Can't ride in dressage saddles

I simply can’t ride in dressage saddles. I’m defective.

I’ve always been more comfortable in my jump saddles, if I’m getting on an unstarted horse for the first time and have every type of saddle to chose from, jumping saddle. I feel strong and secure in it and the short stirrups let me get up and out of the way of all sorts of stupid behavior.

My mare needs a supportive rider or she will quit, and she has a right lead in progress which I can get in my jump saddle by staying light in the tack and out of the way. In my dressage saddle she picks it, spins in a 5m circle, starts bucking, and quits. I do sit her canter in my jumping saddle, but I don’t know if it’s the same SIT as in a dressage saddle.

I just bought a new one actually, old one did not fit her and the thigh blocks were not in the right spot for me although it had a nice secure seat. I had similar problems in it as in my new saddle which fits my mare REALLY WELL and looks like it fits me.

However, in it I flop in the saddle like a fish, my right leg swings and I lose my stirrup, and when I go to canter I tip forward past where it puts me and my leg swings back. When I shorten my stirrups up I can keep the canter but I’m obviously not sitting on my pockets or anything like that.

When I ride other people’s horses I can sit the canter much better but those horses have flatter canters that are easier in general. My mare has a rolling canter and can get lazy in the arena and picky about my position.

I can canter fine in my endurance saddle which has a wide seat and twist and long stirrups but it’s more of a hand gallop down the trail.


I worked a bit on no stirrups work last night and had to hold on to the front of the saddle so I didn’t bounce right off. I do not have the same problem in my jump saddle and find it easier to sit the trot with or without stirrups in it.


So, do I need a different dressage saddle with a shallower narrower seat, or do I just give up on ever looking like a dressage queen? It is a mono flap and I find it less restrictive than my last saddle which I actually like better but perhaps it isn’t restrictive enough? Although I struggled with the canter in that one as well but blamed it on fit.

Exercises? Glue self to saddle? Apologize to my horse?


No idea, but you describe me to a T. In my jump saddle, I can ride no stirrups and sit the trot like a champ. Dressage saddle, I flop around like a dying fish. I’ll be following your thread closely!


All I can tell you is that when I finally found a dressage saddle I really liked it was SO easy to sit in the right place. Have you done a session with a fitter who brings out really different saddles? When I did that, I rode in 5 or 6, 3 different brands, monoflap, regular, big blocks, small blocks. It was incredibly obvious which one was right for me. They all fit my horse pretty well as we had done tracings and pre-selected ones that would work for him.


I second Asterix’s suggestion about getting someone out who brings saddles for you to try one after another. As with Asterix, the right one was obvious when I sat in it.

I was an “all jump saddle all the time” person until a) the right saddle came into my life and b) I was able to open up my hip and knee angles without forcing them and just let gravity keep me in place. I had to think “no gripping” for a few weeks, and then my lazy nature finally caught on that all I had to do was sit up a bit, engage but not stiffen my core and relax. it’s quite difficult initially because it feels upright and stiff in a dressage saddle after being a bit forward with a secure leg in the other. At some point I began to feel more secure in the dressage saddle, even with my mare having an attack of squirreliness or with the youngsters.

FWIW I have an old Roosli: no blocks, not terribly cushy but fits me well and just about every horse I put it on.


Well, I’d just say sit in everything you can rummage up to try, with or without a fitter, because you know what works for you. I’m fortunate in that I board at a dressage barn so when I was looking had a lot of variety, and the difference in the balance was amazing - and mostly depressing because (also a jump saddle / short stirrups all the time type), I hated them all. But then I was procrastinating one day surfing on the Beval used saddles site and found a monoflap Butet. I didn’t know Butet even MADE D saddles. It’s perfection - and the horse agrees, thank god. So take heart that a D saddle you love may be out there, and there are different brands that are less fasionable and might work. And yeah, definitely blame the saddle. You shouldn’t be fighting it - it’s not like you just started riding and don’t know the difference. Good luck.


Well, I will say this… When I found a dressage saddle for the diminuative Bug it’s a 16.5 older model county warmblood. She has a HUGE walk and trot. I felt like I was going to die and fall forward over her head because I felt that it was too deep and tipped me forward. But, I am broke and have you seriously tried to find a 16.5" dressage saddle? !? so I kept riding in it and it’s fine now. It just took me a while to get used to it. The canter, I dunno because I have seen this mare canter and I am scared sh*tless that I will die the first few times we canter. Try relaxing your seat and letting your leg hang at the canter and asking the mare to go round. Stop trying so hard to be perfect and just SIT THERE. See if that helps. For me in the dressage it seems that the more I relax and stop trying, the better it is!

I have the exact same problem when I try on jeans. DEFECTIVE!!

But seriously, do you really need a dressage saddle? If you ride well in your jump saddle, why change?


It sounds like your stirrups are too long, and the saddle doesnt fit you. A lot of the time, if the saddle does not fit your horse, it will not put you in the right position. Are you sure the fit is good to your mare?


Could be lots of things at play… if your leg is longer and her barrel is smaller, or really round, it probably feels like your lower leg has nothing to rest on, so your base is wobbly and since you are used to a short leg with a weighted heel you end up feeling insecure. I feel like this when I ride my friend’s GRP.

IF the saddle truly fits you AND the horse, I’d say try to focus on putting more weight in your seat bones and rotating your pelvis to a neutral position so your legs can hang. You want to feel like your seat bones have grown roots down through the saddle and into her back, and you want to think about stretching your heel down and backwards towards the horse’s hind legs (while still sitting on your pockets and lifting your chest!). If you ride in your jump saddle 99% of the time, you are probably in the habit of tipping your pelvis forward. Trying to ride with a long dressage stirrup while doing that = impossible, lots of tipping forward and leg swinging.

If it’s an option, maybe it would probably be easier for you to practice a “dressage seat” on a more schooled horse - lunge line lessons are fantastic for this, and it would give you a chance to visualize what you want to do with your body without having to focus on simultaneously training the horse. Once you’ve got the feeling of correct body positioning you can try to recreate it on your own horse.

You’re not defective. :lol: You just need some eyes on the ground and lots of practice!


You just need the right saddle. There’s a lot to fitting the rider as well as the horse. Hip width, pelvic tilt, thigh length, hip joint placement, any injuries, and just general preferences.

I’ve recently tried a bunch of saddles and if I didn’t already know it was possible to have the right fit in a dressage saddle, whereby being in the correct position was effortless, I also would have thought I couldn’t ride for sh!t.

The right saddle will make all the difference, trust me!


I think I made a thread similar to this once. I’m still convinced that I’m defective, but I ride a smooth PRE most of the time so I can hide it better.

I love jump saddles. I love the way my leg is underneath me in a jump saddle. I love short stirrups.

My warmblood is such a big mover that I feel like a hot mess at the trot in a dressage saddle with him. Suddenly I can’t sit him, suddenly my feet go too far in the stirrups, suddenly I have crap balance. There was one dressage saddle out of about ten that made it slightly better.

I ​​​found one that has a crap seat but made my leg secure, or I found one with a comfortable seat but crap for my leg position.

I KNOW the struggle.


I stepped down to a friend’s horse that is smaller and easier to sit (before I bought my Spanish couch aka PRE). He also had more training so I could work on myself and start to get the “feel” of opening my hips, relaxing, sitting up and deepening my seat. That helped. But in still not 100 percent Dressage Queen. I may never be. It’s a work in progress.

Best thing is try different saddles to find the best and just work at it consistently.

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BTDT. Try as many different saddles as you can. The twist makes a huge difference for me, and I hate deep seats and big blocks. I found I need a narrow twist and a slightly forward flap on my dressage saddle (I have a long femur, narrow hips and I’m not very flexible either). My dressage saddle is an old Passier Lenox (model isn’t even made any more) that I got used from Trumbull Mountain. I had ridden in a bunch of different dressage saddle over the years and never felt comfortable in any of them. This Passier is the first one that actually works for me. I filled out Trumbull Mountain’s questionnaire with my measurements and description of what saddles I liked/disliked. They sent me three different ones to try–the Lenox is not one I would have picked left to my own devices, but they obviously know what they are doing when it comes to saddle fit.

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EnjoytheRide… you should just come ride with me one day…I have this one saddle that is pretty awesome that you should try. It’s fairly flat, very little knee roll and also not too tall a pommel. Sort of has that flat sweet spot like your XC saddle. Too big for the BUG even though we tried to make it work!

Another idea is to try a “dressage-y” AP or trail saddle. They will tend to have a wide twist, though.

Brands: Smith-Worthington, Black Country (what I have), Thorowgood, even old Stubben VSDs…

If you can find them, an Adam Ellis Brio dressage saddle or Pennine “show” saddle could work, too. Mr. Ellis is also very quick to respond on Facebook, if you send him a message describing your specific problems.

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I’m now a died in the wool DQ after breaking my back last year. It took me a solid 6 months of JUST doing dressage, stretching my hip flexors and relaxing to “look” like a dresage rider in a dressage saddle. Now I’ll say I look pretty proper but it took a but load of work. Now I can go back and forth (I will sometimes ride other horses in jump saddles), without much issue but boy did it take a while.

Why do you need to ride in a dressage saddle?

I’d use whatever fits and allows the horse to move freely. :slight_smile:


You aren’t defective, but have at least one (and possibly all) of the following issues working against you.

  1. Stirrup length - raise the stirrups some if that helps you keep your seat in the saddle. It is counter-intuitive, but related to point 2.

  2. Hip flexors - If they are tight, lengthening your leg and keeping it underneath you will pop you out of the saddle like an old-fashioned clothespin. Try some stretching exercises on the ground (lots on youtube if you look), and if you can, also lessons on the longe line. This really helped me lengthen my leg, without popping me out of the saddle.

  3. saddle fit - For a year I rode in a saddle that fit my horse but not me. Miserable. One day I sat in my trainer’s saddle and it was a lightbulb going off. There is so much more to saddle fit for rider than seat size. The twist, size and positioning of the blocks, seat depth, etc. all interact with your anatomy - pelvic size and shape, femur length, etc. And since the manufacturers won’t tell you much other than seat size, you really do need to sit in a bunch. Go to a tack store with a wide selection and sit in the saddles. Pull out your cell phone and sit there for a while in each one.

And for big moving horses, buffalo leather saddles and full seat breeches are pretty awesome, but you will get more “stick” and ride better looking at saddle fit, stirrup length and stretching your hips.


I’m a dressage rider who has had trouble adjusting to jump saddles- I feel your pain-here are a few things that worked for me- keep sturrips short in dressage- I bought the same saddle in both HJ/dressage, I realize that is not always possible.

I could not ride in a jump saddle to save my life till I got a CORRECTLY fitted one using a fitter.

I try to ride in both frequently so I am able to adapt more quickly-ie- don’t go two months then ride in a dressage saddle- say every few rides. JMHO.

Many people don’t have a dressage saddle- why stress? It’s perfectly ok to show dressage in training level in a jump saddle. and you don’t need one to ask for collection/advanced lateral work.

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As a H/J transitioned to eventing rider, I confidently say I did not feel comfortable in the dressage saddle until I sat in probably 15 different saddles and finally got my horse to use himself. It was impossible to sit his canter before because he was basically running with his head high and his back hollow when he had no self-carriage. However, if you don’t have that problem, I suggest maybe find a place with older dressage school horses that has the perfect rocking horse canter and ride with them a few times to get the right “feel”. The saddle of course has to fit, but I found myself flopping around mostly when the horse is not carrying himself properly.
Hip stretches are also great-when I got the dressage saddle that fit us both every time I sat on it I felt a stretch in my hip flexors. Painful, yes, but if you stretch them on the ground it makes it soooo much easier to ride in the dressage saddle. Here’s a really good video that I follow and it does work like magic:
Don’t stress to make your stirrups long like the Grand Prix riders, I started them short, and overtime got more and more comfortable and they got longer and longer. If you do anything over and over again, eventually you’ll get used to that feeling even though at first it seemed impossible!

I’ve recently switched to dressage and I feel your pain! Unfortunately, I am leasing and although I tried a different saddle that I thought fit me better, it didn’t seem to fit the horse. I’m fine at the walk and trot but I have a terrible problem sitting the canter. In a jump saddle, I think I would always tend to sit very light while cantering, and if I did sit deep, only for a few strides. In dressage, all my weaknesses are even more exposed.

I was actually told that I need to become more comfortable being more mobile riding dressage (looser) versus how I was riding before. Perhaps you are being too hard on yourself when you say you are flopping around so much and you don’t look as bad and aren’t as ineffective as you suspect? It sounds like your mare just might be getting used to that new feel and weight distribution.

I wouldn’t necessarily take to heart her reaction as a reflection of your riding. I agree with others that using a dressage saddle isn’t necessarily essential and it sounds like you have been making progress with her training even if she isn’t tolerant yet of a deeper and more mobile seat.

In my instance, I know I am getting too far up on my crotch and getting tense because I am still getting used to the dressage seat. I so want to stay still and up in the tack, it’s my comfort zone! I did shorten my stirrups by a hole and that has helped a bit. It’s very hard for me not to want to grip. But I don’t think that’s your problem!