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Saddle Assistance for a Noobie

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  • Saddle Assistance for a Noobie

    After over 20 years in h/j land, it would appear that my now teenaged mare is enjoying a second career in dressage, which has led me to the search for a dressage saddle.

    Of course, budget is limited as I don't want to trade my close contact just yet - mainly because we still may want to jump over a few now and then, and because I use it on other horses. Additionally, she has a large shoulder and is short coupled.

    I have found a Thornhill/JC Vienna II that seems to be a fit (saddle fitter appointment for verification is in the works).

    The problem I have is that the 18" seat is currently a tad tight for me - although this may be less of an issue once I drop 10 lbs or so and once I am able to drop my stirrups a little longer.

    I could probably use an 18.5", but of course, the saddle doesn't come in an 18.5" and a 19" would definitely be too long for my mare's short back - the 18" is as far back as I am comfortable with already.

    My question is - how large of a sin is it to learn dressage in a saddle that is a wee bit tight for the rider (but not in a way that affects my horse's back)? I don't feel uncomfortable in it - but I'm not sure that at this point I have developed my position enough to know what I need/like? However, I don't want to be sorry if this is something that will hinder my progress or upset my horse.

    So, my fellow COTHers who are much wiser than I - do I really need to spend $$$$$$ and go custom or can I make this saddle work for the next little while?
    Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

  • #2
    As long as your horse is comfortable I wouldn't worry too much about it. But how you sit in this saddle and how you sit in a dressage saddle will be different. Once you change to a dressage saddle you will have to adjust to a different feel. Once you make the change longe lessons will help you find your new seat and develop new muscle memory.
    Dawn

    Patience and Consistency are Your Friends

    Comment


    • #3
      As long as the saddle works for the horse, you can accommodate as a rider BUT what does your trainer think of your position in the saddle?
      I suspect that you will be more comfortable - short & long term - in a dressage saddle that is more open in the seat (not as deep) & removable/adjustable blocks (you can likely have a local shop modify blocks if the saddle is great otherwise).

      Can you test ride this saddle for a couple of weeks or only a couple of days? obviously the former is better when trying to decide if a saddle is going to be OK: when there is not enough "seat" rider will try to compensate & this is generally to the detriment ...

      I'm not sure why you can't just explore dressage in your jump saddle until you find a saddle that suits both you & your horse (again certain jump saddles are more suited to this than others).
      This will also give you time to drop the weight - if only it were that easy - be careful with the assumption that it's the "fluff" & not your femur length that is making the saddle seem "tight".

      You've not mentioned the price on the Vienna, but there are also synthetic options which might work well for the first year or so.
      When choosing a temporary saddle (which you'll want to sell on) look at what sells in your area & try to choose that brand (obviously fit is the determinant).

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Thank you for the replies and input, much appreciated.

        I am a bit concerned that is really the length of my femur that is the problem. I am not really overweight, dropping 10 lbs may or may not help, but I do have a very long femur. I ride a 17.5" close contact with a very forward flap. The forward flap makes it quite difficult to open my hip angle and bring my shoulder up, so the saddle is certainly hindering more than its helping at this point.

        I have a saddle fitter coming to assess this saddle and also to later bring me other options. My coach is currently away, but I would be asking her input as well. I am open to synthetic and older and even brown saddles. The Vienna is very reasonably priced, which is why I was interested - if it could work for a good deal, then why not grab it? However, I will be patient if it really is a little too deep/small.

        Thanks for the point about the open seat and moveable blocks. As I am a newbie, I am not sure what to look for so all replies are very much valued!
        Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

        Comment


        • #5
          I ride a 17.5" close contact with a very forward flap.
          Don't do it then - reasonable priced is irrelevant when a saddle does not fit & based upon that statement, I'd absolutely not expect the 10lb drop to make you any more comfortable.

          You can find dressage saddles with an open seat easily enough, one also with forwards flaps (& reasonably priced) not so easy.

          Until you've ridden in a bunch of dressage saddles, I'd be very hesitant to purchase - quite often that stellar deal saddle is such because it's not very saleable (whether due to lack of brand recognition, odd fit for horse or rider, or uncommon seat size).

          When you look at dressage saddles, there should be rather more 18's than in jump saddles - the deeper seat usually is accommodated by increasing the seat number by 1, e.g., 16 1/2 jump, 17 1/2 dressage.

          You've not mentioned price range, but there are loads of used Passier, Albion, Counties, etc - you just have to find the one that suits your price.
          As you're in Canada, shipping will be an issue, so use your local contacts to your advantage - have any reps out that offer reasonable demos (ie free ) so you can try a range of saddles.
          Do a wither/back tracing of your horse & take it into local shops so you can go home with more likely to fit saddles - if you dislike the saddle in the shop, but it's likely to fit your horse, take it home to try (as long as the saddle is not too small for you).

          When your coach is there, she can show you where your leg will be over time, so often better at assessing how the saddle will work for the rider longterm - only you can say whether your seat bones are sitting on seams

          The forward flap makes it quite difficult to open my hip angle and bring my shoulder up, so the saddle is certainly hindering more than its helping at this point.
          How long have you been riding dressage?
          yes these are notable factors, but I suspect muscle memory (20 years!!! ) is more the issue.
          It's common for people changing disciplines to want to be almost as good at the new discipline as they were (at the previous) in relatively short order: enter all the saddles that "fix" your position (as in "fixative").

          Anyway, talk to your coach (as I stop spouting my own nonsense ) - try to have saddle trials video'd so you can watch them later.
          Also be aware that the saddle you buy now may not fit your horse all that well when she changes her topline (depends a bit on what she's like now & how far you progress & how she builds muscle & how sensitive she is etc,etc.) which is one reason why wool flocking is so popular in dressage saddles.
          There are also synthetic wool panels which are fine, just be sure that your local fitter is willing/able to adjust them.

          Comment


          • #6
            I am 5'11 with a femur length of 24", and my seat size is 17". Femur length does not necessarily relate to seat size. A "good leg" does. Until you learn to sit correctly and in balance, do not make a saddle purchase.
            ... _. ._ .._. .._

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by alto View Post
              Don't do it then - reasonable priced is irrelevant when a saddle does not fit & based upon that statement, I'd absolutely not expect the 10lb drop to make you any more comfortable.

              You can find dressage saddles with an open seat easily enough, one also with forwards flaps (& reasonably priced) not so easy.

              Until you've ridden in a bunch of dressage saddles, I'd be very hesitant to purchase - quite often that stellar deal saddle is such because it's not very saleable (whether due to lack of brand recognition, odd fit for horse or rider, or uncommon seat size).

              When you look at dressage saddles, there should be rather more 18's than in jump saddles - the deeper seat usually is accommodated by increasing the seat number by 1, e.g., 16 1/2 jump, 17 1/2 dressage.

              You've not mentioned price range, but there are loads of used Passier, Albion, Counties, etc - you just have to find the one that suits your price.
              As you're in Canada, shipping will be an issue, so use your local contacts to your advantage - have any reps out that offer reasonable demos (ie free ) so you can try a range of saddles.
              Do a wither/back tracing of your horse & take it into local shops so you can go home with more likely to fit saddles - if you dislike the saddle in the shop, but it's likely to fit your horse, take it home to try (as long as the saddle is not too small for you).

              When your coach is there, she can show you where your leg will be over time, so often better at assessing how the saddle will work for the rider longterm - only you can say whether your seat bones are sitting on seams


              How long have you been riding dressage?
              yes these are notable factors, but I suspect muscle memory (20 years!!! ) is more the issue.
              It's common for people changing disciplines to want to be almost as good at the new discipline as they were (at the previous) in relatively short order: enter all the saddles that "fix" your position (as in "fixative").

              Anyway, talk to your coach (as I stop spouting my own nonsense ) - try to have saddle trials video'd so you can watch them later.
              Also be aware that the saddle you buy now may not fit your horse all that well when she changes her topline (depends a bit on what she's like now & how far you progress & how she builds muscle & how sensitive she is etc,etc.) which is one reason why wool flocking is so popular in dressage saddles.
              There are also synthetic wool panels which are fine, just be sure that your local fitter is willing/able to adjust them.

              Thank you for all of this! Yes, I am impatient to progress (I know, I am setting myself up for disappointment te he) - hence the looking for a saddle. As I would not expect one of my hunter jumper students to learn the correct jumping position in a dressage saddle, I think I having a the proper tools would be of benefit. My couch has agreed it might help to change the saddle now. Again, I don't need a saddle tomorrow and I will definitely heed the advice to try several before committing.

              However, I do realize whatever I choose now may not be my forever solution - both my position and my horse's shape may change considerably in the months/years to come, thus so may our saddle needs.

              I am looking for my "learner" saddle I guess! I look forward to many future moments of feeling awkward and like I don't know what I'm doing with all my parts in whatever saddle I am in!
              Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

              Comment


              • #8
                wintec isabells offer great balance, their 18" seat fits a leggy 6foot female, balance you as well as an Albion or JRD, are presentable enough for recognized lower level competition, and both wool and cair flocking styles retain their value for resale. And you can get them anywhere. can't say same for wintec pro dressage just b/c i have no experience with them. if your trainer needs you to have a leather saddle then it's the Bates isabell for the same reasons for $1000 more. IMHO.

                Comment


                • #9
                  A Must Read - I don't know why I seem to think she's in Ontario somewhere ...

                  My couch has agreed it might help to change the saddle now.
                  I did wonder if this was code speak
                  but then decided it likely was just auto-correct

                  OK since you brought it up, the learner saddle could be the flat seat, no blocks of any kind sort - you got to figure out all the balance stuff on your own - or the too deep to move seat with the leg goes here sort
                  If the latter, you want to make sure it's built for your body or you'll end up sore (in places you rather wished not to know about) or compensating (just more muscle memory to undo eventually).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My situation is a little different -- but I was *astounded* how much my position (not to mention pain levels) improved when I got out of my instructor's too-small-for-me Bates Isabella and into a more open-seated Wintec VSD. Both fit friend horse just fine, but I no longer have to struggle to keep my legs where they belong.
                    Originally posted by HuntrJumpr
                    No matter what level of showing you're doing, you are required to have pants on.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Spud&Saf View Post
                      Thank you for all of this! Yes, I am impatient to progress (I know, I am setting myself up for disappointment te he) - hence the looking for a saddle. As I would not expect one of my hunter jumper students to learn the correct jumping position in a dressage saddle, I think I having a the proper tools would be of benefit. My couch has agreed it might help to change the saddle now. Again, I don't need a saddle tomorrow and I will definitely heed the advice to try several before committing.

                      However, I do realize whatever I choose now may not be my forever solution - both my position and my horse's shape may change considerably in the months/years to come, thus so may our saddle needs.

                      I am looking for my "learner" saddle I guess! I look forward to many future moments of feeling awkward and like I don't know what I'm doing with all my parts in whatever saddle I am in!
                      Another option might be a County Eventer.
                      I wasn't always a Smurf
                      Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
                      "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                      The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by alto View Post
                        A Must Read - I don't know why I seem to think she's in Ontario somewhere ...


                        I did wonder if this was code speak
                        but then decided it likely was just auto-correct

                        OK since you brought it up, the learner saddle could be the flat seat, no blocks of any kind sort - you got to figure out all the balance stuff on your own - or the too deep to move seat with the leg goes here sort
                        If the latter, you want to make sure it's built for your body or you'll end up sore (in places you rather wished not to know about) or compensating (just more muscle memory to undo eventually).
                        Autocorrect strikes again. *Blush*
                        Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Thank you again for the responses. I think I've decided the JC is just too small. A friend is going to drop me off a Passier Grand Gilbert she is selling as well. Her horse is a similar shape to mine, so I guess the hunt continues.

                          Thank you for the suggestion of the Wintec Isabel, perhaps that is worth looking into for me as well, provided it is not too "A" shaped for my horse.

                          I think perhaps a more open seat is to my liking as well, but perhaps I will forgo the flat as a pancake no rolls type as I am not getting any younger!
                          Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Spud&Saf View Post
                            I think I've decided the JC is just too small. A friend is going to drop me off a Passier Grand Gilbert she is selling as well.
                            Note that the Thornhill Vienna is patterned after the Passier GG so don't expect a lot of difference in saddle fit for you unless the GG is a bigger seat or was ordered with flap options; do expect a harder seat & smaller thigh blocks (compared to new saddles currently marketed).
                            It is easy enough to alter blocks (assuming saddle price & your budget allow), though this can affect the flap if you get too different from the original.
                            When shopping older saddles, always consider gullet channel width (vs your horse's spine conformation) & condition of flocking (if wool has compressed or "knotted", that may add $100 - $300 to the saddle cost, depending on your fitter & how much needs replacing).

                            Not trying to dissuade you in any way

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Funny, I tried the Grand Gilbert last night and it seemed much more open in the seat and narrower through the twist. It had a longer flap and seemed to fit me much better, even though it was a 17.5 seat.

                              I could actually feel my hip opening in that saddle and my muscles stretching as I rode in it. Am a bit sore today, actually!

                              I am just going to continue to try a bunch and wait for the saddle fitter to come out, assess me and my trusty steed and bring options suited to us both.

                              Thanks for all of your input Alto!
                              Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Spud&Saf View Post
                                I could actually feel my hip opening in that saddle and my muscles stretching as I rode in it. Am a bit sore today, actually!
                                Sounds promising
                                If your friend is willing, try to borrow saddle for 2-4 weeks & see how it goes.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I'm glad to hear you have a fitter involved. While some people balk at the initial "added expense," you'll save a lot of time, frustration and money by eliminating all the guesswork, shipping and saddle trial time.

                                  I find that seat size is quite subjective, and some people like more room to move, while others prefer a closer fit. If the saddle fits your horse, if you're comfortable and if you aren't concentrating too much rider weight in too little space, you should be fine. We fitters all have our opinions, but in the end, they're just that: opinions. What really matters is how the saddle suits the horse and rider, and IMO, they have the final say.
                                  Kitt Hazelton
                                  Saddle Fitter
                                  www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
                                  www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    A suggestion to try and see if it fits you both would be a Niedersuss Symphonie or Olympik (the difference is in the girthing system.) The larger size.

                                    With the upswept panel, it might be better for your short-backed horse, and I've found it in the past to be a good transitional saddle from one discipline to the other--not too extremely deep a seat and a somewhat more forward, less restrictive flap. You might not want to ride in it forever, but they are readily available and relatively inexpensive used, nice quality, and can be flocked to get an optimum fit.

                                    And I'd be very careful of a saddle that's making you feel "stretched" after one ride. While it's normal to feel some new muscles after a change in position, you don't want to end up with something that is too wide in the twist for your pelvic girdle, or you will never be comfortable!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      The Neiderseuss is a great suggestion!! Nice saddle and good resale value.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Thank you again, everyone - is a Niedersuss also known as a KN?
                                        Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                                        Comment

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