If you’re a budding Charlotte Dujardin, chances are you’ve considered investing in a dressage saddle and wondered how it might enhance your experience of the discipline. As well as helping to complete an elegant picture, dressage saddles are designed with your position in mind, so feel very different to sit in compared to a jump or GP saddle.
No two dressage saddles are the same, either. Different models, styles and features all cater to different rider levels, and rider proportions, too. Perhaps you’re a tall rider with a short body and long legs – you’d never buy a jump saddle if your knees jutted out far past the knee rolls, and a dressage saddle needs to fit you just the same.
A big part of choosing your dressage saddle will be personal preference, too. Some riders like to feel anchored in the saddle thanks to large, supporting knee and thigh blocks and a deeper seat, while others prefer a stripped back saddle with a close-contact feel and get just as much stability from a shallower seat.
So, how do these different saddle features affect you, and how do you know which is right? We spoke to Master Saddler Laurence Pearman to find out more.
Did you know?
Some dressage saddles come with adjustable knee and thigh blocks, so you can change block position to suit you.
Dressage saddles at a glance
Dressage saddles have elongated, straighter flaps, longer girth straps and stirrup bars set further back. These features help you achieve the perfect position by offering support for a longer stirrup length and a deeper, more centralised seat.
Dressage saddles benefit your horse, too. The straight flaps free up his shoulder, while the absence of girth buckles between the saddle and your leg make for clearer aids.
In a flap
Lightweight, monoflap saddles feature only one saddle flap. This means a closer-contact feel and external knee and thigh blocks. Shorter-legged riders can benefit from them because, without the extra leather, it’s easier to wrap their leg around their horse. Others like the integrated blocks of more traditional dressage saddles with more bulk to support their lower leg. In the end, it’s all down to preference.
Your first ride in a dressage saddle may feel strange, and you might find you prefer some models to others. For example, a deep-seated saddle with larger blocks may help if your leg isn’t secure, or if your legs creep forward or back. However, blocks must be precisely placed, otherwise you risk having your leg wedged into an uncomfortable or limiting position.