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Hunt in a Dressage Saddle?

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  • Hunt in a Dressage Saddle?

    Forgive my complete and utter ignorance, but living in California I've never been on a fox hunt before . This winter, I am flying to Virginia to hunt with my aunt. However, I've sold my jump saddle and have been riding in a dressage saddle due to a problem with my hips.

    The hunt's rules don't say anything about saddle type stipulations, and in looking at their online photo album I don't see anyone in a dressage saddle. Is it only acceptable to ride in a CC saddle? Will I look like a total fool out there in a dressage saddle?

    If it makes any difference at all, my saddle isn't one with outrageous knee blocks; it's actually geared more towards eventing riders (Ainsley Pro National).

    Thanks much, and again forgive my ignorance!
    Stübben North America
    Los Angeles - Ventura County - San Luis Obispo

  • #2
    You'll not look like a fool, just unschooled. You'll be most uncomfortable in it. Just lower your stirrups in a cc saddle. A dressage saddle is not balanced for crossing hte country at speed. Not for you, and definitely not for the horse.
    * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.


    • #3
      I and many others hunt our racehorses in exercise saddles. I would ride in whatever you are comfortable in.


      • #4
        I'm not experienced in fox hunting but since I ride both hunter and dressage, I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents.

        Can you ride in your dressage with short stirrup without the knee blocks in the way, or knees over the flaps? Just about every dressage saddle I know, when shorten the stirrup leather to the correct length for CC, the knee blocks are in the way and/or the knees are way over the flaps. And when you go CC, you have to have short stirrup. You cannot ride your dressage legs CC safely.

        Maybe it's better/safer/easier to borrow a saddle suitable for the sport, at least an AP type?


        • #5
          Maybe you should ask the secretary at the hunt about your dilemma.

          I know that if someone caps with our hunt and the show up in a dressage saddle the are not turned away. However, it is frowned upon to have members hunt in one repeatedly. Plus, as others have said, it's not really comfortable for cross country. Although if you're planning to hilltop, maybe it would be such a bid deal.
          Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
          EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


          • #6
            Hilltoppers still may have to gallop for miles and hours.
            Exercise saddles, which I often have hunted in too, are *built* for speed. )
            It comes down to what sort of saddle is designed for galloping across the countryside. Dressage saddle - no. Hunt, jump, cross country, all purpose, exercise, race saddles - yes.
            * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for the input.

              I'm sure if I had an AP that would probably solve the issue. Unfortunately it's not simply a matter of riding with longer stirrups; oh I wish! I would not have sold my beloved old Barnsby if I didn't have to, trust me. Among other things (for which I am seeing a specialist at UCLA), I have a small tear in one of my hip flexors which makes riding with shorter stirrups/a more forward stirrup bar very painful. My other issues make it downright excruciating to walk after getting out of a CC My dressage saddle is the only saddle that does not kill me to ride in and walk after, so there definitely is a reason why I am riding in this saddle as opposed to others.

              I probably COULD shorten my stirrups with this saddle- the knee blocks are not big at all. They are much more similar to CC type blocks. Thanks for that suggestion!


              As you can see, it's also not a very deep seated saddle at all.

              I'm also only going to one hunt, if it matters. Thanks again.
              Stübben North America
              Los Angeles - Ventura County - San Luis Obispo


              • #8
                Actually, I've hunted in an all purpose saddle that tended toward dressage, multiple days- came with the horse. I was able to jack up the stirrups reasonably well and it worked for me.

                Mind you, I'd still be using my ultra flat Prix des Nations if it fit any current stock...but for one hunt, I wouldn't worry about it.

                Not up to the hunt secretary to decree what type of saddle you use. Or even color- the saddle I happened to use as referenced above was black, though I prefer the more traditional brown. The overriding rule is (long term) you use what's right for you and the horse.


                • #9
                  Of course you can ride in a dressage saddle....but it depends on the saddle.

                  I foxhunted in a Passier Westphalian (extended billet and straight flap...but this is an old school type of dressage saddle). These are flatter saddles that don't look like a bucket you sit in ready to do Spanish Riding School movements.
                  "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


                  • Original Poster

                    I'm glad to hear it has been done, thank you I purposely did not buy a bucket of a dressage saddle and really do like the relatively flat seat my Ainsley has.
                    Stübben North America
                    Los Angeles - Ventura County - San Luis Obispo


                    • #11
                      Enjoy your trip & the hunt! A guest in my hunt would be welcome using a dressage saddle and no one would think twice about it. Were you to continue hunting you might want to select a saddle with more forward tendencies- and a good long hunt in VA just might prove that point.

                      Just make sure your saddle fits the horse you borrow but you probably already know that stuff.


                      • #12
                        I've hunted in a (black!) dressage saddle in the past, and occasionally use a (black!) straight cut deep-seated saddle now. We don't jump but do cross the country fast and its fairly trappy country.

                        I'd agree if you're comfortable in it, worth a try, but also worth seeing if you can ride shorter than normal in it without your knees shooting off the front, as others have said. Also worth going for a long gallop in it beforehand, as a test run :-)


                        • #13

                          How about test it at home? Shorten your stirrup as short as possible but still comfortable for you, and see whether you can get to half seat in your dressage saddle in all gaits in balance, not falling on your nose nor falling backward. If you can, you are probably OK.

                          The thing is, at gallop, it is very very bouncy to try to sit and that is the time you really need to get to your half seat so you can be comfortable.


                          • #14
                            Of course you can ride in it - I would suspect that it will be hard to get yourself up and forward, where you want to be over a jump. You could have quite a problem getting 'left behind' over the fence, and these are not small nor easy fences. You horse needs you up and forward and out of his way to negotiate walls and ditches, and short approaches and fast turns off the backside, as I am sure you have contemplated. If it were me, I would be concerned that I would be in his way and could easily cause him to land bad or awkwardly and that would be a big concern for me.

                            I however would have no problem finding someone to loan me an AP or flat (sigh, lust, yearn) barnsby just for the one time.

                            Good luck, and consider finding a loaner.

                            Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks everyone, I really appreciate it. I guess the problem with borrowing is that it's one thing to borrow a friend's saddle and go down the street and hack your horse in it, and another to pack it in your suitcase and fly it across the country! A trainer friend has some older Berney Bros and Tolgas not being used that I haven't ridden in since my hip issue started that perhaps I could try out. I remember loving one of the old Tolgas even though it was an 18" seat when I ride in a 16.5" However, with the leather covering the knee rolls separated pretty badly, I don't think it would be appropriate to hunt in.

                              If I knew more people in VA, I'd probably be able to find a saddle to use and make my life easier, not having to fly one cross country!

                              Thanks again.
                              Stübben North America
                              Los Angeles - Ventura County - San Luis Obispo


                              • #16
                                Does the horse you'll be riding have their own saddle that you can use? If not, could your aunt ask the other hunt members if one of them might have a saddle that would work for you? I live in VA, and seriously, if my close contact saddle didn't need some repair work done and would fit you and the horse, I'd offer it to you. I can't help but worry about you being comfortable (even though I know you said your dressage saddle is the only one that you're comfortable in right now) and above all else, safe. Your dressage saddle does look to be more of a close contact type than most are (which I really like BTW!), but even so, I'd still be hesitant. If I were to hunt in my own dressage saddle, I would quite literally die out there. It's great for arena work and hacking out, but I would never want to go for a good gallop or, God forbid, jump in it.
                                "I was not expecting the park rangers to lead the resistance, none of the dystopian novels I read prepared me for this but cool."


                                • #17
                                  You will hurt your most delicate parts, not to mention the saddle may not fit the horse. (The pommel will do the damage). Use the saddle that the horse is used to.
                                  ... _. ._ .._. .._


                                  • #18
                                    OP-How friskey are you planning to be when hunting? Are you going to hunt up front and stay out until the hounds come in, or are you going to hilltop for a while, and come in when you're tired? If you have hip trouble, you may be better off in your own saddle, and plan for a conservative day. If you're wanting to keep up with first flight, you're gonna be hurting if you can't get into two point!

                                    Regardless of what you decide, here's hoping you have a great time!


                                    • Original Poster

                                      I really don't know what my aunt's saddle "situation" is with her horses. When she used to live on this coast and I used to ride her horses, I honestly don't remember her being very well-versed in saddle fit She seems convinced that my saddle, which has a 34cm tree and fits my wiiide Dutch mare like it was custom fit for her, will fit the TB gelding I'll be riding. He seems a bit more substantial than your average TB (and my saddle fits my mare's significant withers) so maybe it will fit. Who knows, maybe it will fit better than the saddle she currently rides him in...

                                      I'm just hesitant to fly out there sans saddle and have the only saddles available to me be completely uncomfortable...Because then I'll be SOL. I would probably forego the hunt altogether.

                                      Trust me, I completely understand the concern about saddle fit. There's just not much I can really tell from thousands of miles away. Who knew this would end up so complicated!
                                      Stübben North America
                                      Los Angeles - Ventura County - San Luis Obispo


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Originally posted by lesson junkie View Post
                                        OP-How friskey are you planning to be when hunting? Are you going to hunt up front and stay out until the hounds come in, or are you going to hilltop for a while, and come in when you're tired? If you have hip trouble, you may be better off in your own saddle, and plan for a conservative day. If you're wanting to keep up with first flight, you're gonna be hurting if you can't get into two point!

                                        Regardless of what you decide, here's hoping you have a great time!

                                        I've never been on a hunt before, never ridden this horse before, so I'm probably going to be much more on the conservative side. Luckily the horse is a stellar Pony Club horse when not hunting, and I have a feeling he will take care of me. First flight, not a chance!
                                        Stübben North America
                                        Los Angeles - Ventura County - San Luis Obispo