View Full Version : Dressage Saddle Advice Wanted! :)

Mar. 9, 2011, 11:31 AM
I am just sort of keeping a lookout for a good deal on a dressage saddle, but I need to narrow down which saddles would be best for me. It's not imperative that I find one right away or anything.

Heres the deal:

I grew up riding in close contact saddles.. now I ride in a "AP" which is really built and rides more like a CC with a deeper cushier seat. It's a Black Country Wexford. I love this saddle. I am also still comfortable in various CCs and jumping saddles.

The dressage saddle I have is an HDR somethingorother... I'll try to remember the model name. But regardless, the leather is rather stiff and I feel like there is SO MUCH between my horse and me when I ride in it, especially in the leg area. Hence, I never ride in it.

I would actually like to have a dressage saddle to work on flatwork in...

Anyways, my horse is pretty easy to fit and generally most off the rack wide trees fit him great. His topline is very "normal".

Any recommendations for sort of minimalist dressage saddles with deep (comfy?) seats that have nice soft supple leather?

Also, I am not blessed with long legs.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. There are no tack stores near me to try things and not much of a dressage contingent in my area...

Mar. 9, 2011, 11:54 AM
I also ride in a Wexford (which I love) and I have a Black Country Eloquence for that horse. I love the Eloquence - I think it's incredibly comfortable. I don't have a lot of experience with dressage saddles, so I can't say for certain it would meet your "minimalist" requirements. I also have short legs (I'm only 4-11) and this saddle works pretty well with my short legs.

I also have a Thornhill Danube for a different horse - I don't like this saddle, but it fits the very hard to fit horse, so I live with it.

Good luck!

Mar. 9, 2011, 12:01 PM
I bought a brand new M. Toulouse Aachen. I love it! Deep seat, and fits my leg great. My knee to thigh is longer then knee to foot, and it really fits me well. The knee block is not too large to restrict contact, but make me feel secure. I bought this saddle at Rolex last year and got a great deal. 18" seat fits true to seat size. Their tree sizes are a bit small. My guy take a med-wide, and i bought at x-wide tree and it fits him great. They are 900-1000 new, got it for 750 2 years ago.

Mar. 9, 2011, 12:14 PM
Kodidog, I will have to see if I can find something used. I don't have the scratch for another BC! LOL.. I bought two the summer before last. One for each horse. Too bad they aren't the same size. But I can always wait and save up, too. I think that might be the problem... the BC saddle I have is so awesome and comfy that I can't stand the HDR any more. I rode it in all summer one year while saddle shopping (before I got the wexford) LOL.

Cruisemom, I tried a Toulouse Aachen, sat in one at Rolex one year. I found the seat to be uncomfortable... the twist too wide or something. It was digging into my upper thighs. I also had a pretty bad experience with a different Toulouse saddle before, so I am a bit leery of them, but I do know a lot of people have them and like them.

Mar. 9, 2011, 12:17 PM
I hear you. I've been searching and searching for a used Eloquence for the mare that currently goes in the Thornhill. No luck so far. And sadly I have a 5 year old, that I need a jumping saddle for as well (would love a Wexford for her). My husband had no idea what kind of change saddles for 3 horses was going to cost. :eek:

Mar. 9, 2011, 04:16 PM
I looked... my current saddle is a HDR Rivella. It's wool flocked... fits my horse well and I find it comfy. BUT the flaps just won't seem to break in! And I feel so "far away" from my horse in it.

Mar. 9, 2011, 05:33 PM

Here is a used Eloquence for sale.

Mar. 10, 2011, 12:41 AM
Maybe silly question, VCT, but have you tried oiling your saddle? A light neatsfoot oil treatment is the first thing I do with a new saddle. Helps the break in and the saddle will wear better. Not familiar with HDR, but there are a number of saddle brands with a deep seat that will let you feel close to your horse. Prestige is wonderful if it will fit your horse. Custom Saddlery brands such as the Solo are nice. Trilogy and Albion are also quite nice. Most of these can be found used on consignment at a good tack shop, including some online shops that will let you take a saddle on trial. Trumbull Mountain is one online shop that is good. A monoflap saddle might be worth trying also.

Mar. 10, 2011, 01:08 AM
Hi Lateralwork,

Yeah, I've oiled it a number of times... the flaps just don't seem to want to break in! And it is very strange to me how I can't feel my horse as well in this saddle. It seems counter-intuitive to how a dressage saddle should be.. heheh. I've had the HDR for a few years now... I only rode in it alot that one summer when I was saddle shopping. But I rode in it nearly every day for 3 months or so... cleaned and oiled it regularly... and I oil it sometimes in the winter, too just for good measure. Its still stiff like the day I bought it. In fact.... it still looks completely brand new! LOL It's bizarre!

Thanks for the recommendations on brands, I'll look them up. I have worked with Trumbull Mountain before - love them. I actually called them today just to have a quick chat with them and got some advice. They are great. I just need to keep saving up, and looking for something used. May as well sell this saddle since I dislike it so much.

Mar. 10, 2011, 07:32 AM
I have always been a fan of close contact saddles as well, and when I began eventing it was hard for me to find something I liked because every saddle I tried had so much "stuff" under the flap. I settled for a Passier with small removeable knee rolls. Just last week (and 10 years later), I purchased a Stubben Tristan. I knew nothing about the Stubben dressage saddles, but I checked out their website (http://www.stubbennorthamerica.com/stu09Tristan.html), and the Tristan really is a very basic, and closer contact dressage saddle that still offers the position support dressage riders look for. It is working exceptionally well for me, so perhaps it's worth looking into.

Mar. 10, 2011, 08:23 AM
Have you tried Passiers ? They put you closer to the horse, but the seat is hard - I think the Nicole Grand Gilbert is less hard (I might be wrong about that - I don't have one, but I meet a lot of people who do ). I have a Country Competitor, which I find puts me nice and close to the horse - and the rep is at a lot of shows so you get to try them on your horse for no cost, which is always a plus.

Mar. 10, 2011, 08:24 AM
I don't know if their wides are wide enough, but Both Stubben and Passier should have the feel you're looking for. The Passier PSLs are really soft and comfy.

Mar. 10, 2011, 11:06 AM
Thank you everyone. I am checking back and taking notes!

Kate - Unfortunately there aren't any "real" shows in my area. Lots of really nice quality local schoolings to do... but there are never any reps there. I know Countys are really nice though! :) Luckily for me this horse has a really basic easy to fit topline. My other horse, on the other hand, needs custom saddles because he's soooo wide shouldered!

Mar. 10, 2011, 11:17 AM
I know alot of people who like the Stubben Tristan for close contact. The seat is not cushy, but it is comfortable.

Mar. 10, 2011, 11:20 AM
I have ridden for many years now in a Stubben Tristan (also called a Schultheis) and they are my fave. They are very close contact and you will really feel the horse. As a bonus, their design also makes them great for hacking out and even low jumps. Plus, because they lack all the crazy padding and things that hold you into place, you will be forced to develop a great seat on your own; and that is always a good thing:)

Mar. 10, 2011, 11:36 AM

Here is a used Eloquence for sale.
I didn't end up buying from them but they are very good to work with

Mar. 10, 2011, 11:42 AM
For the HDR (& alot of lower end saddles) you need to strip the finish off then oil etc = there are some wonderful threads on this somewhere on COTH (I read most of them last year but didn't bookmark), a few saddle maker sites also had some how to's but forum versions are always full of tips & problems that other first timers have run up against.
Of course, once you strip the protective finish on this type of leather, you may reveal the inconsistencies that made that leather cheaper in the first place BUT since you dislike the saddle as it is & it fits you & the horse, I'd give it a go.

Even though your horse is easy to fit, I'd still do complete wither/back tracings (ie the trace that include 3 "lines" across the saddle area of the back) & send those in along with photos to online saddle shops.

Libertyville (http://http://saddleshop.com/) still has a few clearance Passiers though size is very limited now.
Also give Stubben a call & see if they have any of the websale saddles remaining but you do need to know fit first as the saddles are final sale.
Classic Saddlery also had some clearance dressage saddles tho they were Toulouse (ie Santa Cueros (http://http://www.cuerossantacruz.com/prueba/)) for the most part.

Mar. 10, 2011, 12:22 PM
can you buy directly from santa cueros? And how do you know they make the m toulouse? Altho they do have models on their web page that do look alot like hte m toulouse so I don't doubt you. Just wonder if it would be cheaper to buy direct from them?

Mar. 10, 2011, 05:56 PM
I think I am probably going to just save up and work with Trumbull Mountain again. I love my Black Country saddles and they were so awesome to work with before. I can make new tracings to send to them when we are ready but since they know a wide Wexford, which they sold me, fits him perfectly I'm ahead of the game dealing with them. Plus, they are so helpful and nice. And I know if I get a BC it's a great quality saddle.

They also carry Frank Baines.... so we'll see. If I have a chance to try a Passier or Stubben, I will. I won't buy a Toulouse saddle again. I had one before and it was awful.

I am not in any rush... so I can take my time and save for a good dressage saddle for him. I have a well fitting saddle for him right now that I love and I can do basic dressage in it fine.

Thanks all :)

Mar. 10, 2011, 11:21 PM
You could also find something that fits you and your horse, try it out to make sure then look for that saddle on ebay. I was prepared to do that as well but found my saddle before I had a chance. I tried everything from Amerigo, Spirig and Custom to County and Albion. I ended up with a County Perfection. I love it, but they do have simpler designs such as Connection and the WB. Good luck!

Mar. 12, 2011, 11:04 AM
I think I am probably going to just save up and work with Trumbull Mountain again. I love my Black Country saddles and they were so awesome to work with before. I can make new tracings to send to them when we are ready but since they know a wide Wexford, which they sold me, fits him perfectly I'm ahead of the game dealing with them. Plus, they are so helpful and nice. And I know if I get a BC it's a great quality saddle.

They also carry Frank Baines.... so we'll see. If I have a chance to try a Passier or Stubben, I will. I won't buy a Toulouse saddle again. I had one before and it was awful.

I am not in any rush... so I can take my time and save for a good dressage saddle for him. I have a well fitting saddle for him right now that I love and I can do basic dressage in it fine.

Thanks all :)

Playing matchmaker here. Check out the monoflap saddle discussed in this thread.


Jul. 20, 2011, 08:09 PM
Hey, just an update guys. After looking around, and the entire heating system in my house breaking which also required us to have to completely update our electrical to get the new system installed....

.... I realized:

1. All the saddles I'm leaning towards are really expensive :lol:

2. All my saddle money is now sitting in my fireplace in the form of a stove insert.

3. I wasn't going to get all too much for my HDR if I sold it, which does fit my horse and according to a few dressage instructors fits me well.

So I searched the forums for advice on how to strip the leather like alto suggested earlier figuring, what the heck, right? Anyways, I used a solution of ammonia in water and rubbed the undersides of the flaps and skirting vigorously and the tops of the flaps a little less so. Some black sealer or dye or something came off and the shiny slick plasticy finish did, too. The leather is all still black and whatnot, but it's more matte now, which is fine with me! :) Then I towelled it off. Then I cleaned it with castille soap and a lot of water and wipe-rinsed it a few times and towelled it off again. I let it sit for a while to finish drying and then I applied a few coats of oil and rolled the flaps up inwards and outwards and just bent them and MAN is the leather sucking up that oil now. And the saddle is actually starting to feel SUPER NICE!!!! :) :)

I am so excited! Going to try to ride in it tomorrow or sometime soon! :)

Jul. 21, 2011, 01:36 PM
On Ocala 4 sale.com there is a 17.5 inch brown Verhan for sale - with girth in excellent condition less than 2K. What a bargin! VERY comfy saddle, top notch European leather and best of all the model is an Odyssey - so the tree can be adjusted. :D

If I didn't already own 2 Verhans I would purchase this one. :yes:

Sep. 10, 2011, 11:29 AM
Well I still just don't like my dressage saddle. But the leather does feel way nicer now. Maybe it just needs to break in more now that it's not impermeable... I dunno. But I wanted to check back on this thread to review what saddles people recommended so I thought I'd update.

Sep. 10, 2011, 12:43 PM
Well sadly an HDR even made nice is still going to ride like an HDR rather than a County etc :D - if you didn't also have the BC to ride in, you'd probably adapt more completely to the HDR ...

or not, sometimes a saddle just does not fit you properly despite appearances & you just need to try different saddles.

Start a saddle collection box if you haven't already - anything you manage to economize on or skip expenses completely, goes in the box, request any gifts be transformed into saddle box contributions, try to add in a couple $ a day without exception. Actually ride in as many different saddles as possible, for as many hours as possible.
Also look into saddle fiinancing (http://www.equestrianimports.com/shop/saddle-financing/info_12.html)

Now that the HDR feels nicer, you may also be able to sell it on easier :)

Sep. 10, 2011, 05:16 PM
I know they tend to be expensive, but I would highly recommend Albion. Each fitter is different, but in general the company is lovely to work with and you can usually find a great used saddle at a very good price. I love the Albions because they are so much nicer on the horses' backs than most other saddles, they put the rider in a lovely position, and the SLKs particularly have nice deep seats. The leather quality is exquisite, and all the Albion tack is beautiful. They are very similar in design to the Trilogy, but the leather quality is much better and overall the saddles last longer than Triologies. I have also heard from almost everyone who has ridden in a Triology that it tends to hurt their backs and give them pain throughout the spine (I have heard this from professionals as well as AA). I haven't really tried many other saddles, but most of the Customs, Counties, Amerigos and others just aren't as comfortable as the Albions and do not put the rider in as nice of a position.

I hope this helps and you are able to find something you like :) I think the biggest trick with any saddle is finding one that not only fits the horse, but also fits you really well. You can buy the best model out there, but if it doesn't fit you then it will be a disaster. So when trying saddles, try different sizes of each model and figure out what really works best for you.

Sep. 12, 2011, 03:02 PM
I am at work and there are way to many posts to read BUT!... I was in the same situation as you recently so I must throw in my two pennies...

I have been a hunter rider all my life, born and raised but due to my horse's natural talents we have focused on dressage for now, plus she is young and isn't done growing.

I bought a 17" Keiffer Achen II - floor model so I got a great deal for a pretty well new saddle.
Nice mod-deep seat but not so deep that you cannot move which I do not think I would have adjusted to coming from a CC saddle.

Cut back design for wither relief which also helps the fit. AND if it doesnt fit Keiffer's can be adjusted by saddle makers.

When training in my dressage saddle now I find it much easier to support my mare and help her off the forehand.

Good Luck! Happy hunting!

Sep. 12, 2011, 03:30 PM
I have a good friend who has a Stubben Tristan as well, and she LOVES it. I've ridden her horse in it a couple times and it is a super nice saddle. Comfortable, not very cushy but comfortable.

It definitely makes you develop a good seat/leg position because it doesn't "hold" you like other dressage saddles. I just started "officially" riding dressage, and the lessons I have taken all had me in a Wintec saddle. Very comfy! I REALLY liked that saddle. However, I could definitely tell a difference in the Wintec with the padding and the Stubben without. I felt like I was all over the place, lol.

If you're going for a minimalist saddle, go with Stubben.

Sep. 12, 2011, 03:59 PM

Sep. 12, 2011, 04:09 PM
Another vote for a Passier. Try a Grand Gilbert if you can. They are really nice and "close contact" and have an awesome feel that it sounds like you'll like. Plus, they're pretty easy to find used for a great deal. I found mine used for $1200 and it wasn't even broken in yet, and I absolutely love it! My budget was 4k and I looked at a ton of expensive saddles but this $1200 Passier trumped them all.

Sep. 12, 2011, 04:59 PM
if it is the right size


Another minimalist saddle is the Stubben Genesis D. Someone in my barn rode in one in a clinic and immediately went out and bought.

I think the County Connection may also fit into this camp: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Used-County-Connection-Dressage-Saddle-17-5-Black-/280657009079#ht_760wt_952

There are also many less well know brands made by Walsall master saddlers and I have found many have a lot of configuration similarities for less money

Sep. 12, 2011, 07:49 PM
I think I've just become so used to my BC wexford. You can feel *everything* in it, yet it is still very secure... and comfortable. alto may be right... I just need to save my pennies ;)
I will definitely try out an Albion as well if I have an opportunity to do so. :)

Sep. 12, 2011, 07:51 PM
Oh.. new posts since I loaded the page... thanks.. definitely worth looking into Passier.... and thank you for the links scubed! :)

Sep. 12, 2011, 11:49 PM
Trying to find the GG thread I'm thinking of ...

GG vs Eden (http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=284451)

Still not "the One" but wanted to post something ;)

If you're fitting a single mare, an alternative would be to look at the Passier Grand Gilbert or the Thornhill Vienna. The Rembrandt Integra is essentially a wider-twisted model of the Passier Grand Gilbert--it's even built on the same tree and was built in the Passier factory for the first year of its manufacture (manufacture was then moved to Walsall, England). The Passier Grand Gilbert is very similar but with a narrower twist and a slightly faster rise to the pommel. The Thornhill Vienna is a good knockoff of the Grand Gilbert, also on the narrow twist side but not quiiiiite as narrow as the Grand Gilbert and with a slightly different block. The Rembrandt is the only one that comes with the adjustable gullet, and not all of them have that feature. They can also be found with an adjustable stirrup bar.

These saddles are all known for being a good fit on high-withered, curvy-backed horses and long-legged riders.

A good discussion (http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?p=5491513)

seriouly the One is overrated :lol:

Sep. 13, 2011, 12:24 AM
"the One" ?

Sep. 13, 2011, 12:43 AM
:lol: I knew that would be confusing - it was just in reference to the saddle discussion thread that I failed to find :uhoh:

... of course it could also refer to that special saddle, for example, the kid loves, loves Stubbens, she sits in a nice Stubben & it's like she's coming home - except she rides in Counties as that's what fit FP :sigh:
(actually she's a great kid so she says she loves the Counties but her expression the other day when she sat in the Stubben Maestoso (with no blocks) in the shop was priceless :lol: - the Genesis D Special is her the One)

Sep. 13, 2011, 02:11 AM
I tell ya, I LOVE my Passier Grand Gilbert. Sometimes you'll randomly find good listings for one on eBay, tacktrader.com, sometimes horseclicks.com. It's super comfy, I feel him move under me and he feels me pretty well, and I like that it has a deep seat but isn't super restricting like some of the others I test rode in before I bought it. If you manage to find one to test ride that is in the width that should fit your horse, DO IT and see how you like it. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it or at the very least, you won't hate it.