If you’ve ever seen a dressage competition, you’ll understand why the discipline has earned an alternate designation as “horse ballet.” Through a series of barely perceptible body signals, a rider guides a horse through a succession of complex and athletic movements. Much like a pair of figure skaters, the horse and rider must work together to create the impression of effortless grace, precision, and agility.
To achieve this effect, a rider must maintain perfect balance in the saddle as well as close communication with the animal. Dressage riders use longer stirrups for a more extended leg position, as they work solely on the flat and do not need to negotiate jumps.
The typical qualities of the Dressage Saddle are:
• A thin and lightweight saddle enhances contact between the horse and rider and gives the rider more control.
• A deep and well-padded seat keeps the rider in a secure, comfortable, and balanced posture.
• Saddle flaps are straight-cut and extremely long to accommodate the longer leg position. These long flaps are the most easily recognizable characteristics of a dressage saddle.
• Dressage saddles sometimes include small knee rolls, thigh rolls, and calf blocks positioned to keep the rider in a horizontally and vertically balanced riding posture. There is little padding behind the calf, allowing the free movement of the lower leg necessary to give cues to the horse.
• The deepest part of the seat is farther forward than it is on a jumping saddle, and this also works better with the straighter leg position.
• The weight-bearing surface is wider than the one on a jumping saddle.
• A higher, rounder cantle offers more security in the seat.
• Longer billets and shorter girths (for example, the Lonsdale girth) buckle near the horse’s elbow rather than underneath the rider’s leg. This girthing not only keeps bulk farther down and away from the riders’ extended leg but also offers more comfort and closer contact with the horse.
• Dressage saddles often feature universal billets with both upper and lower sets of holes, which give the rider the option of using either a long or a short girth.
• Some dressage saddles have two sets of billets and two cinches, which distribute the rider’s weight more evenly.
Getting Rid of the Lumps
In The Newsletter of Holistic Horsemanship at horse-sense.org, Jessica Jahiel points out that the use of longer billets and a shorter girth is not a standard requirement for the dressage discipline but merely a stylistic option. Although the underlying reason for the short girth is to keep any lumpiness from interfering with the rider’s legs, the traditional girthing method will do this just as well if the gear is properly sized and fastened. The bulk from the conventional short billets and long girth should fall safely behind the knee in the dressage leg position.
If this is not the case, a size issue is probably to blame for the obstructive bulkiness. The stirrups may be hanging too long and preventing the knee from bending. Or the girth may be either too short (buckled too low and creating a lump under the calf) or too long (buckled too high and creating a lump under the thigh). If your saddle has universal billets that allow you to use either a long or a short girth, it’s a good idea to use whichever style your horse tolerates better.
Outside the Dressage Arena
A dressage saddle can double as a saddle for pleasure riding, although it is not suitable for jumping. You can also use a dressage saddle for training purposes as long as riding takes place on the flat.
Dressage Saddles Available on ebay
[phpbay]dressage saddle, 3, “47281″, “pad”[/phpbay]
Back to English Saddle Types