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View Full Version : How to sit in a dressage saddle?



Ozalynda
Aug. 17, 2009, 12:41 AM
Ok, that sounds like a really dumb question to 99% of you on the dressage forum, but I hope you will bear with me.

I ride primarily endurance, and jump one day a week for fun. I have ridden forever but have never sat in an-honest-to goodness dressage saddle before this week.

I would like to start doing some dressage work with my 7 year old because he could use the work on suppleness and balance. I ride in a Stübben jumping saddle which I absolutely love which it fits my horse like a dream, so I am looking at Stübben dressage saddles of the same size and width (17" and 30 width).

I have had two saddles on trial (Scandica and Tristan DL) and I simply can't see how to ride in them. :lol: They both have rather robust kneerolls and I feel like my leg is being cranked backwards. In order to have my leg in the position that the saddle dictates, I have to have my stirrup so long that I have to stand on tip-toe to post, and even then my knee is rammed uncomfortably up against the kneeroll.

I am rather long from hip to knee and am wondering if I need a larger saddle size? With the 17 there is still plenty of room behind my butt, but perhaps a larger saddle would give me more room forward to the kneeroll? Or is it just a matter of getting used to it?

A lot of endurance riders I know use dressage saddles, and that is one of the reasons I had thought to buy one (so I can have my jumping saddle as a dedicated jumping saddle), however so far I can not imagine spending 15 minutes in one of these saddles, let alone several hours.

Any advice to a dressage ignoramus is welcome! :)

Alagirl
Aug. 17, 2009, 12:49 AM
roflmao! :lol:

well, compared to a jumping saddle your legs will be in a weird position.

the average stirrup length is about middle finger tip to arm pit, straight arm.

any longer - no good.


you really kinda have to sit on your back pockets, long relaxed leg, heel low...and find a saddle that fits. The big knee rolls are not every body's thing, but it's a matter of getting used to it.

cute_lil_fancy_pants_pony
Aug. 17, 2009, 12:58 AM
OK, first off. I hate Stupid Stubbens. They are bad for the rider, bad for the horse.

Second of all, you should ROUGHLY be able to place your hand sideways, on the cantle, side of pinky touching your butt and along side of your thumb touching the top of the cantle, when you are sitting in the deepest part of the seat. This is how you guestimate the correct seat size.

Thirdly, sit up tall, do some arm circles, rotating your arms like big wheels to get your ribcage up and your shoulderblades flat against your back. Most people need to lift their crotch over the pommel then slide slowly back into the correct position because they sit with their seat bones pointing backward too much.

WIth your legs, you should feel like your kneeling. It sounds like you have too closed of a hip angle. Do big circles with your thighs so you rotate them from your hip out and down, now try to get your thigh perpendicular to the ground, now try to get it even further back. Can you do it? You may need more flexability here. When your riding your thigh should not be straight perpendicular to the ground, a slightly more closed hip angle, but at the walk you should work on being able to make your thigh go straight perpendicular to the ground.

Then rotate your leg below the knee, can you point your toes into your horse? Can you rotate your toes in, and lift your toes up so that your heel is the lowest point without having to press on the stirrups.

There is a lot of flexability that needs to be created in people that have not ridden dressage. Ankles, hips and knees. Do lots of exercises where you have your toes on a step and you stretch your heels below the step and stuff like that. Hope this helps. But it sounds like your main problem is that your thigh is not perpendicular enough to the ground, and your heel is not able to go down enough. On Stubbens especially since the stirrup bars are WAY TOOO far forward your stirrup leathers should be hanging not straight perpendicular to the ground, but back further than that, so if your stirrups were the head of an arrow they would be pointing more towards your horses back feet. Like a 10 degree angle from where they would be if they were perfectly vertical.

Ambrey
Aug. 17, 2009, 12:59 AM
My first response was "butt first."

But I think what you're looking for is "open the hip angle." The angle between your upper body and upper leg needs to be more open- if you close it and draw your knees up, you'll have to reach for your stirrups and you'll wedge in against the knee rolls.

This will also happen if you try to grip with your knees (ask me how I know this...).

Anyway, it's possible that the saddles are just not a good fit, but that's the first place I'd look.

Alagirl
Aug. 17, 2009, 12:59 AM
OK, first off. I hate Stupid Stubbens. They are bad for the rider, bad for the horse.


:lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol: :lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:

no really, that is funney!

Roan
Aug. 17, 2009, 01:06 AM
If the 17 fits your butt and your thigh bone is that long, don't go up a size. Keep shopping around different styles/brands and find something that fits.

Find something that has no knee rolls and try that. I've a long thigh and in most saddles my knees go right over the rolls. Hate that.

I don't like the rolls anyhow and I refuse to "get used to them". To me they are a crutch. I don't like the feeling I'm being "held in place". Off they go.

Eileen

J-Lu
Aug. 17, 2009, 01:08 AM
Hello,

How tall are you? I am 5.6 1/2 inches/130 lbs and can jump in a 16.5 or 17 (if I have to) or a 17.5" saddle but I am a firm 17.5" dressage saddle. I have squeezed into 17" thornhills and Scheeses, but I'm really a 17.5" kind of gal.

The length from your hip to you knee is really important in fitting a dressage saddle. Your knee should be in the kneeroll, but not near the roll/stitching of the saddle edge so you feel like your legs are turned out from you hips. I've never ridden in the Scandica but I don't recall the knee rolls being large. Aren't the knee rolls of the Tristan DL similar to essentially no knee roll at all? I think I was made to ride in this saddle with a BNT who does not believe in knee rolls... educational.

Drop your stirrups...raise your TOES...that is where your dressage stirrups should be. Drop your stirrups...your stirrups should hit your ankle bone but is different by a hole or so if you are riding a very wide or narrow-barreled horse. Maybe it does feel very different to you but the above guidelines should help you fit your stirrups. If you are not used to a dressage saddle, some saddles do make you feel cranked back but sometimes it is because you are used to a forward seat. If in doubt, it is very very very usefull to take even one lesson or clinic with a good dressage rider/trainer to help you figure out where your leg should be.

BTW. IMO-many stubbens have a very narrow channel...make sure it actually fits your horse. Good luck!!

thatmoody
Aug. 17, 2009, 06:58 AM
I have to go up almost a whole size in a dressage saddle with knee rolls. My jumping saddle is a 17, but my Verhan is an 18, and could really be a 19.

jn4jenny
Aug. 17, 2009, 08:39 AM
I'm sure this will get me flamed to the high hills, but if you're just looking for some BASIC dressage training (suppleness and balance), what's wrong with taking dressage lessons in your jump saddle?

It's entirely possible to achieve an excellent Training Level frame in a jump saddle. Thousands of eventing/hunter/jumper riders do it every day. Even me, a total incompetent on horseback, manages to achieve it several times a week. :lol: I rode at one barn where a 13-year-old girl regularly achieved top dressage scores in her Stubben Siegfried All Purpose saddle.

Would it help to have a dressage saddle? Sure, and it would be an absolute necessity if you intended to climb the levels in dressage. But it would also cost you a lot of money for something that's not your primary (or even your secondary) discipline. For your purposes, it seems foolish unless your trainer advises it.

Ibex
Aug. 17, 2009, 08:44 AM
OK, first off. I hate Stupid Stubbens. They are bad for the rider, bad for the horse.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Sorry, the advice of a 12yo is not what's needed here :lol:


But I agree with J4J; if you just want to work on basics, start with your jump saddle. You should be able to lengthen your stirrup a bit. A lot of people used to a jump saddle have issues with the stretch of a dressage saddle when you first start - even if you start with a dressage saddle you may need to slowly edge the stirrups down until you're comfortable.

ShotenStar
Aug. 17, 2009, 09:24 AM
I'll second Roan ... try something with no knee rolls. Or, if you find a saddle that is otherwise suitable (fits you, fits the horse) check to see if the knee rolls can be removed.

Both of my saddles are sans knee rolls. I have very long thigh bones for my height and any knee roll tends to push me backwards and cause my knee to rotate outwards. One saddle I had made specifically without knee rolls; on the other I had the knee rolls removed post purchase. Since this model of saddle had the knees made as a separate piece sitting on top of the flap, it was an easy correction.

*star*

ginger708
Aug. 17, 2009, 09:32 AM
I Started in a all purpose saddle that worked great for a long time. When I started getting into lengthenings, leg-yields and other lateral movements I realized that I needed nice knee roll or thigh block. So the whole block thing you may have to grow into.

Saddle seat sizes are a lot like dress sizes. A 17 thornhill does not feel like a 17 Prestige and definitely does not feel like a 17 Devoucoux (sp?). I tell everyone that asks me about saddle and seat size is to ignore the number and sit in a many as saddles as you can. If you have friends that ride dressage even better barrow their saddles and try them on your horse or ride their horse in the saddle. You can get a feel for the saddle on the horse many times it can feel different than on the plastice horse at the saddle shop.

I mean obviously if you are a 17 or a 17.5 there is no point in riding in a 15 or a child's saddle, but there are variations in a dressage seat that can make it more or less comfortable. There are wide to narrow twists. Don't ask me what this means I just know that if a dressage saddle makes my left leg feel like it is on fire it's a wide twist. From what the saddle shop tells me I love everything with a narrow twist. There is full or mono flaps, there is flap length. There is block width and length. And don't forget that there is the depth of the seat. Deeper seat you need a larger seat size. How much larger will depend on the size of your but and the length of your leg.

So now that I have your hair standing on end go out and have fun because once you find the saddle that you love you get to bring it home and try to get it to fit your horse:lol:. We will be waiting for your next post:lol:. However when you find the right saddle for you and your horse you will love it! Until you sit in one that feel even better. ;)

Roan
Aug. 17, 2009, 10:33 AM
"Twist" is basically how wide the seat of the saddle is. The part where you sit, not the part that is fitted to the horse.

Some people can't deal with a wide twist as they don't have a lot of pelvis room between their femurs. People with a lot of space in the pelvis can't get comfortable in a narrow twist. All depends on your skeletal structure.

Me, I like a medium to wide twist.

Eileen

Ozalynda
Aug. 17, 2009, 10:47 AM
Thanks so much for all the great advice. The two stübbens have been returned already, so I think now I will broaden my horizons and try some other brands for comparison. LOTS of used Kieffers on the market...

And in the meantime, I will stick with my beloved jumping saddle until I find the match-made-in-heaven dressage saddle. I'll let you all know what that is when I find it :)

Gloria
Aug. 17, 2009, 12:36 PM
If you are so uncomfortable in that saddle, that saddle does not fit you. If you had to tip-toe to post, that stirrup leathers are too long. The length of stirrup leathers should be so the irons are between right below your ankle and the bottom of your foot.

As to seat size, many people don't understand the seat size is determined by both your buttock size AND your thigh length, not just your buttock alone. And if you have long thigh bone... well, you are in the category of hard to fit rider... Many times you do need to get one size bigger, or have a flap that is more forward to accomodate your thigh.

thatmoody
Aug. 17, 2009, 12:41 PM
Exactly, Gloria, and I have a big butt and a short femur, so I'm hard to fit :). But I can manage...

echodecker
Aug. 17, 2009, 02:12 PM
Have you tried a Wintec Isabell? That's what I'm currently in after several years in a Kieffer that I loved (but put me in a bit of a chair seat) and trying everything that Albion makes (several models I loved, but couldn't afford). I have a very long femur (5'11" with 36" inseam) and the Isabell is very comfortable and puts my leg under me nicely.

It has removable/adjustable knee blocks, but I ride without them. Several people in my barn, including our trainer, ride in them. There are some horses that they don't fit well even with the adjustable tree, but if it fits your horse, it's a nice and ECONOMICAL option. Also, very easy to keep clean and it doesn't matter if they get wet!

Just to clarify, I don't really like the other Wintect Dressage options...but haven't tried the brand new models.

Horsepower
Aug. 17, 2009, 03:46 PM
Most people I know (myself included) go up a half size for a dressage saddle from their hunter/jumper saddles. The wintecs and Bates saddles are designed to give an open feel, which is comfortable for someone coming from the hunter/jumper world.

AnotherRound
Aug. 17, 2009, 05:18 PM
You will be looking for a saddle which allows your leg - your knees and lowerleg, to fall under your hip. Your shoulders will be stacked above your hip. I also have a long thigh and lower leg. The wintec saddles throw my leg forward. Mine, not necessarily anyone elses, just my experience. The albion is very minimal and I like them. Your experience with a stubben jumping saddle is the opposite of correct - it gives you a particularly incorrect chair seat and I have heard something similar with the stubben dressage saddles. Sit in many. Look for the feel of the leg dropping down straight under your shoulders, under your hip, with your lower leg back so the stirrup is also under your knee and under your hip, no matter the length of stirrup at the time. Be sure you can bring your heels down, down below your foot. If your toes are pointing down, your stirrups are far far too long. If you can't get your lower leg back, look for a different saddle. You need about a hand's width behind your butt to the cantle. I have seen some begining dressage riders with their butt pouring over the back of the cantle; this is a saddle woefully small for them. I personally do not like dressage saddles with much knee rolls and I like no thigh rolls which might force my leg out of correct placement. Good luck

Edited to ad, found some lovely albion saddles used recently, 1000.00 and less. Once you find what you like, look for used, would be my personal agenda...

mjmvet
Aug. 17, 2009, 10:50 PM
One exercise I find helpful to open the hip angle, both before and after riding, is sitting on an exercise ball. I try to sit on it in such a way that my knees are pointing straight down to the floor, so my two seat bones are pointing straight down, and engaging my stomach muscles so my back is straight. (to do this, my leg from the knee to the foot is behind the ball almost on the floor) It's easier said than done, and really helps my hunter/jumper hips stretch. I really love my Wintec Pro dressage saddle - the seat is very flat - not confining, and the knee blocks are small, velcro, and easily removed! It's also cheap, which is a nice perk. Good luck!

Ozalynda
Aug. 18, 2009, 12:51 AM
I just found a Kieffer Genf for sale used. Possibly too big as it is an 18". The owner had the kneepads removed and had the saddlemaker put velcro there insted with removable/movable kneepads. Sounds like a possibility. I just need to find out if she will allow me to try it out.

Anyone have any dire warnings about a Genf? I know they are pretty new on the market.

Some added advantages that I can see would be that the synthetic materials would be more all-weather friendly, the movable kneeblocks would give me flexibility, and the 18" in theory would mean more bearing surface on the horses back (a bonus if I use it for endurance as well).

cute_lil_fancy_pants_pony
Aug. 18, 2009, 03:04 AM
Thanks so much for all the great advice. The two stübbens have been returned already, so I think now I will broaden my horizons and try some other brands for comparison. LOTS of used Kieffers on the market...

And in the meantime, I will stick with my beloved jumping saddle until I find the match-made-in-heaven dressage saddle. I'll let you all know what that is when I find it :)

Hey. there are lots of used Kieffers on the market cause they suh-uck about as much as Stubbens. I would try a Wintec Isabell if your looking for a cheap saddle. Some very wide horses they don't work for. I find by "extra wide" gullet, they mean "medium/medium-wide".

Alagirl
Aug. 18, 2009, 03:51 AM
Hey. there are lots of used Kieffers on the market cause they suh-uck about as much as Stubbens. I would try a Wintec Isabell if your looking for a cheap saddle. Some very wide horses they don't work for. I find by "extra wide" gullet, they mean "medium/medium-wide".

UHHH, SLC must have spawned a youngun....:lol:

cutemudhorse
Aug. 18, 2009, 07:46 AM
Saddles can be a personal opinion, both for which style tree fits your horse and what type of seat fits you. . . as you're finding out!! :) Talk to a saddle fitter or a knowledgable person at the tack store. Most don't really know all the nuances of individual saddle fit you can gain info from almost everyone.

Seat size is determined by your bum and somewhat by your thigh length and how forward the flap is. Also you may take a slightly larger size in a deeper seated saddle. You don't want your leg to be so long that there is no flexibility in your joints. You still want the head/hip/heel to be aligned. If you are balanced in the saddle (any saddle) you will be able to stand in the stirrups without falling forward or back. Try it at the halt, but it is a balance check exercise at the gaits as well. (Not two point, but standing!) It's hard.

Like was mentioned before, just try lots of saddles on your horse and see how you both feel in them.

I always though Kieffers were very nice saddles but I don't know anything about the newer ones. They look nice, always were comfy if you had the right size and very balanced if the fit was right. They do seem to have a versatile fit.

Petstorejunkie
Aug. 18, 2009, 05:58 PM
saddle shopping is WAY easier than people make it out to be, you just have to remember that no one can tell YOU what's going to work best. We can steer you in the right direction and narrow your search down to 20 or so saddles but even then it's not fool proof.
When you find "the one" you'll sit in it and you wont want to get out. you'll naturally be sitting tall, your leg will just hang in the correct position with your ankle under your hip, and you'll feel like you grew an inch or two.
That's how you'll know.

Also just because your stubben fits your horse and you doesnt mean didly. i bought a jumping saddle because the brand of dressage saddle fit me and my horse so well.... now we are sending mr. new jumping saddle off for a little flocking work.. okay alot of flocking work with fingers crossed

I'll tell you in my experience (5'10" w/ 36" inseam that's mostly femur) I wound up in a Passier Antares which has virtually no blockage, rollage, or other poufiness to it. they are not very popular (because everyone seems to like the big rolls etc) so you may be able to pick one up for cheap. i found mine new at a tack shop for 1/2 off because it had been sitting there for a year and they wanted to move it.

cutemudhorse
Aug. 18, 2009, 06:19 PM
Petstorejunkie -- I LOVE my Passier Antares!!! I got it used and was amazed at how well we both were in it!! Then I got the Precision for jumping and really like it too, but even though it looked like (to me) an even better fit for Misty it did need some flocking adjustments. So yes, different models from the same company are different.

Petstorejunkie
Aug. 19, 2009, 11:56 AM
Petstorejunkie -- I LOVE my Passier Antares!!! I got it used and was amazed at how well we both were in it!! Then I got the Precision for jumping and really like it too, but even though it looked like (to me) an even better fit for Misty it did need some flocking adjustments. So yes, different models from the same company are different.

lol the jumping saddle for me is the precision too! :lol:

PennyChrome
Sep. 24, 2009, 03:44 PM
[QUOTE=jn4jenny;4311399]I'm sure this will get me flamed to the high hills, but if you're just looking for some BASIC dressage training (suppleness and balance), what's wrong with taking dressage lessons in your jump saddle?

I totally agree with this. The dressage saddle feels weird because for 99% of people a dressage seat (aka open and flexible hip angle) is really hard work and takes a lot of time, dedication, and practice to achieve. That said, lots of people still ride in dressage saddles with a long hanging leg yet still closed hip angle. This means their sacrum is not rotated backwards so that they sit on their seatbones (imagine riding bareback with your feet pointed out in front of you so you're really sitting on your butt, then imagine maintaining that seat while you bring your leg back and underneath you - it's hard! That's why modern Dressage saddles often have those huge blocks). Many people are just riding with a long leg/stirrup, which is more comfortable for a lot of people, knees especially, and easier to learn! If you're long from hip to knee you'll feel a saddle with blocks trying to force your hip angle more open, hence the discomfort. Do your horse a favor and take some dressage lessons before you start riding in a dressage saddle. If you get some good lessons, like on the longe etc, then a proper dressage saddle will feel like a reward!