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New to Riding in Dressage Saddles

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    New to Riding in Dressage Saddles

    Does anyone have any tips for riding in a dressage saddle?

    I’ve been riding for almost 9 years and I’ve always ridden in jumping saddles. I’ve ridden in dressage saddles before (no more than 15 times in my entire riding career) but they have always felt “uncomfortable” to me. I was recently given my sisters old dressage saddle since my horse is in rehab and won’t be jumping until next year, but I can’t seem to find my balance and seat. I naturally want to lean forward and either put my leg in front of my hips or too far back. I also feel like I’m frog legged to get my knee away from the knee/thigh block.

    The saddle is a Passier Relevant. Not a huge block in the front and not a super deep seat. My seat feels fine at the walk and canter, but I feel like a hot mess at the trot

    #2
    There are others here who are far more experienced than me who will chime in, but I also was a HJ convert.

    Two things I have found -

    One, I didn't need to force my legs into an unnaturally (for me) long position. Put your stirrups where they feel best.

    Two, fitting a dressage saddle to rider is much more complex than hopping into a jump saddle. Your Passier may just not be the best fit for you. Do you happen to board where you can sit in other saddles to get a feel for what you like best?

    Bonus third, I don't think you "need" a dressage saddle to concentrate on flat work during your horse's rehab! Ride what you're most comfortable in, even if it's your jump saddle

    Comment


      #3
      It takes a lot of time to get used to the longer stirrups. I am a recent convert from jumpers, and it took me a solid 6 months to feel "natural."

      Comment

        Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by Jo View Post
        There are others here who are far more experienced than me who will chime in, but I also was a HJ convert.

        Two things I have found -

        One, I didn't need to force my legs into an unnaturally (for me) long position. Put your stirrups where they feel best.

        Two, fitting a dressage saddle to rider is much more complex than hopping into a jump saddle. Your Passier may just not be the best fit for you. Do you happen to board where you can sit in other saddles to get a feel for what you like best?

        Bonus third, I don't think you "need" a dressage saddle to concentrate on flat work during your horse's rehab! Ride what you're most comfortable in, even if it's your jump saddle
        My current saddle is an Eventing monoflap so flatwork is not super easy in it compared to a standard jump saddle. I have sat in other dressage saddles at my barn, all which have large blocks on the outer flap which I absolutely hate.
        The other problem I have is when I ride another horse in a dressage saddle, I don’t feel the best but it’s fine. When I put one on my horse, I feel like I’m a lesson kid learning to post. My horse is a narrow/extra narrow so it’s hard to try medium/ wide saddles on.
        Also, my stirrup length, I try and put my stirrups down one hole every ride until it feels “correct.” My desired length would be shorter but my knees are bruised from having my knees bang against the blocks.
        I know I don’t “need” one but I’ve been inching my way out of the eventing world and just become a SJ and dressage rider. I know in the future, moving up the levels of dressage are going to get hard in a jump saddle past first level which I’m currently at.

        Comment


          #5
          As Jo said - It is most likely that the Passier is just not right for you at all. If that is the case - you're never going to get "comfortable" in that saddle. It sounds like the rise and perhaps the angle on the flap/knee block are just not right for you. If you can't get yourself in a line of balance in the saddle, no amount of suggestions are going to make it feel awesome.

          Before I bought my Custom saddle I was forever "making do". Once I got in a saddle that was right for both myself and my horse, it was night and day.

          I was a event rider way back in the day, but it's been so long that I feel like my knees are in my chin if they are shortened up enough to really jump these days.

          Were I you - I'd take my time and see if I could find a happy medium in the stirrup length and perhaps see if a different stirrup length in the eventing saddle would work better for the flat work for the time being.

          Comment


            #6
            Don't overthink it.

            Think lift your hands and sit on your butt.

            You have to earn your long stirrups, you can't just put them right down on the first day.

            Being lunged without reins and stirrups will help.
            It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

            Comment


              #7
              There is more significant muscle memory involved in posting trot than other gaits. At one point I changed dressage saddles and had to retrain my posting trot muscle memory. It was weird.

              Your saddle may not fit you or the horse, or you may be dealing with your muscle memory taking over.

              I'd start by checking the balance of your saddle to see if it's tipped forward or back. Then experiment with different stirrup lengths and just concentrate on what your body is doing while posting. Get your horse trotting, feel what you are doing while posting, and adjust what you're doing while posting. Don't do exercises with the horse, just get him trotting and post.

              If you can't find a balanced posting trot when you're concentrating on posting then the saddle may just not work for you.

              Comment


                #8
                If you feel safe doing it, drop your stirrups.

                Just let your legs hang down naturally.
                When your hips feel loose, use your toes to put your feet in the stirrups.

                If you have trouble picking up your stirrups the length is not right.

                You dont have to ride with very long stirrups to start.

                You still want some angle in the knee.

                Some saddles have the stirrup bars forward. And have very straight flaps.

                So what happens is that you can never get your leg under you because you may need a more angled flap and the stirrup bars pull your knee forward and up and that makes your feet come out behind you.

                If this is the case, you wont be completely comfortable because you will constantly be fighting to get in the correct position.

                It is better to ride in your jumping saddle and just drop your stirrups a few holes.

                You dont actually have to ride in a dressage saddle at the beginning.

                I've known plenty of riders who rode in a close contact saddle until they were sure they wanted to keep taking dressage lessons.

                Good luck
                hope this helps
                Certified Guacophobe

                Comment


                  #9
                  It has taken me six months to finally get the feel of siting up on my back pockets as my trainer calls it. It takes much more core strength than riding in a hunt seat saddle. I still ride with my stirrups shorter than ideal. I just put them down a 1/2 hole today. My jump saddle is an Antares. I found the exact tree and seat size with a shorter flap in a Antares Cadence Mono flap dressage saddle. It fits my horse and me well. I still felt loosy goosy the first month. Getting my fitness and core strength was the key. My horse has also become much stronger which definitely helps me too.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    IMO, stay away from deep-seated saddles with big thigh blocks. If they are not custom made for you, they most like won’t fit you and will hinder your ability to have a proper seat. You are better off with a flatter seat and no thigh blocks, and a stirrup bar that is placed further back.

                    But dressage is going to feel very different, and requires work. Developing a good dressage seat (which includes a different thigh/leg position than does jumping) requires work. It took me a while to transition from eventing to pure dressage. A close contact dressage saddle helped a lot, but it still has to be fitted to the horse and to you.

                    If you have a good event saddle (which is different than a jumping saddle) that you like, you should be able to use it for dressage. Event saddles usually have the stirrup bars placed further back than jump saddles.

                    Banter whenever you want to banter....canter whenever you want to canter.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I'm a very recent dressage convert as well, and was dreading the switch from my pancake with minimal knee blocks Butet to something more substantial. I also loooooove to have my irons short, sooooo was also dreading the whole long-stirrup length thing. The last time I truly rode dressage was about 15 years ago and had a saddle that did nothing to aid my position.. I've learned a lot since then.

                      I agree with others that finding a dressage saddle is harder than finding a close contact jumping saddle... I sat in about 20 different saddles, and only found a quarter of them to even be comfortable to sit in with my anatomy, and only a couple of those to actually work well for me. So - first thing: find a dressage saddle that actually works with you, not against you; in my limited experience, you'll find more that work against you than with you, especially with older models.

                      Secondly, put your stirrups at a length that feels comfortable for you, and work slowly at lengthening them. I started with almost jump-length stirrups with my knees practically at my eyeballs, and have been able to lengthen my legs over the past few weeks - I'm now at an "acceptable" length (I think.) So - in my non-professional opinion, jack those irons up, find your balance, and then start lengthening them. You could also try riding without your irons here and there to encourage a longer leg.

                      My final bit of advice is to get the book "Centered Riding" by Sally Swift - she is able to write and illustrate her thoughts in a way that works for visual learners that I found extremely helpful!

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        Thanks everyone for your tips! I quickly decided the Passier saddle was not for me. It just kept bruising my knees. On the bright side, with the help of an amazing saddle fitter, I just bought my first dressage saddle!! It is a Hastilow Atlanta. The style of it is quite old ( straight flap and no knee block ) but I felt as comfortable in it as I would in my jump saddle. I wasn’t forced into position by a large block and I felt centered and relaxed even with shorter stirrups! So happy that I waited to find one I’m comfortable with that also fits my horse and not just one of us!

                        I also found this great blog post that opened up my eyes on why position shouldn’t be forced when riding in dressage saddles
                        http://hcsusa.blogspot.com/2017/07/w...addle.html?m=1

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Besides rearranging your body, and not attempting to go too long too fast, you will find that the more forward your horse is going the easier it will be to rise. You need to have him/her throw you up, you can't rise from your stirrups.
                          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by MDKCongo View Post
                            Thanks everyone for your tips! I quickly decided the Passier saddle was not for me. It just kept bruising my knees. On the bright side, with the help of an amazing saddle fitter, I just bought my first dressage saddle!! It is a Hastilow Atlanta. The style of it is quite old ( straight flap and no knee block ) but I felt as comfortable in it as I would in my jump saddle. I wasn’t forced into position by a large block and I felt centered and relaxed even with shorter stirrups! So happy that I waited to find one I’m comfortable with that also fits my horse and not just one of us!

                            I also found this great blog post that opened up my eyes on why position shouldn’t be forced when riding in dressage saddles
                            http://hcsusa.blogspot.com/2017/07/w...addle.html?m=1
                            Just read this article and while I am open to opposing viewpoints, I think this is a solid argument for not specializing too early.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              I agree with AnastasiaBeaverhousen, If you feel safe, drop your stirrups and let your legs hang. DO a lot of things at the walk (circles, leg yields, poles, etc.) to build different muscle memory and get used to using your seat bones, weight and legs in this position. Then, lift your toes...that's about where your stirrups might be. Or a hole shorter. When comfy, try sitting trot with no stirrups - start with a slow trot. It takes a while. I once was a convert from h/j and eventing land, and this was the best way that I retrained myself. Also, I rode in smaller seat h/j saddle and needed a larger seat with dressage saddles. For example, I rode in 16.5 and 17" h/j saddles (I was 5'6" and about 125-130 lbs) but a 17" dressage saddle brought my nether regions into contact with the pommel. I'm a solid 17.5" dressage seat across brands.

                              So many of the dressage saddle will fit differently depending on your horse's build. For example, my saddle has large knee rolls, but my horse moves uphill and I never feel "locked in" or forced into a position by them. If my horse was more downhill *in this saddle*, the front would be lower and angle of the flap would put the knee rolls right into my knees. I've ridden in saddles with small or no knee rolls and I don't think much changes with my security in the saddle. My previous saddle had almost no knee roll. I tried a bunch of saddles with a saddle fitter, and a friend gave me this saddle - he liked it the best and it hit him the best without restricting me, so we went with it. I really wanted to purchase a Fairfax saddle but *on this horse* I felt that the knee rolls pushed into my knees. I know other people who own it and don't have that feeling because their horse is built differently.
                              Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

                              Comment

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