buying my first saddle. Debating Close contact?
I'm starting to look into purchasing my first saddle and I see a lot of people interested & using close contact saddles. I understand what they are (they don't have the knee blocks/blocks essentially?) and I plan on trying one out soon.. (I'm sure it will be challenging at first).
I've returned to riding in adulthood and have been at it for about a year (started w/ weekly lessons and now riding 3x a week). None of the lesson saddles I've been using are close contact, so I know it will be a 'transition' should I decide to get one.
Do you think close contact saddles teach you more encourage you to be a better rider? Pros and Cons? I don't mind a challenge if it pays off and is worth it. Any advice or knowledge you want to share?
I'm probably not buying tomorrow, I really want to make sure I get something good for me (get a fitter out etc.) and understand what I am buying. I mostly do flat work and beginner jumping. I've coursed a few times (not well :), and while I'm mainly back to working on flat work now - coursing will probably be something I do more of in the future.
Another girl I ride w/ (whose around the same level as me) got one and didn't really understand them at first but is making a good go of it. So I'm hoping she'll let me jump in it one day.
Thanks for your help!!
A close contact saddle is really just a jumping saddle. If you are just doing lower level stuff, you may be happier with an all purpose english saddle.
But, to answer some of your questions...
I'm really not sure what you mean "encourage you to be a better rider". The cantle is a bit lower so as not to interfere with the two point position. Some of them do have knee rolls. So, it may help position you a bit more, if that's what you're asking.
I have both an all purpose and a close contact saddle. I like them both for different reasons. Honestly, the main reason I chose to ride in my close contact saddle is because it fits my current horse better than the other one.
Again, it may not be a bad idea to check out all purpose ones, too~
in which case, I guess I'm asking more about Knee blocks/rolls.. if it's better to not have them and why you would have them vs. not....? I guess they are kind of a little like training wheels and when should I be looking to take them off / out?
Close Contact actually refers to the panel type used on a saddle. The close contact panels are a very slim profile, so they put you in closer contact with the horse's back. Close contact saddles can be difficult to fit, because there just isn't much mass to the flocking to be able to adjust or adapt to the horse's back. Not all jumping saddles are close contact. I've seen dressage saddles that are close contact, etc etc.
In the US, most people who say "Close Contact" saddle are referring to a jumping saddle. This may have come about because jumping saddles have often had the close contact panels - just a guess.
If you're thinking about knee blocks and knee-rolls vs none, then what you're talking about is a "plain-flap" saddle.
Whether you'll be happy with plain flaps or blocks depends on your horse, your riding style, and just plain personal preference. different people like different things.
I can't stand knee blocks. I started riding in a plain-flap saddle when I was 4, and that's pretty much all I rode in until I was a teenager. My riding school then had all Stubben Siegfrieds with the knee rolls and knee blocks (they were donated - we took what we got and were quite happy about it).
I now ride in a pancake flat Passier with no blocks or rolls. I'm more comfortable without the knee blocks because: (a) that's how I learned to ride. I'm used to being able to really feel the horse. With blocks I lose a lot of the feel and communication with the horse under me. and (b) I like being able to move with the horse and change my position depending on what type of riding I'm doing and how I need to help my horse. Knee blocks lock me into a position that I don't always want to be in. I feel trapped, stuck, and often my leg cramps up too. My daughters are learning to ride in Passiers just like mine (but smaller). I won't let them ride with knee blocks, because it's too easy for them to cheat. The knee blocks put your leg where it should be with less effort. I want them to learn how to keep their leg in the right position and develop the seat and feel to do it without the blocks there to help them. If they learn to ride without blocks, they can also ride with them. If they learn to ride with blocks, they'll lose their leg in a plain-flap.
My sister-in-law loves saddles with blocks and rolls. When she rides in my saddle, she just plain falls off. The hrose doesn't need to be doing anything, she's just always relied so much on those blocks to hold her in place, that she never learned a good seat and leg and falls off a plain-flap saddle.
My husband has a decent seat and leg, but prefers a small knee-block on his saddle, because he just likes to be able to relax and enjoy the ride.
On a very green or known naughty horse, I do like having some blocks there to stop me from flying over the horse's head if he should decide to have a brainless moment. Full-seat breeches and some tacky-spray also are good on those boys.
Knee blocks/rolls are mostly a personal preference thing. You'll see riders at all levels with or without them- so it's not like you'd have to (or even want to) change to a saddle without blocks as you advance.
Thanks Freia, that helps.
I think I will jump on my friends saddle w/o the supports and see if I think i can hack it. Even though it sounds like people do it either way - it sounds like being able to ride both ways gives someone more diversity (aka easy to go from plain flap to knee blocks.. but hard to go the other way).
I'm still figuring out what I like.. but I like a challenge and some of your preferences for the flat panel seem to make sense. I'm definitely going to give it consideration. (Hope I am using my new vocabulary correctly!)
Close contact saddles kind or took hold in a huge way in the 1980s. They copied the Hermes jumping saddles, I guess? The plain flap no-kneeroll ccs that were popular then have been replaced with more substantial saddles with soft padded deep seats, padded flaps, and grippy calfskin or buffalo leather.
If you want to show or jump, get a saddle with a low square cantle, not an All Purpose with a tall round cantle. Seat depth or flatness is a matter of personal preference and what you will use the saddle for. People don't show in APs much anymore because the AP tends to chair-seat the rider. And the big cantle smacks the rider's rear on big jumps, so that's another reason why people avoid them.
The close contact saddles of today usually have padded flaps. Most have triangular knee blocks, and some have calf blocks, as well. Some companies let you order variations of flap length or forwardness of the flaps, too.
Close contact means that you have a close contact through your seat, you can still have thigh and knee blocks in a close contact saddle.
What types of saddles are you currently using in your lesson?
I am a big fan of close contact saddles, but it is important that you have one that fits well for you and your horse (as is true for any saddle really!)
If you are doing more flat work, i would recommend one that isn't too forward, those are used really only for jumping and can make riding on the flat hard. Also, a saddle with a deeper seat can help you sit better, but it really is a preference thing.
My Thorowgood C/C saddle has removable knee and thigh blocks - which is nice!
But, I feel it is a very forward saddle as it always pushes me up into a forward position no matter the horse I ride.
Two weeks ago I would have made a case for a close contact saddle. But, I'm just back from a ride in Ireland where I used a more traditional jumping saddle and it was very, very nice.
Both my own close contact and the traditional have knee rolls, so that was not a difference. I just really liked the ride.
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