be following the fortunes of the dressage rider Lee Pearson in the Paralympics, who also rides on a Barnsby saddle.

Mr Hurdley said: “Mary King is sponsored by Barnsby and we work for them and have been for more than five years.

“We met Mary King when we won the innovation award in March.

“She rides the most expensive of their saddles and she’s used it for a long time. She wouldn’t ride our new one with the adjustable saddle tree because she is rather superstitious and she didn’t want to get on to a new saddle.”

Mr Hurdley, who is 70 this year, is hoping his new tree made from a thermoplastic carbon fibre, which can be manipulated under heat to fit any horse, will revolutionise the saddle industry.

He and Mr Sajic have been working with one of Britain’s oldest saddlers, Barnsby, based in Walsall, to develop the tree, which can be adjusted in 20 minutes.