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Help a newbie convert to dressage?

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  • Help a newbie convert to dressage?

    So - for a variety of reasons, and after many years as a hunter princess - I think I am going to switch to dressage. It will be a new challenge, and I am looking forward to it.

    But... I know so little about the day to day practical "stuff" and thus coming to COTH for some advice. In hunter/jumper land, I can watch an instructor for ten minutes and be able to evaluate whether they are any good or not. I know the ins and outs of what tack, clothing, boots, etc work for me and for my horse, and can shop without any difficulty.

    In dressage land, I am the greenest of newbies, which is pretty disconcerting. So, can you guys help me get started?

    I live in Alpharetta, GA. I know there are several dressage facilities in the area, but know very little about most of them. Any suggestions about where to start? I have perused the threads that came up in a search but the info seems a bit dated, and perhaps more geared to someone who was already immersed in the discipline.

    Of course, first and foremost I am looking for exceptional care. My horse (12 yr WB gelding) is a keeper, so I'd need someone willing to work with both of us. I'd prefer individual grass turnout, and somewhere that will working-amateur-adult friendly. I do have a very demanding job, so ideally I am looking for a program that would help keep my horse in work on the days I cannot get there at a reasonable hour. I am definitely a competitive sort, so while I realize I will be starting with the basics and probably re-learning a lot... I am interested in doing more than just putter around, and I am willing to make the investment necessary to support that (lessons, training, tack, etc) so that I can eventually become proficient enough to show, and progress as far as I can.

    I'm also a self admitted tack snob. I realize that at this point, any properly fitting, well balanced saddle would get the job done. But I want something really nice I am already having pangs of regret over the imminent loss of my brown tack, LOL. Any ideas for a fab dressage saddle to help me drown my sorrows? If it's any guidance at all... I did ride a few times (years ago) in a friend's Devoucoux Makila and loved it. They only seem to be available in a mono flap now, which for whatever reason doesn't appeal to me. My hunter saddle is a Butet, and it's lovely. Wondering what that dressage equivalent might be (?) Horse is quite easy to fit, which hopefully will make it easier.

    Along the same lines, any suggestions for a really nice bridle? Ideally I think I'd like a simple snaffle without a flash, if that is acceptable. Are the web reins an absolute requirement, or can I have leather (please!?!?!) My horse has a longish face, so generally looks good in a wider noseband. He doesn't need a crank or anything like that. But did I mention I am a tack snob and a leather junkie? Again I'd like a really special bridle to ease the pain of having to leave my really fab (brown) Antares bridle behind. <sob> It was one of the last few made before the mono crowns became all the rage, and I definitely prefer a more traditional crown to the mono look.

    Other ideas (full seat suggestions?) are very welcome, too!

    Thanks in advance for slogging through the novel and helping me out!!
    **********
    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
    -PaulaEdwina

  • #2
    Welcome to dressage land! I'm not from your area so I'm no help there.
    I don't ever see webbed reins in dressage. I love Passier leather so I would look at their bridles. It will be very easy to find a wide noseband. They will probably all come with a flash but you don't have to use it.
    Once you connect with a trainer they will have a good idea of what saddle will benefit you and your horse. There are so many to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming.
    The biggest challenge converting will be sitting back in your saddle
    Dawn

    Patience and Consistency are Your Friends

    Comment


    • #3
      Is there any good reason why you can't stick with brown?

      Comment


      • #4
        So funny...When you have in the past posted picture of your h/j tack I have always looked at the pictures and admired it. So when I read you were converting my first thought was about your tack

        No advice re: dressage barns. As for the saddle, I think you will find that because dressage riders are much more about what sort of saddle works for them than about the particular brand. Your best bet is so just sit in as many different saddles as you can; aside from the fact that more expensive saddles usually have better leather, I think you will find that the price or brand of saddle will bear no correlation as to whether or not it will fit both you and your horse.

        Even if you don't ultimately go with a used saddle, I would really recommend trying as many used saddles as you can just to see what feels best to you.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by stryder View Post
          Is there any good reason why you can't stick with brown?
          It's the finding brown dressage tack that is difficult.
          Dawn

          Patience and Consistency are Your Friends

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by stryder View Post
            Is there any good reason why you can't stick with brown?
            Absolutely! A quick search of this Dressage forum will turn up lots of threads about brown tack. It's out there! I have a brown Niedersuss that I and my horse love. Plus, there are lots of accessories. Since you're not planning on using a bridle with a flash, why can't you use the one you've got?

            Can't help with barns, but since you're looking for a trainer as well, I'd advise watching as many trainers in action (during lessons) as you can. I'm sure you'll find one that's a good fit for the way you learn.

            Welcome to dressage!

            Comment


            • #7
              Your best bet is to hook up with a trainer and put 1-3 months into it in the tack you have before purchasing (yes, I realize how challenging this is).

              At first both the position your body should be in, and the saddle will feel weird. Nothing will seem right. You will be inclined to pick anything that is the right size and assume you will learn to ride in it. Most of the time- this won't work well.

              Take lessons for at least a month in your jump saddle. Start to learn the new position you want your body in. Then, start borrowing dressage saddles from your trainer. Spend at least another month riding in anything and everything you can. Then, when you start looking, your body will have started getting comfortable in the new position so everything doesn't seem foreign- and you will have some idea which brands work.

              The seat is so much more important than in a jump saddle - the twist, the the angle of the pomel and cantle, the height of the cantle, whether the sweet spot is small or large, V or U shaped, the position of the stirrup bars- and of course the angle of the flaps/blocks.

              As to a bridle, you will find many more options with a flash. If your horse truly doesn't need one and your new trainer agrees- you can start shopping for that immediately.

              I really like Dressage Extensions for their selection. I'd browse their website. Check our Jerry's, Albion, Schumacher - and my favorite for a reasonable price- the Smarptak Wellfleet.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Mozart View Post
                So funny...When you have in the past posted picture of your h/j tack I have always looked at the pictures and admired it. So when I read you were converting my first thought was about your tack

                No advice re: dressage barns. As for the saddle, I think you will find that because dressage riders are much more about what sort of saddle works for them than about the particular brand. Your best bet is so just sit in as many different saddles as you can; aside from the fact that more expensive saddles usually have better leather, I think you will find that the price or brand of saddle will bear no correlation as to whether or not it will fit both you and your horse.

                Even if you don't ultimately go with a used saddle, I would really recommend trying as many used saddles as you can just to see what feels best to you.
                Might there also be an issue with getting a new saddle right away depending on the fitness of the horse currently? If he needs to put on muscle along his topline, then anything that fits right now may well end up not fitting properly in a short time when he's in 'dressage shape'.

                It may not be an issue, depending on the horse's current fitness levels and general build, but it'd be a bummer to find just the right saddle and drop however much on it only to have it stop fitting entirely in a few months.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Is Gigi Nutter anywhere near you?
                  http://www.touchngofarm.com/

                  And for heaven's sake, in the dressage world no one cares what saddle you have or what bridle you have. Leave that stuff behind in hunter jumper land, please!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm also a self admitted tack snob. I realize that at this point, any properly fitting, well balanced saddle would get the job done. But I want something really nice I am already having pangs of regret over the imminent loss of my brown tack, LOL. Any ideas for a fab dressage saddle to help me drown my sorrows? If it's any guidance at all... I did ride a few times (years ago) in a friend's Devoucoux Makila and loved it. They only seem to be available in a mono flap now, which for whatever reason doesn't appeal to me. My hunter saddle is a Butet, and it's lovely. Wondering what that dressage equivalent might be (?) Horse is quite easy to fit, which hopefully will make it easier.
                    Trial these absolutely gorgeous saddles There is a US rep that can sort out panel fit.

                    Butet does make a stunning brown dressage saddle & may be the way for you to go
                    (sadly the brown sold a while back)

                    Don't be in a rush to buy a new saddle, there is lots you can do in your Butet.

                    If you really love the Dev, ask if they'll make you a custom

                    Along the same lines, any suggestions for a really nice bridle? Ideally I think I'd like a simple snaffle without a flash, if that is acceptable. Are the web reins an absolute requirement, or can I have leather (please!?!?!)
                    Very acceptable
                    No idea why anyone would use a web rein on a dressage bridle - 5/8 flat leather with/without stops ...
                    I'd be surprised if Antares can't sort one out for you (in brown!)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      1. You can keep brown tack. My boy's saddle, snaffle bridle and his double are all brown. I just think it looks better on a chestnut than black

                      2. I have the PERFECT dressage instructor for you, but she does not have her own barn. She will come to you. I'll PM you.
                      www.destinationconsensusequus.com
                      chaque pas est fait ensemble

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Brown is the new black!

                        Most, if not all, major saddlemakers make brown dressage saddles. Devoucoux, County, Antares, Hennig, Butet, Delgrange, CWD, Custom, Childeric...

                        I ride Dressage with my brown 'hunter' bridle! Since I switched from hunter (braided leather rein) to jumper (full rubber, stoppers, raised leather part w/fancy stiches) Dy'on reins, that is what I ride with now and no one is complaining.

                        A monoflap saddle will feel a bit weird at first but... once there, you won't want to go back and even your Butet will feel bulky!

                        Ride in what you are comfortable.
                        Ride in the best you can afford.

                        Have fun riding and shopping!
                        ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                        Originally posted by LauraKY
                        I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                        HORSING mobile training app

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by rizzodm View Post
                          Welcome to dressage land! I'm not from your area so I'm no help there.
                          I don't ever see webbed reins in dressage. I love Passier leather so I would look at their bridles. It will be very easy to find a wide noseband. They will probably all come with a flash but you don't have to use it.
                          Once you connect with a trainer they will have a good idea of what saddle will benefit you and your horse. There are so many to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming.
                          The biggest challenge converting will be sitting back in your saddle
                          Haha, yes, I am sure that is going to be a challenge! Hopefully my butt is up to the task Thanks for the good news on the reins; quite a few of the dressage bridles I've seen are shown being sold with them, and it made me wonder. I can take a nice deep breath now

                          Originally posted by stryder View Post
                          Is there any good reason why you can't stick with brown?
                          Oh, it's not the brown I'll miss so much My horse is actually black and I'm sure the black tack will look fine on him. It's just that, well... as Mozart notes below... I'm kind of known for my penchant for really wonderful (hunter/jumper) tack. I am perfectly willing (and actually kind of looking forward) to acquiring a nice collection of similarly fabulous dressage tack; I just don't really know where to begin! (Anyone want to swap for a seriously awesome Hermes hunter bridle?)

                          Originally posted by Mozart View Post
                          So funny...When you have in the past posted picture of your h/j tack I have always looked at the pictures and admired it. So when I read you were converting my first thought was about your tack
                          <laughing> Well... you see my dilemma, then! I am so attached to it all, and although I am sure I will be fine once I locate similarly nice dressage tack, it's that impending loss that is disconcerting, LOL. Not that I am *actually* going to get rid of it, to be honest... it will probably sit in my office forever. sigh.

                          No advice re: dressage barns. As for the saddle, I think you will find that because dressage riders are much more about what sort of saddle works for them than about the particular brand. Your best bet is so just sit in as many different saddles as you can; aside from the fact that more expensive saddles usually have better leather, I think you will find that the price or brand of saddle will bear no correlation as to whether or not it will fit both you and your horse.

                          Even if you don't ultimately go with a used saddle, I would really recommend trying as many used saddles as you can just to see what feels best to you.
                          That is a very good advice and I am perfectly open to a (good quality) used saddle. My horse is quite easy to fit (or at least has been, when it comes to hunter tack) so hopefully that won't be too much of an issue. And truly, I am not a brand snob, but rather a quality and design fanatic.
                          **********
                          We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                          -PaulaEdwina

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by rizzodm View Post
                            It's the finding brown dressage tack that is difficult.
                            Originally posted by Tonkafriend View Post
                            Absolutely! A quick search of this Dressage forum will turn up lots of threads about brown tack. It's out there! I have a brown Niedersuss that I and my horse love. Plus, there are lots of accessories. Since you're not planning on using a bridle with a flash, why can't you use the one you've got?

                            Can't help with barns, but since you're looking for a trainer as well, I'd advise watching as many trainers in action (during lessons) as you can. I'm sure you'll find one that's a good fit for the way you learn.

                            Welcome to dressage!
                            See? I had no idea there was brown dressage tack out there! But rizzodm is right, it's a matter of finding dressage tack (more than the color) that is going to be a challenge for me. I don't have the first clue about what to look for. Since for years I've been the one people consulted about tack, that is just an odd feeling to have (but I have a feeling I will have fun learning and shopping as I go.)
                            **********
                            We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                            -PaulaEdwina

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
                              Your best bet is to hook up with a trainer and put 1-3 months into it in the tack you have before purchasing (yes, I realize how challenging this is).

                              At first both the position your body should be in, and the saddle will feel weird. Nothing will seem right. You will be inclined to pick anything that is the right size and assume you will learn to ride in it. Most of the time- this won't work well.

                              Take lessons for at least a month in your jump saddle. Start to learn the new position you want your body in. Then, start borrowing dressage saddles from your trainer. Spend at least another month riding in anything and everything you can. Then, when you start looking, your body will have started getting comfortable in the new position so everything doesn't seem foreign- and you will have some idea which brands work.
                              That makes a lot of sense to me. I'll certainly not be rushing out to buy a new saddle immediately (tempting though it is to have an excuse for an entirely new tack wardrobe, LOL.) Of course, by the same token I do want to start getting an education, and not be like the person who plays tennis, badly, in flip flops with a borrowed racquet because they won't invest in the right gear.

                              The seat is so much more important than in a jump saddle - the twist, the the angle of the pomel and cantle, the height of the cantle, whether the sweet spot is small or large, V or U shaped, the position of the stirrup bars- and of course the angle of the flaps/blocks.
                              Hmm, that is interesting. I am fairly fussy (understatement) about my hunter saddle, so that is both intriguing and, er, a bit concerning. Guess I will just have to do as you suggest, get a feel for the required position and then start trying as many different models as possible.

                              As to a bridle, you will find many more options with a flash. If your horse truly doesn't need one and your new trainer agrees- you can start shopping for that immediately.

                              I really like Dressage Extensions for their selection. I'd browse their website. Check our Jerry's, Albion, Schumacher - and my favorite for a reasonable price- the Smarptak Wellfleet.
                              Thank you! DE catalog duly sent for, and I will check out those bridles. My horse is a saintly guy and pretty broke already; we did quite a lot of equitation and although I am sure we have tons more to learn, he does have a good foundation, balanced transitions and a good head on his shoulders. For sure he does not need a flash although I doubt he'd care if I put one on him... I'm kind of a minimalist in that respect, but it's not a deal breaker. If there is an expectation that one would show a dressage horse in a bridle with a flash (kind of like a hunter wearing a martingale to "dress for the party" ) whether they need one or not, it's not a big deal.


                              Originally posted by kdow View Post
                              Might there also be an issue with getting a new saddle right away depending on the fitness of the horse currently? If he needs to put on muscle along his topline, then anything that fits right now may well end up not fitting properly in a short time when he's in 'dressage shape'.

                              It may not be an issue, depending on the horse's current fitness levels and general build, but it'd be a bummer to find just the right saddle and drop however much on it only to have it stop fitting entirely in a few months.
                              Another good point. He is pretty fit and does a considerable amount of flatwork now, but whether his shape would change in a dressage program is an open question. Hmmm again.
                              **********
                              We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                              -PaulaEdwina

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by chancellor2 View Post
                                Is Gigi Nutter anywhere near you?
                                http://www.touchngofarm.com/

                                And for heaven's sake, in the dressage world no one cares what saddle you have or what bridle you have. Leave that stuff behind in hunter jumper land, please!
                                Interesting website... but no, looks like that farm is about 70 miles away unfortunately.

                                As for the tack... sigh. Not really important to me what others think and I am really not a brand slave/snob. But part of the fun for me is having (and enjoying) nice tack and turning my horse out as nicely as I can, so part of this new adventure is learning what is expected/accepted/considered correct.
                                **********
                                We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                                -PaulaEdwina

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by alto View Post
                                  Trial these absolutely gorgeous saddles There is a US rep that can sort out panel fit.

                                  Butet does make a stunning brown dressage saddle & may be the way for you to go
                                  (sadly the brown sold a while back)

                                  Don't be in a rush to buy a new saddle, there is lots you can do in your Butet.

                                  If you really love the Dev, ask if they'll make you a custom



                                  Very acceptable
                                  No idea why anyone would use a web rein on a dressage bridle - 5/8 flat leather with/without stops ...
                                  I'd be surprised if Antares can't sort one out for you (in brown!)
                                  Ooooh, thank you for the links! Am quite familiar with Stackhouse (close contacts, had no idea he did dressage stuff) so that is something to look into.

                                  And I really do love my Butet, and also had no idea *they* did dressage tack. That is very cool.

                                  Sadly I had a very, very, VERY bad experience with having Devoucoux make me a custom saddle and will never do business with them again. It's unfortunate because some of their products are lovely but I just won't go there again. Once bitten, and all that...
                                  **********
                                  We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                                  -PaulaEdwina

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                                    1. You can keep brown tack. My boy's saddle, snaffle bridle and his double are all brown. I just think it looks better on a chestnut than black

                                    2. I have the PERFECT dressage instructor for you, but she does not have her own barn. She will come to you. I'll PM you.
                                    I will look for your PM, thanks!

                                    Unfortunately I am not in a position to have an outside instructor come to me. I'm definitely in the market to move to a new barn.
                                    **********
                                    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                                    -PaulaEdwina

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post
                                      Brown is the new black!

                                      Most, if not all, major saddlemakers make brown dressage saddles. Devoucoux, County, Antares, Hennig, Butet, Delgrange, CWD, Custom, Childeric...

                                      I ride Dressage with my brown 'hunter' bridle! Since I switched from hunter (braided leather rein) to jumper (full rubber, stoppers, raised leather part w/fancy stiches) Dy'on reins, that is what I ride with now and no one is complaining.

                                      A monoflap saddle will feel a bit weird at first but... once there, you won't want to go back and even your Butet will feel bulky!

                                      Ride in what you are comfortable.
                                      Ride in the best you can afford.

                                      Have fun riding and shopping!
                                      So interesting about the black tack. I really had no idea! I don't mind getting black dressage tack, truly... my horse is black so it will likely look fine. But perhaps I'll look into brown, you know... just in case...
                                      **********
                                      We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                                      -PaulaEdwina

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I like nice saddles and nice tack (I own one Butet, 2 Devoucoux and I'm currently looking at some CWDs) ... But as other said you will find that finding the right saddle for you and your horse in dressage is a all different ball game.
                                        When I use my jumping saddle, I put the same one on almost all my horses (from medium pony to 17.2 Eq Moose) and with the right padding I can make it work.
                                        Dressage saddle not so much ... I have one that I just use on my upper level stallion and I have 2 other saddles that somewhat work for some of my sale horses.

                                        Your preference as a new convert is going to be some of the more minimal type saddle - with a jumping seat - feel. Devoucoux Makila, Hermes Corlandus, Butet ... Or the older dressage saddles - County, Passier ...
                                        Because it is going to feel less constricting and more like what you are used to.

                                        Most of the newer saddles have bigger knee blocks and deeper seat and it can be quite a culture shock and take a lot of getting used to it.

                                        Also, you need to be way more aware of the fit for the horse and it takes a little bit more experience and knowledge to get the fit right with a dressage saddle (but don't get me wrong it's not rocket science either like many people seem to say it is).
                                        In jumping the weight of your body is pretty much all around the stirrup bars so as long as the tree is fitting and the panels are nicely flat on the horse you are good.
                                        In dressage, your weight is in the seat and so you really need to make sure that the shape of the panels is really fitting the shape of your horse's back and that there is no pressure in the shoulders and such.

                                        One more thing, Devoucoux, Butet and most of the French saddle makers use foam panels non adjustable panels. When you shop for a saddle, I would try to stay away from those and look at wool flocked and tree that can be modiefied - Custom Saddles, Hennig, County, Albion, Passier ... Just to name a couple.

                                        For the bridle don't really sweat it, just get whatever you like and you should be just fine

                                        If it was me, I would stick to your jumping saddle for now, and learn the basics in something I'm comfortable riding in (I still show my babies in jumping saddles and still get high scores), I can do all the upper level movements in my close contact saddle without any problem. The saddle is not going to make you a better rider as long as you are balanced, you are good to go.

                                        Dressage saddle shopping is like bikini or jean shopping, it sounds fun and exciting till you start trying them ... then it turns into a complete nightmare because nothing really fits.

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