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Advice Needed for 50+ Novice Dressage Rider

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  • Advice Needed for 50+ Novice Dressage Rider

    I'm just in awe of all of the helpful individuals on this forum, and hope to get some advice on a dressage saddle.

    I'm back into riding after a loooong (15 year) hiatus, female, over 50, 5'10" tall with a long hip to knee distance, and not as light as I once was. I will require an 18.5 seat. I've just sent my young warmblood to training, and its time for me to get my "horse legs" back, so I'm doing the lunge line stuff. I don't intend to do more than low level dressage or trail riding and would prefer not buying another saddle, though will have it restuffed as needed.

    I'm hoping to spend $4000 or less on a saddle--used is fine. I know that the usual advice is to try a number of different saddles until I find the "right one", but I live in an area of the country where there aren't many varieties in my size to borrow. When I ride 17.5 saddles, I feel like I want to push myself up the cantle to get comfortable, as I'm perching on my tender bits. I'm not looking forward to paying for shipping back and forth to try saddles, without getting some clue as to what I need.

    I'm thinking of going with a flatter seat with more wiggle room, but wonder whether I'd be happier in the long run with the deeper seat. I've tried Courbette, Devoucoux, CWD, Lauriche, Lemke, Amerigo, Stubben (almost all in smaller sizes). Some feel cushier than others, and I'm so much a beginner that these appeal to my old and abused body. But since dressage is going to be my retirement hobby, I'd like to make a good choice, and not regret going down the wrong road.

    So imagine yourself as an older, less-flexible beginning rider who wants to be comfortable and doesn't really care about getting any ribbons. Are there brands you would advise or rule out? Any general advice re: flatter vs. deeper seats?

    Appreciate any responses.
    Nothing with horses is ever easy or cheap. And if it is, you're doing it wrong. They always rip out part of your soul when they leave. I guess that's how they find us later.

  • #2
    I have always loved those old, flat seat saddles. My favorite is a Stubben, though right now I am riding an Albion with very small knee blocks. It was the only thing I could find that fit my horse. You might want to look at the Passiers and the Barnsbys. If you are sitting correctly, you could ride a board without it hurting! Just remember that it is not necessarily the seat that makes a good ride, so much as whether the saddle properly fits the horse and that the stirrup leathers properly hang from the saddle's tree for your conformation.

    Comment


    • #3
      Well a saddle really is a personal preference. Everyone seems to have their own very strong likes and dislikes in saddles.

      My suggestion is to get a beginner type saddle. These are designed to support the rider.

      Beginner saddles vary in shape. Some, like the Keiffers, have a very 'V' shaped seat that is designed to support the beginner as much as possible, but some people find them confining. Others are more rounded in shape, like a 'U'. Most people like those.

      These days, most dressage saddles have 'thigh blocks' - a large pad on the knee roll that very gently supports the position of your leg so that you can relax the muscles of your leg and ride more correctly. They look large but actually, after a few rides you don't actually notice them.

      Beyond that, the rest of what people like about saddles is just fit and familiarity. What I'd suggest is going to a large tack shop that has dressage saddles in stock, and sitting on a lot of them (most shops have a plastic 'horse' to put the saddle on). For saddle brands, I had a Nidersuss for years and it is a very, very well made saddle with many available used.

      I'd honestly discourage you from spending four thousand. I think it's a better idea to buy a nice used saddle, and save some money for lessons and the other inevitable and very cool things we all want to buy.

      Comment


      • #4
        45 here, and with the opposite problem (5'1", very short thighs). Really, the best you can do is sit in as many saddles as you can. Ask folks at your barn, friends, etc. Try 18 inchers, as seat sizes do vary across brands.

        Yes, getting saddles mailed will be expensive, but if you are willing to go with a used saddle, you should be able to find something nice for well under 4K, even with the mailing costs. A lot of nice used saddles run in the $1000 to $2000 range. But try what you can before you start ordering. A lot of places that carry used saddles will know which brands are similar, so if they don't have your favorite, ask what else would likely suit. Be sure you are clear about trial periods, return policies etc.

        When I bought my saddle, I was recovering from injuries, so fit for the horse and comfort for me was most important. After trying over 20 saddles, I bought a used Albion Style, which I love, but it's a tiny bit too small (17 inches) and puts me in a chair seat. Now when I was rehabbing, that's what I needed, and I intend to keep the saddle for trail riding -- it is that comfortable and secure, I can pop the horse over small logs, take her up and down banks, ride steep hills, etc.

        Now that I've recovered, and competed a bit, I want a better position and shorter flaps so I am saddle shopping again. I am crossing my fingers over my latest find, a Spirig that is under $1K! It is a bit beat up, but only cosmetically. And it's BROWN, which is my vanity choice for my palomino horse. Get to try it on Thursday....

        Good luck!
        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by slc2 View Post
          I'd honestly discourage you from spending four thousand. I think it's a better idea to buy a nice used saddle, and save some money for lessons and the other inevitable and very cool things we all want to buy.
          I agree with this 100%. I am not sure what part of the country you are located in, but for example I am a three hour drive from a shop with educated help and a wide selection of saddles. If you can find such a place within driving distance, it would be worth it in the long run and save you a lot of money to be able to sit in a wide selection saddles. Then you may possibly take some home on trial and be able to make a better decision. There are really nice saddles that are correct and well made, less than half of the $4K you set for your range.
          "The sea was angry that day, my friends - like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli"

          Comment


          • #6
            Try to find a flatter seat style, IMO. Avoid the Isabell like the plague, but you might want to look for a used Jorge Canaves, or Prestige 2000. If you want to be really budget-conscious, try a Wintec, of the flatter seat varieties. Due to length of leg, you will probably not want a lot of under the flap blocks, and you will probably want a longish flap.
            Jeanie
            RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.

            Comment


            • #7
              out of curiosity: what is a "beginner type saddle"?

              to the OP: if you have 4k, then I would find out who makes custom saddles in your area (not the brand "Custom saddle") and see if they might have a used saddle that might fit you and your horse. I believe for your money a used custom made saddle with a saddler near by that made the saddle and who can refit is as needed is the best way to go.

              i also believe that well made custom / made to order saddles are generally much better quality, with much better internal structures. They also have a lot more variety in sizes of tree / seat etc and can be refitted to a degree to fit you and your horse.

              i can't recommend this method highly enough.

              I am not sure where you are, but you might contact JRD saddles http://jrd-tack.com/ here in California.... he does travel around and he does hand make all his saddles... and he does have a selection of used saddles ..... and he does an excellent job etc etc.



              good luck.

              Comment


              • #8
                A Kieffer Wien has a flatter seat and is lovely, and you can pick up a nice used one for about half (or less) of what you have budgeted.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mbm View Post
                  out of curiosity: what is a "beginner type saddle"?

                  to the OP: if you have 4k, then I would find out who makes custom saddles in your area (not the brand "Custom saddle") and see if they might have a used saddle that might fit you and your horse. I believe for your money a used custom made saddle with a saddler near by that made the saddle and who can refit is as needed is the best way to go.

                  i also believe that well made custom / made to order saddles are generally much better quality, with much better internal structures. They also have a lot more variety in sizes of tree / seat etc and can be refitted to a degree to fit you and your horse.

                  i can't recommend this method highly enough.

                  I am not sure where you are, but you might contact JRD saddles http://jrd-tack.com/ here in California.... he does travel around and he does hand make all his saddles... and he does have a selection of used saddles ..... and he does an excellent job etc etc.



                  good luck.

                  your far better getting a saddle from a mastercraftmen than to buy one willy nilly
                  as then it can be fittted to you as well as your horse as he growns they can adjust along the way

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My own experience has been more along the lines of start out with a less expensive saddle that you won't mind trading in, as your riding style and seat will change as you get fit. Ask me how I know... I think Thornhill makes a good starter saddle. I'm riding in a second hand Klasse after getting fed up with the Wintec Isabell and a couple others. The Klasse has the external blocks which makes the flaps close contact and has a nice wide seat for my middle aged rear. It fits my tank Arabian gelding, my daintier mare and myself. On windy, flighty days those blocks come in handy and the rest of the time, I am not aware of them. I have a close contact jumping saddle for those days when I want a different feel. For schooling, I am just loving the Klasse. New it goes for $1200, and used ran me $550. Along the way the horses and I liked a Passier and a Windsor, too. But, my mare is going to grow and change a bit more, so it wasn't making sense to lay out a lot for a saddle at this point.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You may want to look into a Thornhill - lots of seat (up to 20") and tree sizes available.

                      http://www.thornhillusa.com/saddles/...e_saddles.html

                      You can buy a new one off eBay with free shipping too.

                      http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trk...All-Categories

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by shall View Post
                        My own experience has been more along the lines of start out with a less expensive saddle that you won't mind trading in, as your riding style and seat will change as you get fit. Ask me how I know...
                        I agree 100%! Things *do* change as one rides more. My mare is more fit now, and so am I. The first saddle we had (an all-purpose Barnsby) became too big for both of us within a few months. Then I got the Style because at the time, I needed comfort more than anything. And now I am ready for a more "correct" position and saddle...
                        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm you, less 10 years. Beginner, same height, same seat size, also with a very long hip to knee. I'm in a used Keiffer Wein DL size II. Am pretty happy with it, and consider the adjustable tree an important plus. Also sat in a couple new Kieffers and loved them.

                          Should note that my saddle search was limited to those with adjustable trees, and my budget was half yours. Actually picked my saddle up for a song, so down the road if I need something entirely different, I wont' be too regretful.

                          Congrats on your new hobby!!!
                          Don't wrassle with a hog. You just get dirty, and the hog likes it.

                          Collecting Thoroughbreds - tales of a re-rider and some TBs

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            I can't thank all of you enough for your advice.

                            And, quietann - you made me smile with your "brown tack" quip, as the last time I rode, brown dressage tack was normal, and that still appeals to me!

                            I will carefully ponder EACH of your comments, including those that recommended a less expensive outlay.

                            One of the good things about returning to riding at this age is that I have more resources than I did in the past, but I don't want to waste them!
                            Nothing with horses is ever easy or cheap. And if it is, you're doing it wrong. They always rip out part of your soul when they leave. I guess that's how they find us later.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              When trying out different saddles (even if they are too small in the seat) pay attention to things like - how does it feel between your legs, too wide, too narrow, just right? Are your seat bones falling off the side or sitting on the saddle? in rising trot are you hitting the pommel?

                              I found that if you find a comfortable twist, and a seat in which your seat bones are not falling off the side then you've found a potential saddle. Seat size won't change those factors too much and then all you have to decide is what kind of flaps and rolls you want.

                              Still, I believe that you'll know when you sit in the right saddle even if the seat is too small.

                              For that price range it would probably worth hunting down some dealer reps - they could help you narrow down a model you like then have a demo in the correct seat size shipped in so you can be sure before you commit to a purchase.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                A good friend who is quite tall had trouble with many saddles and fit for both her and her horse (she needs a larger seat and has long legs as well). She just bought a custom Stackhouse saddle--it's custom to both her and the horse--and she loves it. Her husband just got one, too. I wanna say it's around or just under your $4K mark.

                                I have had a lot of saddles and now swear by Prestige. Mostly because the tree is adjustable, so they can be fit to many different horses where flocking adjustments alone won't cut it. My new saddle is a Prestige Academy. It has largish thigh blocks under the panel, but they are moveable/removeable with velcro of all things, and I think can be ordered in a larger or smaller size. I would say it has a medium deep seat--it's not super deep, but not by any means flat. This saddle cost me about $3800 new. It's a newer model so likely not many used ones out there yet. It is super comfy, and my favorite saddle of all time.

                                Prestige Academy
                                http://www.laselleria.com/prestige.p...=&cat=2&id=193

                                Stackhouse website
                                http://www.stackhousesaddles.com/stackhousesaddle.html
                                From now on, ponyfixer, i'll include foot note references.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  twelvegates, if you don't mind revealing your general location, some of us might be able to direct you to a good, non-brand-affiliated saddle fitter who can provide you with a variety of saddles to try while s/he evaluates them for both you and your horse. Since you have a little money to spare, this would be the best option for you.

                                  This need not be a hugely expensive proposition. As already noted, the "right" saddle for you today may not be a pricey one. It also may be the "wrong" saddle a year from now and you'll be doing this again, regardless of what you spend. You said your horse is young, so he will be changing and his needs evolving, too, over the next few years.

                                  As far as seat depth goes, it is really difficult to make that recommendation. That is a real personal preference thing. For instance, I am most comfortable in a flatter, harder seat ... like an older Kieffer or Passier (in fact, I have a venerable old Kieffer that is an absolute treasure!) and generally loathe the gigantic thigh blocks (they are rarely in the right place for my short-but-long-in-the-thigh body). However, I have in my tackroom a lovely Hennig that fits me perfectly ... I can ride for hours without aggravating my bad hip or back. And it's a very deep seat (I went up from a my usual 17" to an 18" so I didn't feel so hemmed in) AND has gigantic thigh blocks (but they are in the right place for me, and so don't interfere). So that is a long-winded way of saying there are just too many factors rider-to-rider, horse-to-horse and saddle-to-saddle ... not to mention all the possible permutations of rider-horse-saddle interactions ... to make any meaningful recommendations.

                                  (I also have a fondness for brown tack, though it's much rarer in dressage these days.)
                                  Equinox Equine Massage

                                  In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
                                  -Albert Camus

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I think the first priority is fitting the horse.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      $4000 budget? For that budget you could get a custom saddle that fits "both" you and your saddle!!! If you are willing to spend that much, here is what I would do....

                                      1. Do a good wither tracing of your boy and send it to some good reputable tack shops to get an idea of what brands of saddles would fit your horse.

                                      2. Go to some tack shops to sit in some saddles to see which brands you like the best.

                                      3. Then see whether you can find a brand that you like and will likely fit your horse. Then call the sales rep of that brand to come to fit you and your horse.

                                      I'm sure you can find a saddle that both you and your horse will be happy.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I have found the Prestige 2000 to fit some of the taller, longer thighed people. It is a comfortable saddle, although it tends to run to wide twists and you have to like those. I agree, get a fitter out to look at you and your horse.

                                        Comment

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