For dressage to appear effortless and elegant horse and rider must perform in perfect harmony. Here the Society of Master Saddlers discuss dressage saddles and the importance they play for rider position and in the competition arena.
In the sport of dressage horse and rider are required to achieve balance and elegance at the highest level in order to achieve those winning rosettes. As well as the correct training, tack – both bridles and saddles need to fit correctly and assist horse and rider in working to the best of their ability.
It is important that the dressage saddle fits horse and rider perfectly. If the saddle rolls to one side or pinches the horse’s back, the horse will never be able to work or move well, however skilled his training. If the saddle is uncomfortable, there are times when a horse will simply stop working altogether and in the long run a saddle that does not fit will lead to soreness and injury.
The correct Seat
A dressage saddle is designed with a long and straight saddle flap, which mirrors the leg of the dressage rider. They also have a deep seat and knee blocks that are usually pronounced. This helps prevent the riders’ leg from coming too far forward. The dressage saddle has been designed with a longer stirrup as well as longer and straighter saddle flaps. It has a higher cantle and pommel to help encourage the rider to have a deeper seat.
A dressage saddle is designed to allow the very best communication with the horse by placing the rider in the centre of gravity, providing a sufficiently deep seat to feel secure but still be able to absorb the horse’s movement and by placing their leg long and relaxed to enable the appliance of a minimum of aids.
The dressage saddle should encourage a good position without being restrictive. On a dressage saddle the stirrup bars are set further back to encourage a longer, straighter leg position.
Most dressage saddles have long girth straps and a short girth; this allows the rider to maintain closer contact with their legs and give clear but minimal signals. The stuffing of the panels of a dressage saddle is often kept to a minimum to allow a closer feel to the horse.
When fitting a dressage saddle they are often easier to fit than jumping or general purpose saddles due to the panel and flaps generally sitting behind the shoulder and not impeding the movement.
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.