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Do I Need a Dressage Saddle?

2016/5/4 10:27:19

If you're new to riding horses or even if you're not, the large amount of horse riding equipment on the market can be confusing at the best of times! With regard to saddles, there are many styles available but the most common type of horse back riding saddles used are general purpose saddles. These saddles are appropriate for all ages and abilities of horse and rider and suited to a multitude of different disciplines.

So if the general purpose saddle is good for everything, then why is there a need for specialist saddles? Well the answer to this is in the question! Specialist horse back riding saddles are exactly what the description states - specialist. They are designed to suit a particular discipline and a particular style of riding with properties that better enable horse and rider to perform. The general purpose saddle is a compromise between many different specialist horse back riding saddles but in the process this means that at advanced levels of riding and competition the general purpose saddle ceases to fulfil all of the requirements of horse and rider. Take for example the dressage saddle. It is a specific style of horse back riding saddle used, as the name suggests, for riding horses on the flat and in particular for riding dressage movements. It has a number of features that make it distinguishable but also a number of properties that make it completely unsuitable for other disciplines, for example, show jumping. However, if you are a serious dressage rider then a dressage saddle can be of great benefit.

The style of the dressage saddle encourages the rider to sit deeper and longer. This position of the rider in turn helps the horse to balance and carry himself correctly. There is a deeper seat than a general purpose saddle, with a higher pommel and cantle and usually wider panels to the underside of the saddle with less padding. This not only encourages a deeper seat from the rider but also enables closer contact and a more even weight distribution, therefore allowing the rider to offer more precise aids.

The position of the rider in dressage requires a longer leg that hangs directly underneath the hips of the rider. To facilitate this, dressage saddles have long, straight cut saddle flaps and stirrup bars positioned slightly further back to encourage the rider to keep the knee down and the thigh back. The straight cut design also allows the horse plenty of freedom around the shoulders.

A further feature of horse back riding saddles for dressage are long billet straps and shorter girths which buckle at the elbow, this keeps the buckles out of the way of the rider's leg allowing for the rider to keep a close contact with the horse and give effective leg aids.

Although useful, a dressage saddle is not a necessity for many riders who happily ride and compete in dressage for all of their life in a general purpose saddle. Generally speaking, a dressage saddle is only necessary for those riders where dressage is their main discipline and are riding at more advanced levels. If you often ride and compete in other equestrian disciplines such as show jumping or hunting then it may not be worth investing in a dressage saddle. Consider the fact that you may then end up with two or three different saddles for your horse which also means two or three times more tack to clean! This being said, if you are serious about concentrating solely on improving your dressage and moving on to more advanced competition, then then the purchase of a quality dressage saddle may be a worthwhile investment.

The Equine Store is packed full of great products for horse and rider, including quality English leather dressage saddles in standard sizes or made to measure. Please visit the shop at and quote customer code 'cust01' for 10% off your first purchase.