Is dressage possible w/o a saddle? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 11-05-2010, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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Question Is dressage possible w/o a saddle?

WARNING: this is a bit long :P

As some of you already know: I come from a place where everyone rides "peanut rollers" with harsh bits (I call it the "yank yank yank" method) and have been striving for years to find a better way. I did have a fairly good english instructor for a while, but lately I find that more and more of what she taught me has been incorrect. I stopped taking lessons with her, and I'm now trying to learn dressage. I'm taking full advantage of this forum for help, because I haven't found any local dressage teachers and I need at least a little guidance even if it is over the internet.

I recently purchased the book Dressage in Lightness by Sylvia Loch and I love it! I haven't had much time to read it yet, but what I have read differs so much from everything anyone has ever told me about riding, but in a good way. It makes me so excited!

I also have a few questions now. I'd really appreciate any help or advice with this.

Question #1:
Just to make sure; this is a good book that I'm reading right? Because when I first met my last trainer I was so distracted by all of the new things I was learning that I thought she was great. I don't want to repeat that.

Question #2:
The Big question- is dressage possible without a saddle? I don't mean advanced dressage, but could I do the basics without a saddle?
Because my horse is so slippery, I find it dangerous to ride with a saddle (not all saddles, just the ones I have access to). She has a broad back and all of the saddles I've found that are made for her shape are really expensive. I think this is fine though, because I am learning to ride bareback on a horse with very minimal withers and it's doing wonders for my balance.
But in this book, Dressage in Lightness, everything is about the seat. I think I could have a deep seat without a saddle, but is it possible to achieve a light seat without stirrups?

Question #3:
To post you roll in with your knees right? That is what my last teacher told me. But wouldn't that be too much pressure in one spot to be comfortable for the horse without a saddle? My filly has a very smooth trot, but this book says that a sitting trot will hollow the horses back when done without warming up properly, which I assume is done by posting to the trot and using that "light seat" Syliva Loch talked about. Can I really do either of these properly without a saddle? And would it hurt my horse to even try it without one?

If you made it through this, thank you! I know next to nothing right now, so every opinion or tidbit of information is appreciated. Thank you, thank you!
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post #2 of 9 Old 11-05-2010, 03:22 PM
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I don't have an answer for question one as I haven't read that book, but basic dressage is completely possible bareback. When I ride bareback, I go through the basic dressage maneuvers that my horse and I both know, and it helps to improve my seat and balance. I've seen a video of someone performing a Third Level (at least, I think it was Third...may have been Second) test bareback.

I think it may be difficult, however, to start learning dressage without a saddle and instructor, but you've made it clear that there aren't any good English or Dressage trainers in your area. If I were you, I'd give it a try.

In regards to question three, it is possible to post bareback, but it takes a lot of muscle and a lot of practice to be able to do it without slamming back down on the horse's back, in my (limited) experience.

Please take anything I said with a grain of salt as I am still fairly new to dressage and horses in general compared to some on here. I hope some of the more experienced members will be able to help.
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post #3 of 9 Old 11-05-2010, 03:26 PM
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#1 - I love that book. Fantastic read for every discipline.

#2 - Do you need a dressage saddle for basic dressage work? No. You should be able to do basic dressage work in any saddle or no saddle at all. I'm not sure what you mean about slippery. Do saddles slide side to side because of a wide back? Are they slipping backwards or forwards? If you don't have a properly fitted saddle, bareback is certainly a better alternative than riding in a saddle that will cause soreness and other problems. Having a deep or light seat isn't about your saddle, but how you're balanced, using your weight aids.

#3 - As for posting, you do not want to post by pinching your knees, with or without a saddle. Hard to explain, but its more from your ab muscles and thighs. Anyone on here that can give a better biomechanics lesson? Yes, sitting trot should be done after a horse has had a chance to warm up and become more supple, moving forward, and rounding through the back. Otherwise, you'll just make her hollow out and have an unpleasant ride.

The fact that you're asking these questions and seeking information out on your own tells me that you're smart enough to know what you don't know... Do you have a quality instructor that you're currently working with? A good trainer can help you learn how to use your body and give you great visuals to help engage the proper muscles.

I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted.
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post #4 of 9 Old 11-05-2010, 03:57 PM
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Naked Dressage

Well, your horse is naked, I don't know about you.
I loved your post. You are so forthright about what you know and want to know. Refreshing to hear such an open mind.
I love Sylvia Loch!! Love her, love her. She is one of the few people who talks about the seat being more than the two seatbones. She harkens back to the old masters and I just love that. (have you ever seen a video of Nuno Oliviera riding? Goggle that. There aren't many in exhistance as he died a good while back but his seat is the most beautiful I have ever seen. )
Have you looked into a treeless saddle for you horse? Since she is so round that a treed saddle will slide anytway, would a treeless work? The Ansur saddle is a good one for work in dressage as it puts you in a very upright, aligned position. If you are really balanced on your horse, then the saddle will be unlikely to slide anyway (tho no guarantee).

As for warming up; It is harder for your horse to round up under you in a sitting trot if she is not well warmed up. Since warnming her up the traditional way , lots of forward trotting in a light or posting seat and her stretching down , is not so easy for you, you may want to warm up at the walk only. You can do a forward , swinging walk with her stretching and reaching down/out for a good 10 to 15 minutes before you go into trot.
Be sure that you don't just go mindlessly around the arena, stuck to the wall. YOu would want to do circles and figure 8, back up, stop-walk-stop transitions, shoulder-in and "freewalk". All can be done at the walk.

The only thing I can see as a bit of a hold back is that if you aren't comfortable with your horse really trotting out when you are on bareback, then that could be a little limiting , as you want to really encourage a "forward" mentality in a dressage horse.

I admire your seat, I used to ride bareback some, but am just too fearful of coming off to do it much now. (I am 52, so I guess that isn't so unusual)
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post #5 of 9 Old 11-05-2010, 04:00 PM
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Oh, I forgot to post something regarding "posting". One does not post off the knee. One posts off the whole thigh, with weight into the ball of the foot and a trajectory of weight (thought, too) back into the heel. If you don't have stirrups, you must post off of your thight and use a more forward/backward movement.
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post #6 of 9 Old 11-05-2010, 05:53 PM
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Question #1: this is a good book that I'm reading right? I just looked it up. Judging by the table of contents, it covers good stuff! Also the reviews are pretty good. You may want to supplement it with other good dressage books as well.

Question #2: is dressage possible without a saddle? Absolutely. Also, if you need a cheap saddle, you could try looking into wintecs. They're fairly cheap, and have adjustable gullets, so you can make them pretty wide. Also, Dover carries special saddle pads to help prevent slipping. And yes, you can have a light seat without stirrups ( you should never be using the stirrups too much anyway). You can get a lighter seat by engaging more of your muscles, and just kind of thinking about it.

Question #3:
To post you roll in with your knees right? Don't roll in your knees when you post. You can post bareback without too much effort. When you're on the "up" part of the post, think of posting FORWARD instead of posting UP, and let the horse's thrust help you get there.

I hope this helped! If you need anything explained in more detail, let me know!
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post #7 of 9 Old 11-07-2010, 01:48 PM
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Dressage isn't really about tack, but the tack that's used is because it makes dressage riding/training easier. I had a roly-poly QH that I started in a jumping saddle. After a year or so, the fat under the saddle melted away, and the saddle fit better.
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post #8 of 9 Old 11-07-2010, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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I was away from my computer for a few days but I'm really glad to come back to so many answers! I read every one and I really appreciate everyone's help. I am so relieved to hear that I don't really need a saddle; also to confirm that you do not post with your knees!

I will definitely be looking up all of the people, videos, and saddles that you have all recommended. Thank you for suggesting them! Sometimes I get in a dead end with resources so these will be very helpful!

As far as the saddle slipping goes, it's just that my horse isn't shaped in a way that would hold a saddle in place. She has small withers and broad shoulders. Unfortunately, all of the cheep saddles are made for horses with withers!
The saddle I was using before had a wide tree but it just wasn't working. It moved from side to side independent of whether I was balanced or not.
Haha, oh well, bareback is fun too. I keep telling myself "you're just going to be a better rider than the people who have good saddles!"
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post #9 of 9 Old 11-08-2010, 02:56 PM Thread Starter
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Oh wow, I cannot believe this. I may very well be getting a saddle that can fit my horse! I never expected anything like this to ever happen.

I made a new thread about it, but I thought that those of you who had already helped me might be interested Alliance VICTOIRE by Lynn Palm
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