I have just started competing in dressage competitions with my horse and we are really enjoying our new found success. I currently ride in a working hunter saddle but should I consider buying a specialist dressage saddle? I have heard it can help improve the horse’s movement?
The Society of Master Saddlers replies:
As always a well-designed, well-made and well-fitted saddle that is fit for its purpose is always an excellent tool and can certainly benefit your horse and improve the rider’s position.
First of all you need to consider if dressage is something you are going to continue doing and if so we would recommend purchasing a specific dressage saddle.
There are many advantages to having a specialist dressage saddle as it is designed to give the very best communication with the horse and allows the rider to feel every movement of the horse.
We recommend, as with every new or second-hand saddle that is purchased, that it is fitted by a Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter so that you get the perfect fit for the horse and for the rider.
If a saddle is not fitted properly and it rolls to one side or pinches the horse’s back, this can very much effect the horse’s movement however skilled the training. It can also lead to soreness and injury which is certainly not what any rider would want for their horse.
In dressage the horse is required to perform a series of accurately controlled movements responding to clear but minimal signals from the rider, so the whole picture is one of control, obedience and harmony.
A dressage saddle is designed with a longer stirrup and long straight saddle flaps, which should mirror the longer leg length of the rider. The pronounced knee blocks help keep the rider’s leg secure but relaxed enabling it to be close to the horse’s side to apply the minimum of aids.
They are also designed with a deep seat with high cantle and pommel which enables the rider to sit deep and tall absorbing the horse’s movements and keeping the rider’s centre of gravity secure.
The dressage saddle should encourage a good position without being restrictive. A correct leg position will come from good balance and posture and it is better to buy a saddle that encourages this rather than forces you into it.
A rider’s weight influences the horse all the time, and this ‘weight’ is the centre of gravity of the whole seat of the rider which runs from the chest through the stomach and pelvis into the thighs.
Through muscle tone and control of the rider’s core, assisted by the saddle, the weight becomes the control centre. The response to all leg and hand signals is dependent on the position of the weight and the seat.
To find out more information on The Society of Master Saddlers and to find your nearest Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk or contact on 01449 711642.