I have been recently researching classical dressage riding and training, and my horse and I have been making good progress already. I am debating whether it would be worth it for me to purchase a dressage saddle.
My research suggests that a dressage saddle makes it much easier for the rider to adopt a classical seat. I am currently riding in a 16 inch AP saddle, and I find that it sometimes "fights" me into more of a jumping posture than is helpful (although that might be somewhat unfair to pin even a part of my bad habit on my tack..).
I will likely never compete. I live in a very rural area, and the only opportunity to compete in dressage comes once a year and entails nearly a 2 hour drive to the show grounds. I'm not that enthusiastic of a competitior. I would enjoy the experience, I think, but for me the ultimate goal is not neccessarily competition.
Cost is an issue for me. I want to do this right and buy a good quality saddle if I buy one at all, and this definitely means waiting and saving for several months to afford even a used good name, quality saddle. I like the look and feel of leather, but I'm not opposed to synthetic tack (especially as I'm not competing). Hence, I'll be looking for a pre-loved leather or perhaps a new synthetic. I'm happy with the quality of the Wintec saddles I've seen, but I've never gotten a good look at one of their dressage models. Wintec is a bigger name, and I wouldn't worry so much about the quality of construction. A custom fitting is really not an option for me, again due to cost and the lack of such professionals in my area (again a pro for the Wintec: I would have a little bit of adjustment). I have seen "starter sets," but the sheer amount of stuff for $250-$350 scares me: You get what you pay for.
I do have some experience in buying and fitting saddles, and I know the general earmarks of fit problems.
I have all winter to continue my research, and to decide whether a dressage saddle would even be something that would be helpful to me. While it is certainly something that I could survive without, I see myself continuing to study and practice classical equitation in the future. I also trail ride, and I know that some English style trail riders prefer the deeper seat of the dressage saddle to the flatter AP's or Close Contacts.
So, my questions to you all: What do you think? Is the potential purchase worth it, in your opinion? And, are there major differences between fitting a dressage saddle and an AP? Are sizes similar, like gullet and seat measurements? Is a "real" dressage girth neccessary, or will one of my plain English girths be okay, at least to start out?
Thanks for reading!