Could a dressage saddle make you faint?

Tl;dr: I rode for less than 10 minutes in a dressage saddle that was painful, and got so nauseous and dizzy that I had to dismount and sit on the ground for a while.

Bear with me, everyone; I am not kidding.

I’ve been out of the saddle, more or less, since the start of the year. My mare has been retired. The only riding I have done has been in my saddle – a few short rides on my mare before I retired her, and a couple of trail rides on a friend’s horse that my saddle fits well.

Said saddle is a “dressagey” trail saddle – a Black Country Celeste with custom flaps to fit me and my leg peculiarities. I am curvy and short, have one very tight hip, short femurs, long shinbones, and I am seriously “over at the knees” for lack of a better description – part of the reason I quit dressage is that I am not built for it. My saddle has short flaps set a bit forward, and small velcro blocks instead of the regular Celeste’s set block, which poked my thigh and left a bruise. I am aware that this saddle does not put me in an ideal dressage position but I honestly don’t care. It allows me to be comfortable.

I have ridden in other saddles, and adapted more or less.

Anyway… my BO offered me a ride on one of her horses, hippotherapy basically as all my issues have become worse since I stopped riding regularly. We used the horse’s saddle (actually a loaner of similar until his is delivered), which is a “big block deep seat” dressage saddle. I will say up front that the seat is a little small for me – By femur length I should be riding in a 16 inch saddle, but mine is an 18.

My initial reaction was owwwwwwww. The big blocks put one’s legs in a very straight position under the hips. There is not a lot of play. BO led me around while we worked on “breathing” into my legs and lower back. My hips started to loosen a bit, but lower back was a struggle.

Then I started to feel icky. It was early enough in the morning to be not hot yet and I was well hydrated. First a little nauseous. Then a little faint. I asked the BO to stop and we started to work on straightening my alignment but I felt so awful and dizzy that I just had to dismount. Sat on the mounting block, put my head between my knees, moved to the ground, and about 5 minutes later I was fine.

So is this a thing" Was it the saddle, or am I making things up in my head? I’ve ridden in “uncomfortable” saddles but this was … different. Should I try again?

(On said leg conformation: had I been born in 1984 rather than 1964, I probably would have had several surgeries done on my hips and legs as a baby or toddler. I’m starting to think about hip replacements, at least for the right leg, though probably would delay it until after my mare passes on, because I’m really enjoying her as a retired horse… I take her for walks and she’s just a joy.)


I mean, anything is possible. Dizziness and nausea can be caused by stimulation of the vasovagal nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. It’s the same reflex that causes people to pass out at the sight of blood, or when they feel pain, for example.

It’s entirely possible that “breathing into” your lower back and hips may activate that response for you.

However, I don’t think it was the saddle, but rather probably the circumstances if this was the case. It. may be worth noting to your doctor that this happened.


I’d be curious to know if you have the same response bareback where you can totally relax your body and not be forced into position. I’ve ridden in some saddles that were unbearable.

Lightheadedness, dizziness, and nausea can all be symptoms of a pain response or symptoms of being psychologically overwhelmed. I experience both.

Is the pain intense? Where is it originating from? Have you had any massage therapy yourself? Do you do any exercises that benefit equestrians? Do you think you are pushing your body too hard?


Not only dressage saddles but stovepipe boots as well. Bit back the tears.


I have definitely experienced nausea when holding mildly uncomfortable stretches for long periods of time (I know you’re not really supposed to do that, but teenage me in gymnastics didn’t know that). It didn’t really even have to fall into the range of “painful” - just uncomfortable for more than 2-3 minutes. It would take a lot of focus to breathe through it. I’m not sure I’d be able to do it on a horse, where there are so many other things demanding my attention.

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Could it also be the twist of the saddle was all wrong for you? I picked up a particular saddle once and riding in it led to tears. So now I use it on horses for training on the longe line but never - EVER - ride in it.


Pain absolutely can cause nausea and light-headedness. Btdt, not because of a saddle, but for instance some of my triggers were/are, period cramps, interstitial injection “I feel like I’m getting period cramps in my arm!” bruising a bone by whacking a limb on something hard, blood clots, etc.

You are not alone. Do not let anyone tell you it’s not a real thing. Do not repeat a ride in that saddle.


I wanted to say yes, every time I look at new saddle prices. Seriously it’s possible, agree with all the suggestions above, it could be one or a number of things; however, it could have been just a coincidence or you had a momentary bout of vertigo or something heat related, dehydrated perhaps. Be sure to have someone with you and try your saddle and try a different saddle to see if it happens again.


This is what I thought too, when I read the thread title.


You’re right… OMG :woman_facepalming:


Another aspect was that maybe you felt to trapped by the blocks and had a mini panic attack? Or sometimes weird things just happen. Once I was merely sitting in a room with AC, suddenly I felt the same way as you described. I still have no idea what caused it but it was scary.

As far as saddles go, if it was hurting you I wouldn’t try it again. Like someone else said, go bareback if you have to. I’ve tried a few saddles where I had to get off after a few minutes even just at the walk and ended up with bruises on the upper inner thighs. I’m just narrow all the way around I guess and these saddles were too wide. I felt like I was sitting on a wooden plank. Ouch!!

OK, between forum outages, work, and a demanding cat (but not a demanding DH), this is my first chance to respond.

I’m starting to think that there just isn’t room for me in this saddle. It’s basically built to hold one’s femurs straight or almost straight vertically, sort of a “fork seat.” Which probably works great for someone who is skinny and not curvy (BO), but not for me, because my femurs actually curve forward from my pelvis a bit.

What saddles I prefer is making more and more sense. I’ve never liked the ones that “hold you in.” The one possible exception was a Trilogy Debbie McDonald, which started out great for me but eventually gave my mare a sore back. I’ve likes more open-seated saddles with small blocks – Frank Baines Capriole, old Rooslis with the pencil blocks, old Niedersuss Symphonies with pencil blocks etc. I also loved two trainer’s saddles that fit my mare: a Hennig Sofa with short flaps, and an Adam Ellis Brio. And of course the Black Country that was made “just for me.” I’ve wanted my stirrups fairly short for dressage. So maybe it is just me. I’m built weird, and most dressage saddles are built with some assumptions about rider position etc.

The pain was mostly in my adductors (inner thigh/groin muscles), and yes, since I stopped riding those have become way tighter. I do very basic beginner yoga videos – but really the baby stuff that anyone can do, sometimes even senior “chair yoga.” (I am a fan of Yoga with Adrienne.) But my hands are messed up, too, so I have to skip anything that puts weight on a flat hand. No downward dogs or planks in my world!

Maybe I’m just whining because my body is betraying me, and has for most of my life, but up until now I have rarely noticed.

My BO’s horse can’t be ridden bareback, so that’s out. I really miss riding my mare bareback as she was very comfortable that way. I even trail rode her bareback sometimes.

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Do not beat yourself up. You had a physical reaction to something. Do not let years of hearing that women make shit up in their heads and just need to tough it out or give up on whatever (activity, normal life, etc.) allow you to ignore this.

It’s a thing. Find a way around it that doesn’t require you to suck it up.


The idiot who sucked up nearly a week of 4x day interstitial abx treatment because I thought my pain tolerance was just crap only to learn years later that it is apparently terribly painful. I just didn’t experience what I think of as pain (sharp/knife/etc.) and experienced it as nausea, “cramps” and lightheadedness.


That and the bling!!

OP, I hope you find a saddle that works for you.

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Oh it’s not a question of that. This is the BO’s horse and saddle. I’m hanging onto my own saddle in hopes that it fits whatever horse I have next. It would not fit her horse.

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Your story reminds me of something that happened to me with a student early in my teaching career. I had just returned from a week of teacher’s training with Sally Swift, and I put my barn owner on her horse for a mounted breathing, centering, building blocks session.

We were JUST STANDING THERE….And I led her through Sally’s initial system of changing your awareness by finding your center and breathing into it, and stacking up your pelvis, head and torso a’la building blocks.

We made it through the guided breathing into her center, and we were just starting on building the “centered” concept, when she started wobbling around…and fell off her horse and landed on me. This was a woman with a very high pitched voice, and a real chest breather…all I can come up with is that it was some kind of combination of hyperventilating, and possibly releasing her psoas the point where there was a system reset. She did not report any pain though.

I think that it’s possible that a combination of deep release, and the deep breathing combined with the sort of discomfort that you were describing could cause you to become lightheaded.


I have major wrist issues so no flat hand for me either. You can plank using your forearms though. I’m guilty of not taking that advice myself.

I will say that I think the fact that you have muscle pain is much better than joint or orthopedic pain. I think stretching will be huge for you. It is for me. It affects everything, tendons and skeleton.


Very valid. I had a friend who was in a car accident and sustained back injuries and broken ribs. The doctors put him in a torso brace and all of his vitals went crazy and his pain intensified. He felt weak and couldn’t draw a full breath. At first no one could figure out what was the cause until it was determined that he felt so catastrophic in the brace they it was giving him panic attacks.

So, if you felt very restricted, your nervous system might have fired some warning signs.


Hi everyone – I have an update. I did ride again in that saddle, on the same horse, yesterday. Or really, got led around while working on my own body. BO thinks I will like the new saddle for the horse better as it has shorter blocks and not quite as deep a seat. It will be a couple of weeks before it arrives.

My left hip got sore, but I experienced NO faintness, dizziness etc. We worked on my upper body and ignored the lower as much as possible, since it seems like part of the problem in the earlier lesson is that I was SO focused on my hips that I just tensed up all over. In this one I caught myself really swinging in my pelvis and hips, and “letting go” probably made that happen. I was on for about 20 minutes and chose to end when things were going well, rather than “try something else.”

One other thing: I got myself through a Yoga with Adrienne video every evening. There’s plenty I can’t do, but it’s OK to focus on something that I can do, while waiting for the thing that doesn’t to end. Adrienne is also super about giving alternatives to everything, in the most non-judgmental way possible.