From Endurance to Dressage
The saddle fitter was out this past weekend. Good thing she’s really nice as I peppered her with questions the entire time she worked. She’s adjusted my saddle’s flocking for the past three years, and I always have new questions for her.
I popped over to my trainer’s barn on Friday just to watch some lessons. Even though I don’t jump, I enjoy watching the other gals go, and they are always quite tolerant of my questions (I ask EVERYONE questions). I just learned what chipping means (adding a stride). After everyone was done riding, we had a discussion about saddle fitting. No one at JL’s barn ever has their saddles adjusted, and when I asked why not, no one seemed to know why it was necessary.
So when Tina Hoover, my saddle fitter, showed up, that was my first question: why don’t the H/Js get their saddles adjusted? The simple answer was that many jumping saddles have foam inside and not flocking. Hmm … didn’t know that. The more complicated answer had a lot do with how little contact with the horse’s back that H/Js have. Dressage riders have far more contact with their horses’ backs and are far more likely to feel when the saddle isn’t sitting quite right.
And that was exactly why I felt my saddle needed some work. For the past little while, I have felt that I was tilting to the right. My saddle wasn’t slipping, but I just felt … crooked. I always assume that any glitch in my riding experience has to do with my ineptness. If my saddle feels crooked, it’s probably me, but since she was scheduled to be in my area, I figured having her professional eye was a good call.
Surprisingly, the crookedness wasn’t completely my fault. The flocking under my left thigh had been compacted and was in need of re-fluffing/re-stuffing. In addition, the pommel of my saddle had also dropped; it’s hard to sit back when your saddle is pitching you forward!
Tina had me hop up on Speedy G, saddled without a pad, so that she could see how her adjustments worked in real life. Right away I felt that I was sitting more deeply into the saddle and it was a whole lot easier to sit up and back. Tina called it giving me a different place to sit. Definitely.
Then we put the saddle on Sydney. It was better than it had been, but right away I could feel that my pelvis was tipped forward, and I didn’t have that same feeling of sitting on my seat bones. Tina snapped this quick photo, which proved that what I was feeling was correct. Believe it or not, Speedy is actually wider than Sydney. So on him, the pommel sits up higher, which allows me to sit in the deepest part of my saddle’s seat. Since Sydney is a bit narrower, the saddle’s pommel drops down slightly over his withers. There’s still plenty of clearance, but I am pitched forward a little bit.
This was very interesting because when Tina was out last year, the saddle sat pretty evenly on both horses while the year before, it fit like it did this weekend. Tina had a very interesting explanation for the change. She said that one possibility is that as a horse works in a more uphill frame, the muscling around the withers gets narrower. There’s a lengthy explanation as to why, and I am not sure that I understand it well enough to explain it, but it did seem to fit with the work that Sydney has been doing this past year.
Fortunately, the fix is pretty easy. Since the saddle fit Speedy so well, it seemed easier to just go back to the riser pad that I had been using on Sydney last year. It raises the front of the saddle by about an inch, which is hopefully all he needs.
Since I started riding in a dressage saddle, I’ve had my saddle’s flocking adjusted once a year. We don’t have any local saddle fitters, but if we did, I think I would have my saddle looked at every six months. That leads me to ask: if you’re a H/J, is your saddled filled with foam or flocking? If it’s flocked, do you get it adjusted? For the dressage crowd, how often do you have your saddled adjusted?
I told you I ask a lot of questions.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: