View Full Version : Where to begin-dressage saddles

Jan. 9, 2008, 05:55 PM
Although I have been attempting "dressage" for some time now, I have always ridden in all-purpose saddles. Now I am thinking of investing in a dressage saddle, but have no idea where to even begin.
What brands/models are recommended?
How do sizes run?
Any other things to think about?

Sanely Eccentric
Jan. 10, 2008, 12:26 AM
I continue to be enthralled with my Schleese dressage saddle since buying one last summer and highly recommend you check out Schleese saddles. (www.schleese.com) Jochen fitted myself and my mare with the saddle best suited for us and I must say it was totally worth the money! My mare is happier and works better and I still find it amazing how easy it is to keep my position with this saddle. I love that it has an adjustable (by fitter) tree and a lifetime guarantee on the tree so as my mare changes, the saddle can change with her.

With that said, I would also suggest that you try every saddle you can borrow, research online (this is a good spot for saddle opinions :) ), talk with tack shop folks, talk with trainers, and listen to your horse. Good luck!

Jan. 10, 2008, 05:54 AM
Go to your local tackshop and sit in everyting. Every opinion you're going to get here is going to be different, as people have different tastes, riding styles, riding abilities and anatomies. You might really like big thigh blocks, or you might hate them. You might like a DEEP seat, or you might like a little shallower one. And there's nothing wrong with any of those options - just your preference.

Once you've identified some characteristics that you like, find a saddle fitter who can help you pick one that will also fit your horse. If you're on a budget, be sure to try the tack shop's collection of used saddles. Better to get something used and hire a saddle fitter than to get a new saddle and go at it alone. Good luck!

Jan. 10, 2008, 06:19 AM
Yes, it's important to try a bunch out. Everyone has different preferences. Once you determine what you like or don't like you can be more easily directed.

For example. I like a very narrow twist (I have tiny hips), a deep deep seat and a good sized knee roll. I have a Prestige and a Legacy, I also like Kieffers, Schleese and some Albions. I can't stand Passiers, Stubbens or Countys. I've gotten to the point now where I can pretty much look at a saddle and tell if I'm going to be comfortable in it or not.

Try a bunch out!

Jan. 10, 2008, 06:39 AM
Thanks everyone. I will get on the move. Those are all great ideas. I briefly went on the Bates website last night, and was surprised to see how DIFFERENT each dressage saddle was.:confused:
Sabovee. I love your ottb website! As soon as I find my credit card, I will be back!!!:yes::yes:

WB Mom
Jan. 10, 2008, 06:44 AM
Not to hijack, but if I ride in a 17.5 close contact saddle, what size dressage saddle should I ride in?

cosmos mom
Jan. 10, 2008, 08:37 AM
I would look at 18" to 18.5" dressage saddles.

Jan. 10, 2008, 11:21 AM
Definitely sit in some.

But it also helps to know what would fit your horse first too... before *you* fall in love with a saddle that has no chance of your horse loving...

Is the horse wide? Narrow? Lots of withers? TB dip? Flat back? Croup high?

A couple of folks here will really be able to narrow down choices for you based on info like that.

I would tell *anyone* looking at saddles for any horse that is not narrow (i.e. medium on up) to look at Duett saddles. Outstanding quality for the money. But also used older 'dependable' brands like Passier, Stubben, Kieffer, Prestige can be a great way to go.

Classic Saddlery used to have a link to how to test if you have a flat or slanted pelvic floor. That's important to know too. Kieffer's KILL me. Spirig's leave me almost unable to walk. Both are *excellent* saddles--but not for me.

Depending on how your 17.5 CC fits you, 18 or 18.5 is about right, or, possibly a 17.5 with a VSD flap, if you're in a 17.5 for the leg length. Don't forget seat size is more about thigh length than actual size of the fluffy part we sit on. ;)

I sure wouldn't be recommending a $3k + saddle to someone as their first, unless they told me their new PASSION was dressage and they wanted the best tool for the trade, and money was no object. Some of the Collegiate line, HDR, Duett, Thornhill and lovingly used big name brands will do the job quite well, and come in at $1500 or less. If you've got $3k +, then absolutely, Schleese, Spirig, Custom Saddlery, Hennig... those lists go on and on, and searches of this board will yield opinions. And great for you! But take recommendations here with a grain of salt, and don't be surprized when the glowing recommendations come with a very high pricetag. ;)

Jan. 10, 2008, 11:54 AM
Is the horse wide? Narrow? Lots of withers? TB dip? Flat back? Croup high?

What is TB dip?

Jan. 10, 2008, 11:59 AM
It's a phrase that probably 'dates' me terribly.

We call a "TB dip" the kind of back that has high, well defined, long withers, a dip behind the withers (where the saddle goes) and then a slight upward slope to the hips. Hips usually are *not* higher than withers (that's another saddling issue entirely!)

It has advantages and disadvantages. Saddles stay put--so they better fit. Tree generally needs to be more curved, and gussets sometimes don't work at all on this type of back. A cutback pommel can be very helpful.

Jan. 10, 2008, 12:08 PM
I want to get a dressage saddle too ...

But you can do dressage in an AP saddle.

You may be more comfortable in one, because the flaps on a dressage saddle will feel really different after being used to an AP. I would suggest trying some that have a seat similar to your favorite AP seat, and then going on from there.

What kind of AP do you ride in?

Jan. 10, 2008, 12:29 PM
I have a tb who is still growing and bulking up (as much as tbs can). I currently ride the wintect a/p 2000, and like it.

Hampton Bay
Jan. 10, 2008, 02:35 PM
If you like the Wintec and it fits your horse well, then I would start with a Wintec or used Bates. See if you can find one to sit in, and if you like it, take one on trial for a week.

As for the pelvic floor, I think I am the one who pointed PintoPiaffe in that direction, so I will explain it to you too. I contacted Custom Saddlery about some fitting issues I had myself, and they helped me immensely.

Sit on a hard chair with your knees a bit more than shoulder width apart, like you were on a horse. You want to sit up like you would if you were riding dressage- back flat, shoulders back, pelvis neutral (NOT sitting on your pockets!!). Find the spot in your jeans where the four seams come together, and see how many fingers you can fit between the chair and that seam. One or two is a normal pelvic floor, and three or four means you have a tilted pelvic floor.

That will be important because if you have a tilted pelvic floor like I do, some saddles will make it impossible to sit up in. I simply cannot sit up in the canter in certain saddles, Bates Caprilli being one of them. The Kieffer I had was much better for me. But PintoPiaffe said that the Kieffer killed her, likely because she has a flat pelvic floor so the pommel of the saddle shoves the pelvis backwards, making it painful to try to sit up.

However, I can sit up in the canter in my Bates Event, not because the pommel fits me better than the Caprilli, but because the seat is flatter and because with my stirrups shorter, I can pinch with my knee and brace off my stirrups some (bad, I know). So, the way you ride in your Wintec A/P *may* not indicate that it really fits you, just that you can better cope because the stirrups give you something to brace off of. Hence why you need to sit in a bunch of saddles before you just go and buy one.

Jan. 10, 2008, 04:46 PM
Once again, I am overwhelmed by dressage...:confused::confused::confused:

Jan. 10, 2008, 05:53 PM
Learn something new everyday!!
So Hapmton Bay, according to my crotch seam :lol: I have a tilted pelvic floor like you. I'm on the marked for a saddle too, so what kinds have you found to fit this conformation? Thanks!

Jan. 10, 2008, 06:18 PM
take your time - try lots - go to a tack shop that has consignment saddles that you can take home and try out.

I recommend that if you have a dressage coach you have her evaluate the saddle for yourself and your horse.

We had a saddle fitter out for two dressage saddles because we bought them new - we were looking for a while and couldn't find one for my horse and my son needed a 19" so we had to order because there was no way we would find a used one that size.

For my younger son we looked for 6 months - tried many saddles - brought them home from tack shops only to take them back again because our coach didn't like it.

Finally I put a desparate plea on emg - a canadian forum - asking anyone if they had a 18" dressage saddle for my son. As luck would have it someone local to us had a schleese that was for sale and our dressage coach actually knew her. She brought the saddle over and we tried it out. Low and behold it fit the large pony and my son perfectly. I am thrilled and she was happy to sell the saddle as she is getting married.

So glad to have finally found him one and he is thrilled to be riding in a dressage saddle now that he is really beginning to work on level 1 and 2 movements as well as eventing. We also have a clinic coming up with one of the pan am team members so he is really happy.

Austin Rider
Jan. 10, 2008, 06:31 PM
If you like the Wintec 2000 and it fits your guy, try the Wintec Pro dressage saddle. I like mine a lot.

Jan. 10, 2008, 08:10 PM
I second the thought that you need to be really clear about the size and shape of your horse's back and shoulders. It really sucks to fall in love with the way a saddle sits to not have it fit your horse. I think one of the things you'll find is that the fit to the horse is more specific with a dressage saddle than a AP saddle.

Then... try and find a tack shop with a lot of new *and* used saddles. Or a trade show. Or a competition/event with a lot of vendors. I got lucky that when I was shopping for a new saddle I went to Rolex, and got to sit in a boatload of different saddles. Found out that I have a really long thigh, so I don't like a big knee block. Also that I have a tilted pelvis, and like a narrow twist. By their nature, dressage saddles sit the best when they really fit you well. AP saddles are just more forgiving, IMO. And sizes can be very different brand to brand and even model to model. I am riding in a County that is a 17.5, but just tried a Custom Advantage (which I loved, BTW!) that I would have to have a 18.

Hampton Bay
Jan. 11, 2008, 02:55 AM
Learn something new everyday!!
So Hapmton Bay, according to my crotch seam :lol: I have a tilted pelvic floor like you. I'm on the marked for a saddle too, so what kinds have you found to fit this conformation? Thanks!

My personal favorite, if you have a larger budget and are patient, is a JP Giacomini. They are just heaven! I adore mine, and if it doesn't fit my young stallion, I think I will just have to sell the stallion, as that is how much I love the saddle.

I had a Kieffer that fit me very well, but my mare is not a big fan of wool flocking so it had to go. Passier has been nice to me. I rode in one Albion that was very comfy, but a bit too much to hold me in one position. I am a minimalist.

Avoid Bates, Barnsby, Stubben, and absolutely anything with a deep seat. The flatter the seat, the better, because a deep seat will push your seatbones up, thus tilting your pelvis forward. An older, used saddle will likely be a better choice for just this reason. Deep seats have only become popular in recent years.

something like this:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Passier-PS-Baum-Dressage-All-Purpose-Saddle-17-5-Med_W0QQitemZ200190608995QQihZ010QQcategoryZ47282Q QssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

I also sat in a Courbette Magic Dressage saddle that was very nice for the price. I don't know how it would have ridden, but if I were looking I would give it a shot. The leather is nicer than anything else I have seen under $1000 new.

Jan. 11, 2008, 08:41 AM
i sat in an hdr pro lexus and it was a nice saddle the lady from classic saddlery said it was a prefect fit for me i will be ordering it this spring

Jan. 11, 2008, 05:08 PM
Thanks hampton bay! Good advice. Unfortunately right now I'm looking in the $1000 or under range, but I'm sure I could find most of those brands used for that.

Jan. 13, 2008, 04:00 PM
I have a tilted plevic floor as well which is why I have had to sell both of my Bates saddles - dressage and cc.

A flatter seat does not work for me though. I had a Schleese Robert Dover a couple of years ago that fit me perfectly and it had a very deep seat. Wish I hadn't sold that saddle. :(

Find a tack shop and sit in as many saddles as you can. Let your legs hang loosely and watch how your legs hang. they should lay comfortably on the saddle without your knees rotating outward.

Jan. 13, 2008, 10:13 PM
If you have a Wintec and you like the tree, the Wintec dressage model (not positive of the actual model name) has a really nice tree. However, I would recommend a leather saddle because of the traction that it will give your seat if you keep it conditioned properly. Sommer (Theo Sommer) makes several less expensive, but beautiful saddles in a price range of maybe 1700 or so. These would be their "miniumulist" saddles with a very narrow twist and one or both have a mono-flap situation. They come in various tree widths for your horse. They have a very flexible tree.

Cielo Azure
Jan. 14, 2008, 09:56 AM
We recently bought a Bates Innova. WOW!!! What an amazing saddle.

I just can't even describe the difference. Legs are put in exactly the right place. Hold the body just right. But the legs have total freedom. It allows me to concentrate on the horse, instead of my body.

When you are trying saddle at a saddle shop, just sit in one. You will be amazed.

Mar. 31, 2008, 12:24 AM
If you have been riding dressage in an AP a dressage saddle will be very different. Trying to ride a dressage position in an AP is fighting the saddle. It is much easier to ride dressage in a dressage saddle. As to fit it maybe that your horses back will make the decision for you. I just bought a new Thornhill. I used a saddle fitter (www.saddlefitter.com) and of the makes she carried that was the one that fit my horse(an Irish Draught) and I found it comfortable as well. I have a friend who used the same fitter and another saddle make fit her Irish Draught better. A saddlefitter will not carry all brands of saddle and if they can find something to fit it will be from the brands they carry. We did have another saddle fitter come out and she clearly didn't know what she was taking about and had horses unhappy with her choices. Ask around in your area for fitters. I think it would be a good experience to attend several fittings of other to learn the lingo and see what all the fuss is about. PatO

Mar. 31, 2008, 12:30 AM
Sitting in saddles is so much better than just guessing. We just bought a new Wintec Pro Dressage, and we'd sat in tons of other saddles before we decided on that one. It was truly the most comfortable.

I lucked out on my Schleese, buying it on e-bay. Even the fitters acknowledged that I'd been lucky. It fits me, it fits my horse (well, it does now, after being flattened out and stretched!) and was a great deal. But, my horse is a special case- impossible to fit (xxxxxxwide). The new horse we just got allowed us to get an "off the shelf" saddle and so we could get the one most comfortable for us.