How do I know if a dressage saddle fits me? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 05-16-2020, 03:14 AM Thread Starter
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How do I know if a dressage saddle fits me?

I want to get a dressage saddle. I am not planning on showing, itís just for fun - so a rank beginner in dressage. Also, my dressage instructor lives in a neighboring country and only comes over here once in two months. There is one other dressage instructor in the whole country but she isnít currently working due to pregnancy. All of this is to say that I cannot rely on my instructor, especially with the ongoing apocalypse. Saddle fitters arenít a thing in my country.

Anyhow, I read online that I should be able to fit four fingers behind my bottom. Is that correct?

I tried a dressage saddle yesterday. I was so STRANGE. I guess thatís how dressage saddles are. I was able to put four fingers behind me. I wasnít able to sit her trot (to my standard level) without collecting her. I kept bouncing. She does have a lot of action and even my instructor avoids sitting her trot - Iím just about the only person who can sit her uncollected trot. But, she collected very easily, much easier than in my jumping saddle. I didnít have to do much to get there, she just did it. I figured out that I usually sit her uncollected trot by tucking my pelvis slightly and absorbing the movement with my pelvis which wasnít possible in the dressage saddle- it placed me firmly on my seat bones and held me there.

So, is that saddle size right for me? Does my experience from yesterday sound about right when switching from a jumping saddle? Any other tips?
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post #2 of 9 Old 05-16-2020, 03:23 AM
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If your dressage saddle won't let you correctly sit a trot, then it's not the right saddle for you. They DO sit you more on your seatbones than a jump does, and they do sit you with a longer leg, but you NEED to be able to move with the horse and if the saddle won't let you do that it isn't suitable. Especially considering in dressage, sitting the trot is mandatory above a certain level.

If you are able, go to a saddle shop and sit in every single dressage saddle you can, in various sizes if possible.
If you are able, RIDE IN every single dressage saddle you possibly can, in various sizes.

The most interesting thing about saddles in general, but especially dressage saddles, is that what suits you will be different to what suits the next person, and I'm not just talking about size. Everybody has different preferences, and it's not just preferences - everybody has different conformation too. My extremely long thighs force me into a bigger saddle than one would expect of a relatively petite rider. My hips are set relatively close together on my pelvis, and I'm not very flexible, so saddles with a wide twist hurt me! But somebody with a wider hip set might be uncomfortable in a saddle with a narrow twist. It's all very individual.


My butt fits in a pony pad. My legs demand an 18" dressage saddle and even then unless I'm really focused on having a long leg and having my bum tucked under me, it'll shove me into the cantle (but mine has HUGE blocks).
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post #3 of 9 Old 05-16-2020, 06:41 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by blue eyed pony View Post
If your dressage saddle won't let you correctly sit a trot, then it's not the right saddle for you. They DO sit you more on your seatbones than a jump does, and they do sit you with a longer leg, but you NEED to be able to move with the horse and if the saddle won't let you do that it isn't suitable. Especially considering in dressage, sitting the trot is mandatory above a certain level.

If you are able, go to a saddle shop and sit in every single dressage saddle you can, in various sizes if possible.
If you are able, RIDE IN every single dressage saddle you possibly can, in various sizes.

The most interesting thing about saddles in general, but especially dressage saddles, is that what suits you will be different to what suits the next person, and I'm not just talking about size. Everybody has different preferences, and it's not just preferences - everybody has different conformation too. My extremely long thighs force me into a bigger saddle than one would expect of a relatively petite rider. My hips are set relatively close together on my pelvis, and I'm not very flexible, so saddles with a wide twist hurt me! But somebody with a wider hip set might be uncomfortable in a saddle with a narrow twist. It's all very individual.


My butt fits in a pony pad. My legs demand an 18" dressage saddle and even then unless I'm really focused on having a long leg and having my bum tucked under me, it'll shove me into the cantle (but mine has HUGE blocks).
Thank you.

I guess no easy answers, right?

I could sit her collected trot easily. It was her uncollected trot that was giving me problems. Does that make a difference?

But I see what you are saying. I need to experience many saddles to be able to figure out what suits me.
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post #4 of 9 Old 05-16-2020, 08:00 AM
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Thank you.

I guess no easy answers, right?

I could sit her collected trot easily. It was her uncollected trot that was giving me problems. Does that make a difference?

But I see what you are saying. I need to experience many saddles to be able to figure out what suits me.
No easy answers because every person is shaped differently so every person will have different preferences. If one saddle in different sizes fit everybody, there wouldn't be so many different ones!

It depends on what you mean by "collected". Do you mean round vs nose poked? Because sitting a trot that isn't round is much harder, but roundness is not collection. If you can sit a collected trot but not a medium/working trot that's a problem because it means the saddle isn't allowing you to move enough.
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post #5 of 9 Old 05-16-2020, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
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No easy answers because every person is shaped differently so every person will have different preferences. If one saddle in different sizes fit everybody, there wouldn't be so many different ones!

It depends on what you mean by "collected". Do you mean round vs nose poked? Because sitting a trot that isn't round is much harder, but roundness is not collection. If you can sit a collected trot but not a medium/working trot that's a problem because it means the saddle isn't allowing you to move enough.
Ok, thatís my answer then, thank you.

I could sit her ďroundedĒ trot easily, but not her ďnaturalĒ trot. In this mare the difference is huge, regardless of how her head is set. I donít ask her for just the ďheadsetĒ, I donít see a purpose in that without actually lifting her back and tucking her hind under her.

I can sit her ďnaturalĒ trot in my jumping saddle, even if it is a heavy workout - but I was bouncing in this particular dressage saddle.

Thanks again, youíve helped me a lot.
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post #6 of 9 Old 05-16-2020, 05:57 PM
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To be very honest, you really just have to take and post videos of you riding in the saddle, or in your current saddle. In the jump saddle you may be riding more off of the grip of your thighs, and by leaning foward.
A dressage saddle will put you in a more vertical position. you should then rely more on your core body strength to absorb the motion, and to control the motion and make it more tolerable.



But, words are pitiful in comparison to visuals video!
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post #7 of 9 Old 06-04-2020, 12:20 PM
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I should say, IME dressage saddles emphasize the horses movement, so you can really FEEL what they're doing under you, so you may simply be noticing the movement more so it feels bigger. Not to mention dressage saddles are designed to put you in an ideal dressage position, so if you don't typically ride like that, you will be using different muscles, and using different parts of your body to absorb shock (I.E. hips absorbing more shock, compared the ankles and knees like in a jump saddle).

In my mind, tucking your body to sit the trot isn't quite ideal, so when the dressage saddle put you on your seat bones more and didn't let you curl, it made it harder because you aren't used to using those muscles? Ideally you want to sit straight up, engage your core, and have your hips "bounce" (flex) with the horse, while the weight of your shoulders keep you in the saddle. Meaning your hips, and to a lesser, but still noticeable degree your lower stomach/ core come up and forward (at least on really active horses). Rather than curling and pushing down or trying to flatten yourself into the movements (the opposite of the sitting trot ideal for dressage).

Also, dressage saddles can sometimes (depending on flocking and seating) make a horse feel much bouncier (one brand I swear made a QH type mover into a trampoline).

The deep seat or longer stirrups could have made you feel more insecure if you tend to curl your body or rely on your leg to keep you stable.

One final theory is although jumps saddles should hypothetically free up the back and shoulders more (to allow the horse freedom of movement over jumps), they often do not, whereas dressage saddles tend to do so better. So perhaps the jump saddle was restricting your horse, and this dressage saddle fits better, and therefore allows for a bigger, more free movement.

There are a million things it could be really, the saddle could just not fit you, causing you to feel weird. It may not fit your horse, causing her to move unusually. In my mind though, you probably just aren't used to riding in a typical dressage position and saddle, making it uncomfortable. That being said, I also think the saddle probably just doesn't fit you well (can't really say w/o seeing you in it), but the blocks, seat size, twist, flap length, seat shape, ect. just may not be right for you.

I would say make sure the saddle fits BOTH of you, if it doesn't fit you, your discomfort will affect your riding, and therefore your horse. And if your horse is uncomfortable, she won't be able to perform well, and could be in pain.

I will agree with tinyliny, a video or at least a picture would help a TON.

Anyway, there are a SO MANY great saddle fitting videos (for both horse and rider) that you can do at home (w/o calling out a fitter) on youtube. The Schleese website has free articles on saddle fit (Schleese are considered saddle gods pretty much, I would love to have one but they are super expensive).

Good luck! I hope all works out well for you and your horse! :)
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Last edited by elequine11; 06-04-2020 at 12:23 PM. Reason: Typo
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post #8 of 9 Old 06-04-2020, 02:22 PM
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This is a good place to start. https://www.doversaddlery.com/how-to...a-rider/a/519/ They also have a tutorial on fitting it to your horse.
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post #9 of 9 Old 06-04-2020, 07:12 PM Thread Starter
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@Ellequine , @QtrBel Thank you.

I did figure it out by borrowing another dressage saddle - and it was a much better ride. The first one definitely didn't fit me at all. It was extremely constricting and I had almost no room to follow the movement. All of that energy was flowing up my spine and gave me back pain that took about a week to stop hurting. This was a very short ride but my mare has a lot of action. The second saddle I tried I had no issues with. My sitting trot was fine and my leg was solid in it.

I think the first saddle made the angle of my hip unnaturally straight and those fenders were huge, there was no way to circumvent them. It was as if my lags were bent almost backwards at the hip. I do have a bubble bottom so maybe it was a combination of my backside being pushed forward and my thighs backwards by the big fenders. Strangely, the second saddle was one inch smaller but fit me much better and I had enough room. So now I know not to try to force a sitting trot in a dressage saddle if it's too jarring - you learn something new with every ride!

Thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions.
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Last edited by Horsef; 06-04-2020 at 07:22 PM.
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