I am an amateur eventer moving up to BE90 level this season with my lovely home produced gelding. I have seen that a few other competitors have a specific dressage saddle for that phase as well as a jumping saddle. Will investing in a dressage saddle help improve our performance compared to our regular general purpose saddle?
The Society of Master Saddlers replies:
Depending on each individual situation there are times when Eventing can be more expensive than other disciplines in relation to tack and equipment needed. Ideally most riders would prefer to have specialist saddles and bridles for each phase.
Such an initial investment is often too much for riders who are just starting out with most having to comprise, as you do, with just one saddle.
When budget is limited, the Society of Master Saddlers recommends that you should never compromise by buying ‘cheap’ inferior saddles that may be made with poor quality materials and low standards of craftsmanship that could impact on welfare, safety, comfort and performance.
A Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter will be able to help with recommendations of good quality second-hand saddles when you have a set budget. Most riders would opt to invest in a specialist dressage saddle and keep the existing general purpose saddle for the jumping phases.
A dressage saddle is designed with a long straight saddle flap which mirrors the leg of the rider and longer stirrup leathers allowing a longer and straighter leg position. They are designed with a higher pommel and cantle for a deeper seat and pronounced knee blocks to help keep the rider’s leg from moving too far forward.
This gives the rider an elegant and tall position in the saddle and allows for the very best communication with horse by placing the rider at the centre of gravity with a long and relaxed leg position to enable the appliance of a minimum of aids. All of which can help improve performance as they are specifically designed for the dressage arena.
There has been a lot of development in ‘GP’, ‘Event’ and ‘All-purpose’ saddles over the years but there is still some compromise on rider fit and performance because no one saddle can perfectly fulfil the needs of two different disciplines.
For those riders whose budget extends to more than one saddle, the ‘other’ jumping saddle may need to be considered more carefully as a saddle that will best assist the rider in the show jumping phase may not be absolutely identical to the one that would be most helpful in the cross country phase.
Many riders opt for a close contact saddle that offers plenty of manoeuvrability helping the rider to adapt their position when things go slightly wrong on the cross country course.