Explain leg rolls and flaps please - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 01:25 PM Thread Starter
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Explain leg rolls and flaps please

I guess this will be the winter where I learn all about saddles!

I asked about the billet straps, and I am really glad I did. Now I want to know about flaps and leg rolls. I understand that point of leg rolls in a jumping saddle, I think (they provide extra security and keep the rider's leg in place better, for safety) but I noticed when looking at saddles last week that even dressage saddles seem to have pretty big leg rolls. Why would a dressage rider need leg rolls?

The purpose of flaps, is it to keep the stirrup leathers from rubbing the horse? Why are dressage flaps longer than jumping flaps?

I've been thinking about this a lot the last couple of weeks, after looking at all of those saddles, and now riding Pony bareback and feeling like my seat is better and my leg aids are better as well. I'm starting to wonder if I might keep riding him bareback. He seems really happy bareback (full disclosure, it's actually a nicely padded and plush bareback pad). I am starting to feel like the saddle is creating interference between the two of us -- having that immediate contact is nice. But maybe there is some good reason I would want flaps and rolls?

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post #2 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 01:38 PM
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I answered in your post question specific...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ACinATX View Post
Why would a dressage rider need leg rolls?
Leg rolls, knee rolls, thigh blocks are all artifical means of placing, holding and keeping your leg in a particular position and location.

The purpose of flaps, is it to keep the stirrup leathers from rubbing the horse? Why are dressage flaps longer than jumping flaps?
Well, if that is what you found flaps are for...OK.
To me, they are part of the weight distribution a saddle is made to do.
Flaps also protect the rider from the buckles of the girth holding the saddle in place, hence you always use billet protector/guards on any style of English or dressage saddle of you will over time wear holes in your saddle flaps.
Dressage flaps are longer because the style of dressage has riders riding with a straighter, longer leg so you need a longer flap to cover the leg.

I've been thinking about this a lot the last couple of weeks, after looking at all of those saddles, and now riding Pony bareback and feeling like my seat is better and my leg aids are better as well. I'm starting to wonder if I might keep riding him bareback. He seems really happy bareback (full disclosure, it's actually a nicely padded and plush bareback pad). I am starting to feel like the saddle is creating interference between the two of us -- having that immediate contact is nice. But maybe there is some good reason I would want flaps and rolls?
Personal preference... there is no right or wrong answer.
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post #3 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 02:33 PM
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On my wintec Isabell dressage saddle the knee rolls are removable and I found it more comfortable without them so took them out. but they are there to help hold the leg in place but I didn't like them.
On other saddles there is no choice they are permanent/
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post #4 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 03:31 PM
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Something I liked about my Australian-style saddle:



The poleys were there in case of spooks or bolts to help save me, but there were no knee rolls, thigh blocks, etc. When I used an English saddle, I removed the removable knee blocks:



I understand their function in jumping, but don't understand their use in dressage or trail riding. Personal preference is my guess.
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post #5 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 04:36 PM
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the flap has an inner part and an outer layer (except for so-called 'mono-flap' designs). The inner one goes directly against the horse's body and protects him from the billets. In the case of most dressage saddles, the girth buckles are below the flap, resting directly against teh hrose's ribs, while jump saddles have the buckles up high. I always found that irksome, as I feel a 'lump' under my thigh.


In any case, there is no reason you can't ride Pony to your heart's content bareback. the only actual requirement for a saddle would be if you do showing. Riding for a long time, on a trail , might be more comfortable to both of you in a saddle, and easier to carry any gear.


Like she said, "personal preference".
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post #6 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 04:47 PM Thread Starter
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It would definitely be a lot cheaper to just ride him bareback, rather than continuing to throw away money on saddles that don't fit anyways. I could put him in the semi-fitting saddle for trail rides. I was going to do our little barn show with him; it's super informal, maybe I could ride that bareback.

When I told her I had a saddle fitter coming out, the barn owner / instructor was like, "Why buy a saddle now when it won't fit him any more once he gets into shape?" I responded, "I've had him almost two years now, and no amount of riding has ever gotten him into shape." He's just a sausage, now and forever more.

(Note to those concerned about his weight: barn owner is no longer going to feed round bales in their pasture, since all of them except Teddy are fat)

Anyway, I see that I have digressed from my original question. I appreciate all of the explanations. When I try these saddles, I'm definitely going to think about how my leg feels. I have been riding in random saddles for so long that I don't really have a sense of what a correct fit feels like. I don't even know how my leg is supposed to feel, partially because I had been switching back and forth between a dressage saddle and an AP saddle on two of my horses.

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Last edited by ACinATX; 01-23-2020 at 04:55 PM.
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post #7 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 04:59 PM
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The inner part of the flap, as described by Tiny, is called the 'sweat flap'. Its purpose is exactly as she's explained.

Years ago, 'half-panel' saddles had a buckle guard which hung underneath the girth straps (often a pair rather than the three straps common on later saddles) to protect the horse's side from buckles, and this was the 'sweat flap' since it also helped prevent sweat from rusting what were then mostly steel girth buckles.

The sweat flap then became incorporated into the panel, though it was still called a sweat flap despite the fact the panel was now called a 'full panel'.

Hope that's useful info. There's a minimalist competition saddle brand without flaps, and the Western experts on here will know McClellans didn't have them. I wouldn't fancy riding without them but from the horse's point of view, a tree to spread the rider's weight is the important thing.
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post #8 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
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@unclearthur I just googled that. I found one from EQ saddle science. Really interesting looking. Also interesting to me was that they still had a sort of proto-flap that had leg rolls -- I guess we can't live without them.

That's the kind of thing that I wish someone would just bring to me to try. I am sure it's probably out of my price range, though, and I would wonder whether they make it in "sofa shape" for my Pony.

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post #9 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 05:20 PM
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A lot of dressage saddles have removeable knee rolls, or 'thigh blocks' as they call them. So many dressage saddles try to 'force' your leg into a 'proper' position. Well, that might help in showing, but if you are going up and down hills. out trail riding, you NEED to be able to reposition your leg, and the thigh block becomes an impediment. The knee block in a jumping saddle is not such an issue because it his higher up , and is more designed for the rider's leg to be somewhat on top of it, whereas the dressage saddle thigh block is to STOP the leg, and so your thigh is behind it, not on top of it at all.


the last saddle I rode in, on my leased horse, had a large thigh block. it was sewn to the inner flap, and one of the billets was run through it. This meant the billet was unable to adjust the angle it came down from it's attachemnent point to the buckles. The thigh block made my hips miserable, as I was forced to actually put my knee on TOP of the thigh blocks going down hill, because I needed to put my knee forward to alleviate great lower back pain from an overly straightened hip joint when going down hill.



I hated that saddle, and eventually we had a saddle fitter come and cut the stitching and remove the thigh block and free the billet. It was much more usable after that.
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post #10 of 21 Old 01-23-2020, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
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@tinyliny wow that sounds really annoying. It's interesting and a little strange that the rolls are there to force your leg into a certain position, because not everyone is the same shape, size, or proportion, and the shape or the horse changes how things feel as well. Of course you want a saddle sized to you as well as the horse, but it seems like even then your legs might end up getting pushed into weird places because the saddle makers thought that's just where everyone's legs should be.

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