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You and your dressage saddle

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  • You and your dressage saddle

    As a group of people who spend most of their time in shallow seated saddles with their stirrups jacked up, what kind of a dressage saddle doesn't make you scream "I usually jump, I'm so sorry for my seat!."

    My toes stick out, the backs of my calves grip my horse instead of drapping lightly, and when I ask for the canter I do it with a slight forward incline in my body. Stupid dressage.

    Do you use a deep seated, exterior blocked beast that wedges you in the proper position, or do you like a closer contact saddle? Does your dressage instructor sigh and shake her head?

  • #2
    Well, my dressage instructor often sighs and shakes her head, but IME what defines "the right saddle" is sort of analogous to trying to select the right husband, wife, horse, or other major decision. Very personal, very variable, and sometimes you just don't know until you are already committed.

    FWIW, blocks and deep seats make me pinch MORE. Nothing holds me in place except my own flailing efforts, linearly related to my level of fitness and hours spent in the saddle. One way to expedite the process of staying put is to do occasional no-stirrup longe lessons.
    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      Originally posted by deltawave View Post
      Nothing holds me in place except my own flailing efforts, linearly related to my level of fitness and hours spent in the saddle.
      so very true. I'm also of the "less is more" camp, in terms of blocks and rolls and such. I have a Michael Stokes model that I love love love but, aside from the pretty two-tone leather, there's not much fancy about it.
      Balanced Care Equine


      • #4
        I really don't think the fact that you jump should be any reason for you not to be able to have a good seat in a dressage saddle...it just takes work, just like your jump position does. That being said, fighting a poorly fitted, badly designed saddle doesn't really help.

        I am more of a "less is more" kinda girl when it comes to my saddles, especially my dressage saddle. It is a Kniedersuss (sp?), fairly close contact, nothing really more than a pencil knee roll. It fits me well (a lot of dressage saddles are too wide in the twist for me and the flaps are too long), is well balanced, puts me in the correct position without propping me up, sticking me in, or offering me a crutch. If I don't do my due diligence, it shows, but I am not fighting to be in the right spot....when it's right, it's easy.

        It is VERY personal, though, like dw said. What I love about my saddle some would hate, and there are a lot of saddles out there that their owners ADORE that I would hate with every fiber of my being! And this:
        and sometimes you just don't know until you are already committed.
        is very true. I kept turning my nose up at my saddle, for weeks. I kept going into my local tack shop and sitting in everything new they'd get in, but kept looking past this one because I couldn't imagine that I would like it at all (besides that it looked too big on the rack, I also could not imagine that a Kniedersuss would be to my very particular tastes at all). I finally got talked into sitting in it, since staff, coach, etc were all sick of looking at saddles with me Love at first sit.


        • #5
          I don't like huge blocks on a dressage saddle either. What works for you best will depend on your conformation. That said, from the second I sat in my Black Country, I had mad love and it encourages a correct position with completely forcing you. I had a similar experience in my BO's Albion, although it was not as armchair comfy as my BC.
          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

          Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
          We Are Flying Solo


          • #6
            I totally suck dressage position wise, but the County Connection and the Devoucoux Milady (older model) seem to help me a bit
            OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!


            • #7
              I rode in a collegiate event saddle for close to ten years. I got a nice tax refund (about $2500) and decided to leave my old (and now ill-fitting) saddle behind for a nice, new jumping saddle and dressage saddle. I took the jumping saddle on trial, liked it, bought it, had a lesson in it, yey!

              Took the dressage saddle on trial, liked it, bought it, had a lesson in it...trainer told me I had to just walk in that saddle for two weeks just to get used to it because I was all over the place.

              Recently, I went from riding in my jumping saddle all winter, to putting the dressage saddle on a horse I was riding. I again, felt somewhat awkward. Another student of my trainer's spent all winter galloping racehorses. She had her first lesson of the year and commented that the stirrups in her jumping saddle felt way to long. I am sure someone going from a dressage saddle to a jumping saddle would have similar issues.

              A lot of it is what you are used to and getting used to something else. My dressage saddle has a significantly deeper seat than my jumping saddle, but no significant knee or thigh blocks (they are there, just not any bigger than the blocks on the jumping saddle). It has a lot to do with the longer stirrup and the way you sit in a dressage saddle.

              So, yeah, a good jumper should be ablel to eventually have a good dressage seat as well.

              As far as saddles go, my trainer and I sat in a $4,000 Hermes dressage saddle and we both were quite puzzled with who would actually find it comfortable!


              • Original Poster

                I just bought this one and I'm still deciding if I like it. It is a dressage saddle but seems to be designed for a slightly more forward leg and shorter stirrup. My dressage friend doesn't like it for me (doesn't give me a classical straight long leg) but I feel secure in it, well balanced as I can be in a dressage saddle, and my horse seems to love it.

                It's kind of like riding bareback.



                • #9
                  You know the saddle when you sit in it.

                  I was deadset against my current saddle until I saw it "click" on my horse's back. I still didn't want it. It's a 25-year-old brown kieffer. It needed lots of work and I wanted to "look the part" by going black.

                  It was the only saddle I rode in that day where I just rode and didn't force or fidget. It has minimal rolls and what I'd say is in between a deep and a half-deep seat. It rides more like a CC and the waist is pretty narrow. It has minimal comfort and will punish you if you get too bad out of position (though sometime not enough of a deterent!).

                  I get in friends' saddles that basically fillet you open and pin you there and I lose use of my lower leg aides.

                  Also, lots of stirrupless work in your dr saddle is necessary for counteracting your jump position, getting plugged in and "draping" your leg instead of keeping a vice grip on the horse.

                  Good luck in your search!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post
                    "My toes stick out, the backs of my calves grip my horse instead of drapping lightly, and when I ask for the canter I do it with a slight forward incline in my body."
                    For starters, toes shouldn't be sticking out, and calves shouldn't be always gripping your horse. I am a culprit of the toes sticking out too which causes your calf to put pressure on your horse. As with any other aid, when used too much the horse becomes numb or in this case oversensitive. I am ever so politely reminded of this occasionally in my lessons.

                    Coming from a hunter/jumper background, even 11 years later I still tend to tip slightly forward especially in dressage. I just bought a Stubben Tristan for dressage which has a higher pommel. This is one of the main reasons why I bought this saddle: the pommel MAKES me sit back. My horse is happier, and our dressage work has gotten much better.
                    Horse, thou art truly a creature without equal, for thou fliest without wings and conquerest without sword.


                    • #11
                      A lot of my friends ride Dressage in a County Connection with a forward flap. The flap is just forward enough to allow a comfortable leg position after all that jumping! The forward flap is a special order on a new saddle.

                      Is it a "classic" leg position? I don't think many "modern/straight" dressage instructors would like it, but the dressage judges don't seem to mind! My friends are getting 7's and 8's on their position.

                      Hmmm..... wasn't there just an article or blog on COTH about dressage leg position? Something about the correct knee position being further forward then people think?

                      The only thing I would check on the saddle before ordering or buying used is the width of the gullet. The older models have a wider gullet that my horses like a lot! The newer models gullet seems to be about an inch narrower. I checked with the rep and you should be able to order with the wider gullet.


                      • #12
                        When I was 20 I rode in England at a fancy barn. I got to ride lots of horses in lots of saddles.

                        Whenever I rode in a Kieffer, regardless of the horse, it just felt like it put me in the right place. Some people hate them, some people love them. But eventually when I bought my dressage saddle, that's what I chose and I've been very happy with it.

                        You just need to try out a bunch of saddles and eventually you'll find one that puts you in the most comfortable place.
                        Somehow my inner ten year old seems to have stolen my chequebook!



                        • #13
                          When I got both saddles fitted as mare was being brought back into work post injury, I discovered that the Wintec dressage saddle (which came with the horse) fit both mare and I really well. It is not fancy, but suits both of us well, and the saddle fitter hardly had to touch it to adjust it into place. I feel lucky, not having to scour the planet for a $2K needle in a haystack.

                          A good saddle should HELP place you in the right position, and then stay out of your way, IMHO.
                          I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                          I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


                          • #14
                            I’m really struggling with my dressage position – I’m blaming my years of h/j lessons, not my saddle, for me cranking my heels down, pulling up my knee and tensing my legs when I ride, especially without stirrups, I’ve been working hard on the sitting trot with no stirrups trying to relax my leg and sit but even when I’m told I’m doing it right, or at least better, it doesn’t feel right & doesn’t feel effective, so I’m never sure if I’m practicing correctly on my own. My first dressage saddle (that I got last spring because I only discovered this amazing eventing thing recently) was a old brown Kieffer – it fit both me and my horse but had no padding left and was hard as a rock, I thought something with a bit more cushion may help me sit or want to sit, now I have a collegiate which I’m happy with for now, I love riding in my trainer’s County Connection but not sure if it would help with my current struggles or not. Even at the canter I can’t figure out how to sit & not pump with my seat.


                            • #15
                              When I evented, I almost always rode in a Stubben for both dressage and jumping. I think at one point I did have a County dressage saddle, then a Kieffer. I don't jump much anymore, as my dressage horse is deathly afraid of everything, including puddles. I ride in an Albion and it is quite comfortable. I also still have my Ovation jump saddle, which I wish I had many years ago, as it is very comfy
                              Mirror Image 2001-2007


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by AzuWish View Post
                                You know the saddle when you sit in it.
                                This bears repeating.
                                I think the best thing is to go to a tack shop that has lots of different models both new and used to sit in. A friend and I drove 3 hours to do just that and that helped tremendously. Initially I thought I would have to spend 2k plus to find a saddle that would meet my needs. I sat in probably 20+ saddles. Everything from a 700 Dover circuit a 4k Hermes, a stackhouse and a nice Jaguar too.
                                The minute I sat in my saddle I could tell it was the perfect fit. I was shocked to discover it was a hardly known brand in the Dressage world and amazingly affordable.
                                Lucky for me it also happened to be a great fit for my horse that needed very little adjusting.
                                I ended up with a Berney Bros Kildaire Dressage saddle. It's close contact but has enough blocks to help remind your leg of the proper position rather than lock it in place. Narrow twist which was essential for me too.
                                Last edited by LookinSouth; Mar. 31, 2011, 09:44 PM.


                                • #17
                                  I think you should get really good at dressage before you start jumping, so your dressage seat should be the norm

                                  I also believe that less is more. I ride in an Ansur with the removable blocks removed. I'm about as close to my horse as I can get, and I have nothing holding me in place, not even a tree.
                                  "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."


                                  • #18
                                    I have the Passier Grand Gillbert with the biggest honkin' knee blocks I've ever seen. It's almost embarrassing they are so enormous!

                                    I bought the saddle used and it was like new for an incredible price. It fit my horse and has that lovely wide gullet. I don't think the saddle does much to help my position other than it fits me and sits correctly on the horse, but I don't find myself fighting it either. Best thing I did for my dressage position was shorten my stirrups! The blocks? I could take 'em or leave 'em.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by subk View Post
                                      I have the Passier Grand Gillbert with the biggest honkin' knee blocks I've ever seen. It's almost embarrassing they are so enormous!

                                      I bought the saddle used and it was like new for an incredible price. It fit my horse and has that lovely wide gullet. I don't think the saddle does much to help my position other than it fits me and sits correctly on the horse, but I don't find myself fighting it either. Best thing I did for my dressage position was shorten my stirrups! The blocks? I could take 'em or leave 'em.
                                      I've been riding in a Kieffer for the last couple years, and while I like it fine (depending on the horse), lately I've been feeling like I had to fight with it to really sit on the horse and RIDE (as opposed to just being a passenger). After seeing pictures from our last dressage show, it really proved my concerns and I went bargain hunting. My old instructor had a Passier that I rode quite well in, and so I managed to find one used for a steal ($300!). It arrived this week and I'm hoping to get in a ride on both boys tonight if it fits them.

                                      In answer to the original question, I spend far more time in my dressage saddle than I do my jumping saddle. I find it MUCH easier to re-adjust that direction than from the jumping saddle to dressage. In a perfect world, I'd probably spend equal amounts of time in both, or at least 2/3 v 1/3. I will admit that I need to work on getting a really deep heel back, the one downside to having spent most of my time lately in a dressage saddle!


                                      • #20
                                        I won a very large bet, and I have custom Stackhouse jumping and dressage saddles.

                                        I. love. them.

                                        They are made for ME, and for my horse. They put my leg in the right place. They make it easy to sit. They are comfy.

                                        I know not everyone can afford a custom saddle...but it really helped me.
                                        --Becky in TX
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                                        She who throws dirt is losing ground.