Dressage is much like a pair of figure skaters, the horse and rider must work together to create the impression of effortless grace, precision, and agility.
To achieve this effect, a rider must maintain perfect balance in the saddle as well as close communication with the animal. Dressage riders use longer stirrups for a more extended leg position, as they work solely on the flat and do not need to negotiate jumps.
Typical Qualities of a Dresage Saddle Are:
- A thin and lightweight saddle enhances contact between the horse and rider and gives the rider more control.
- A deep and well-padded seat keeps the rider in a secure, comfortable, and balanced posture.
- Saddle flaps are straight-cut and extremely long to accommodate the longer leg position. These long flaps are the most easily recognizable characteristics of a dressage saddle.
- Dressage saddles sometimes include small knee rolls, thigh rolls, and calf blocks positioned to keep the rider in a horizontally and vertically balanced riding posture. There is little padding behind the calf, allowing the free movement of the lower leg necessary to give cues to the horse.
- Longer billets and shorter girths (for example, the Lonsdale girth) buckle near the horse’s elbow rather than underneath the rider’s leg. This girthing not only keeps bulk farther down and away from the riders’ extended leg but also offers more comfort and closer contact with the horse.
- Dressage saddles often feature universal billets with both upper and lower sets of holes, which give the rider the option of using either a long or a short girth.
- Some dressage saddles have two sets of billets and two cinches, which distribute the rider’s weight more evenly.
- The deepest part of the seat is farther forward than it is on a jumping saddle, and this also works better with the straighter leg position.
- The weight-bearing surface is wider than the one on a jumping saddle.
- A higher, rounder cantle offers more security in the seat.