View Full Version : Horse having trouble adjusting to dressage saddle (vs. AP)?

May. 8, 2012, 06:14 PM
14 yo OTTB has only ever been ridden in an AP saddle. I put a (well fitting) dressage saddle on her yesterday and we did not have a great ride: she was fine walking, but immediately threw her head up and hollowed out to trot. Throughout the lesson, she was very wiggly and jiggy, and did not seem to want to make upward transitions, which for her is out of character. Had to work much harder than usual to get her on the bit, and she was off balance and rushing in canter

Assuming nothing else was causing her grumpiness...could she be reacting to a different leg/seat than what she is used to? If so, any suggestions? We are both new to dressage.

Not sure if it matters, but I also used a new bridle/bit - both fit fine and she seemed to like the bit.


May. 8, 2012, 06:19 PM
Who is the saddle "well-fitted" to? And have you have had the saddle looked at by a master saddler?

Do you have qualified trainer that can assist in you in such matters and get regular instruction from?

May. 8, 2012, 06:27 PM
@JCotton: Saddle is well-fitted to this horse. I haven't had a master saddler at it.

We have a dressage lesson next week, I will ask but thought in the meantime someone could offer insight.

May. 8, 2012, 06:32 PM
Some pics/video would help.

May. 8, 2012, 06:32 PM
My guess is you're wrong about saddle fit once you're in it.

However, if the saddle fits perfectly, my guess is the saddle has your seat bones "digging in" compared to how they felt to her back in the other saddle. Check the angle of your pelvis vs. how it was hitting her, think about how the saddle feels to you - if it's a wider twist, are your seat bones pressing down onto her more rather than sort of fitting around her backbone? You want to sit around the horse rather than above the horse, and if the saddle fits you wrong it may be causing you to sit above so you're pressing down, rather than encouraging back lift.

How about your leg position? Often a dressage saddle with too small a flap will stick your leg too far back, and that could affect how your horse responds. Alternately, it could be too large a flap and your legs are too far forward. My Friesian cross lifts her back and feels like she's melting into me if I put my legs far enough back, but too far forward and she reverts to her natural hollow, yanking on the reins state.

May. 8, 2012, 07:35 PM
Thanks for the input, I'll put the dressage saddle in the penalty box until our lesson.

May. 8, 2012, 07:37 PM
Are you sitting or rising the trot?

May. 8, 2012, 10:31 PM
@carolprudm - both but mostly rising today.

May. 8, 2012, 10:39 PM
Have you tried the new bridle and bit with the old AP saddle? That would definitely rule out the bridle. You should only make one change at a time with a horse, so that you have time to evaluate that specific change.

May. 8, 2012, 10:47 PM
Hello, I believe that a couple of things may be at play:

Your saddle doesn't fit as well as you believe, and when you are in it it fits poorly. It is maybe slipping forward or back. A design feature of dressage saddles is that the flap is behind the shoulder, is this flap hindering the shoulder or pinching? Hunter saddle flap is over the shoulder and may put less pressure on the shoulder. Is your girth too short and your horse is feeling the straps on his side? Is the gullet to narrow or wide? Horses generally go well in well fitting saddles.

You are riding differently because you are in a dressage saddle. You are riding with a deeper seat and sitting more because you are in a dressage saddle. Or maybe you are taking up the reins more. This is very common. This is common to dressage riders placed in a hunter saddle or western saddle. Your primary training comes through.

I recommend riding with a good dressage instructor, if only a couple of times, to evaluate your saddle and your riding in the dressage saddle. A good dressage rider can get in the saddle and determine if the weight changes how the saddle fits. It is great that you have a dressage saddle for flat work, it should improve your experience and his.

Dutch Lovin' Dressage Rider
May. 8, 2012, 11:31 PM
Does your saddle match the shape of your horse's back? Some horses have a slightly concave or scooped out back, while others have a flat back.

- Scooped back needs scooped saddle.
- Flat back needs flat saddle.

Put the scooped saddle on the flat backed horse, and it will rock front to back. Put the flat saddle on the scooped back horse, it will bridge or gap without full panel contact under riders leg, and there will be excessive pressure over the loin and possibly the withers. Either way = it can mean OUCH!

That being said, I once had a jumper rider coming to ride a few horses for me. This person had never ridden in a dressage saddle before, and accidently locked their jumping saddle in their car at my farm. So, they had to use one of my dressage saddles to ride my two horses. WELL to my horror, and for whatever reason, both horses proceded to BUCK the rider OFF! I mean broncing! Uh, oopsie daisy! One horse got the rider off twice. Thankfully, the footing absorbs impact really well, and the rider wasn't hurt. Neither horse had ever really bucked before. They also never really bucked after that day, where the jumper rider had to use a dressage saddle.

Go figure! :)

May. 9, 2012, 12:42 AM
I second the notion of having a really good saddle fitter look at it in addition to working with a dressage trainer. Even when you have a dressage saddle that fits both you and the horse really well, you may still have some growing pains at first. If your horse is used to being ridden in a lighter seat with your weight not so much on her back, she may react when you are sitting deeper into the saddle and more upright.

That was my experience with my own youngster. In the beginning, I rode in a lighter seat and for shorter periods of time then gradually began to ride in a more traditional dressage seat. Now she's used to it, but in the beginning it was a new thing she was uncertain about. Now you'd never know that she fussed about it in the beginning. :)