Dressage saddles and knee/ thigh blocks

Hi, dipping my toes into real dressage. Where are the knee/ thigh blocks meant to be? In my hunter/ jumper saddle, knee rolls aren’t impinging on my legs. But, dressage saddles seem to be a different beast.

Are the dressage knee/ thigh rolls meant to force your leg into hanging straight down? When I look at photos of upper level dressage riders, it looks as if the knee/ thigh rolls prevent the rider’s leg from moving upward. Is that correct?

No they are not, but a lot if people use them that way. Just like a jump saddle, they are suppose to follow the angle of your leg. They are suppose to be supported when needed but out of the way otherwise.


Yes. They should sit just out of the way, or just gently rest against your leg in its natural position. They shouldn’t force anything anywhere. Forcing your thigh to be straighter than it can be given your strength, flexibility, or hip looseness will cause negative repercussions in your seat and lower back.

If you are new to dressage, it takes a long time to achieve a straighter leg position. It’s not uncommon to start in a saddle that accommodates a shorter stirrup, and find that after a year or two that saddle no longer suites you.


For people switching disciplines, I like duel flap saddle velcro blocks. It allows adjustments as their position changes.


i cut them off. i hate them.


Why don’t you save yourself some money, time and energy by buying a saddle that doesn’t have them instead of butchering one that has… What a ridiculous comment.


once i found a saddle that fit my mare, and that was nice and flat…the only remaining problems were: stirrup leathers too long and knee bumpers. A hole punch and a knife solved my problems for me. Now it fits. and, lol…i think it’s funny that you don’t like what i did.


Thank you! I appreciate the insight! One dressage saddle I didn’t like, I believe was because it forced my leg to be straight (or else I was fighting the knee/ thigh blocks - and they were winning).

Easier said than done these days. :wink:

I have one dressage saddle that I asked my fitter to leave the blocks off after she’d had to remove them to do the adjustment. They were held on with a single screw each and the front billet ran through a slot at the bottom of the block.

My other horse’s dressage saddle has large blocks and a deep seat which I can live with as I don’t notice them when riding. The blocks are sewn in. That’s what you need to look for OP - the blocks shouldn’t force a position.

On the other hand I had to cut the behind the knee blocks off my jumping saddle. I just cut the stitching so I could easily put them back on if I wanted.

If the saddle fits you and the horse correctly, you shouldn’t get interference from the thigh blocks. Your leg should hang naturally in place. The huge ones do, I think, encourage the longer dressage leg, though.

I owned a Marcus Krehan - one of the older ones, with the HUGE long thigh blocks that jutted out nearly 2" from the flap. But it fit the horse beautifully, and it fit me almost perfectly, and when I rode, my leg was actually about 1" behind the thigh block. I had a perfect line from shoulder to hip to heel, and that saddle was a dream to ride. . . On. That. Horse. Put it on a horse for which it was too wide, and you had all kinds of issues!


Honestly, it’s your saddle and you can do what you want with it. But if you truly hated them, the blocks did not fit your particular leg. That’s fine, you said you liked everything else about the saddle, but totally unnecessary if your saddle fits you and your horse correctly all around. I did not think I’d ever like big blocks, but immediately fell in love with a Wolfgang Solo, which is pretty renowned for it’s large external blocks. It just…worked … for my hip and thigh.

In addition, OP says they are just starting in “real” dressage. They are likely going to want a totally different saddle in a couple of years as they develop a more nuanced seat in dressage.

I’d also caution OP about just cutting off parts of a saddle. It would make it much more difficult to re-sell and if the saddle has a large block under the flap rather than external - the flap is likely not going to hang correctly without that large block underneath it.


Your leg should never be hanging straight down.

Look at lots more pictures, like these for instance.


You can see that very few riders, upper level or otherwise, ride with a straight leg. It’s a longer leg than in the hunters, for sure, and more underneath you, but not straight. When you first switch to dressage, you need to get to that longer leg gradually. The thigh blocks help maintain your leg position.

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One thing to remember is they are NOT knee blocks. Somehow both tall and short riders tend to have problems with knees hitting blocks on many saddles, and both tend to do better with shorter blocks to ensure they are only hitting the thigh.
If a block is truly the same angle as the thigh it can extend past the knee without interference; but if the knee is butting into it, it is a problem. I am SHORT and have few saddles which fit me well for that reason. Right now I’m riding in a Dresch where the long block was built to the shape of my leg, so it works. It wasn’t built for my horse so isn’t ideal, though, so she is getting her own saddle which works for us both. The block will be a very short one in length, though reasonably tall in height away from the saddle. My knee is below the block, so it’s only a thigh block - and at the right angle and location to be out of my way.
Trying to determine what will work when you’re starting dressage is tricky, as you should start with shorter stirrups and they will change over time. Heck, I hadn’t ridden in 6 days so shortened my stirrups to ride yesterday!

The key is what is mentioned here, though - if the blocks are restricting or holding you, they are a problem and don’t fit right.


I tried a saddle literally last night from a quite popular brand known for locking riders down into a false seat with the deep seat, high cantle and horrid thigh blocks. The saddle conformed well to my horse, though she hated that my seat had suddenly become inflexible. I liked the narrow twist of the saddle and the fact that it seemed to conform well to my mare. I’m considering buying it and literally removing the thigh blocks, has anyone ever done this? It’s only $2500 so I’m not butchering a new saddle.

You can see upthread that there are posters who have removed the thigh block.

I would caution you that unless you can try the exact same saddle without the thigh block, you really can’t be sure that it is JUST the block that is locking your seat in. The entire seat configuration as well as the thigh block make up where you sit and how much movement you get. Saddles built witha deep seat and a big thigh block are built expecting that the thigh block is part of the saddle, and massively altering them can open a giant can of unusable worms. Plus can you really be sure that it was merely your inflexible seat that caused her to “hate” it?

if throwing away a $2500 saddle because your Frankensteined your own thigh block removal if it doesn’t work doesn’t give your finances pause, then by all means go for it. I did not do it on totally anemic finances, but I would be hard pressed to spend $2500 on a hunch, knowing that it would make my saddle loose a ton of value because I cut off the thigh blocks.

If you can afford to just start over if this doesn’t work, why not just spend the money up front and get something that works for both of you?


You make a very good case actually. It wouldn’t be a huge deal to lose the 2500 but it is kind of stupid to risk this on a lark when I could just keep searching for a saddle that works for both my mare and me. We’ve been without a saddle for two weeks and I’m starting to panic. I tried riding her bareback once but 17.2 and green was too much for me, I chickened out, so we’ve been just loafing around the farm and lunging over poles and stuff. I get quite depressed if I can’t ride her. I do have a gelding as well so that’s fortunate but I’m feeling the sense of pressure building at not having a saddle for my big lady.

I struggle with the deep seats and huge blocks on dressage saddles too since I’m short and have big thighs and hips. The dressage saddle I chose recently has movable velcro blocks so that I can position them comfortably or remove entirely if they’re in the way. It was a relief to sit in after all the blocks that didn’t fit. Maybe that’s a feature to look for since you’re unsure how you like them?

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If the saddle locks your seat, it doesn’t fit you and you should either size up or forget about the saddle.
Removing the blocks won’t change the fact that it doesn’t fit you.

If you don’t care throwing 2500$ away, send it my way, I have bills that would like to be paid.


Curious what saddle you went with as a fellow short rider?

I went with a Takt model with a dual flap. They’re bench made in Walsall, so the one I’m buying is going to have a shortened flap, but even the demo that I’m riding in now is pretty great with the moveable block. It was the only one I sat in that didn’t trap my leg or seat in an uncomfortable position, although with covid causing shortages, I didn’t get to try as many saddles.

I had a Custom Saddlery before that was made to measure for another short person, and I still love it more, but my horse does not. It was made in 2004, so just not as deep and “locked in” as new dressage saddles.