First/Starter Dressage Saddle


I am looking to buy a dressage saddle and am looking for recommendations on good “starter” saddles under ~$650. A little about me…I am a very experienced rider but dressage is not my #1 discipline. I am currently riding dressage in an all purpose saddle with a fairly deep seat (as far as AP’s go) and ride mostly TB’s so am looking for a medium tree (or something that is adjustable). I am looking for a saddle in my price range that is decent quality and decent shape but obviously not brand new. Any recommendations on brands I should look for (or alternatively brands to stay away from)?


My first dressage saddle was an old Passier. Brown, hard seat, minimal blocks. It was very affordable and was built to last. It’s still in my closet lol

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I think it depends on the shape of your horse’s back- not only tree width, but shape as well.

My first dressage saddle was a Wintec Pro that I bought used. It served me well for many years.


I would chat with an independent saddle fitter to find a used quality saddle that fits your need! You can also buy fluffy half pads with felt shims that can help with saddle fit as it’s not always easy to have a perfect saddle for each horse. Saddle fitters can also help you adjust the shims!

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You are likely going to be happiest with a second hand version of a quality saddle, as opposed to a newer cheap saddle.

Fit for horse and rider matters a lot in dressage saddles. Note that dressage saddles have become more and more built up over the past 30 years, and the deeper the seat and the bigger the thigh blocks, the tighter they fit the rider.

The current retail cost of quality saddles is from $4000 on up so you will likely need to go a bit older to find something for $600. You will possibly need the saddle reflocked and definitely adjusted somewhat.

The best brand for you is the one where the tree best fits your horse. A saddle fitter is a big help here. In my local market, older Passiers are a great bargain and fit me and one of my horses. Other horse not so much.

Anyhow it helps to research the various high end brands and see what they offer if you are going to be shopping second hand.

Very very old dressage saddles from the 1970s and 80s may be too hard and flat for anyone to want to ride in these days.

Anyhow, if they fit, anything from the big brands will be satisfactory. Passier, Stubben, County, Albion, Custom, Schleese, etc. If you find an unknown brand you can Google and see what new costs.


You just described my Stubben Parzival Portos - circa 1985.
I schooled my TB to the start of 3rd in that saddle. Also showed Hunters & Evented in it. And trailrode.
Still have it, still useable.
Fit everything I rode for 25+yrs until I got my WB, whose withers Did.Not.Fit.
Thinking he was my last horse, I indulged us both with a semi-custom Stubben Maestoso.
Luckily it fits his successor too.

You can probably find an older Stubben in your price range.
Lots of Tristans priced under $1K.

Maybe consider a Stubben, they are often a good fit for a TB. I have an old Scandica, horse loves it as do I. They are no longer made, you can find used ones for under $1000, many are very cheap but just make sure they are in good working order. You can also consider a Collegiate with the exchange gullet, occasionally on sale new under $1000, same for HDR.

Look at tack shops that sell on consignment or a saddle fitter so you know the saddles have been checked and they can advise you on fit.

I ride in a Thorowgood. I love it because it’s mostly synthetic, but has a nicer look than most wintecs. I also like that I can beat the holy hell out of it hacking out and I don’t feel bad (versus my custom jump saddle).

Thorowgoods have adjustable gullets and wool flocking. I believe new they’re just a titch over your pricepoint, so used should be well within. If the tree fits your horse, they’re good value for the money.


An aside about Thorowgoods…those suckers are built to last! I gave away my first Thorowgood that i rode on for over 35 years and replaced it with a new one. It sure is nice to have a saddle that you can ride in the rain or snow…that you can leave in the barn and not worry about mold. That you just hose off to clean. OH, and when i had a shoulder injury it was my go-to because of it’s very light weight.


I’m no expert but I started in an Wintec Isabell. Great saddle and it was my first taste of a dressage saddle - I bought it from a friend BECAUSE of how well it fit my mare (per the professional fitter).

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Thanks and please keep the tips and suggestions coming! I am drawn to Albions (for whatever reason) but have a hard time finding ones that aren’t W or XW. I could probably go up a tad in price but just didn’t want to be looking at the $1000+ price points. As mentioned in one of the replies, I’m definitely looking for a used, quality model as opposed to a new saddle. The reason I’m looking for help is that I’m not sure in dressage saddles what is considered a good brand (I’m familiar with tons, just don’t know who makes quality in dressage other than the obvious brands that start at $3k+).

If you shop around, you can probably find a used Passier at your price point. They’re well made, well balanced, and fit TBs well as a general rule. Not quite as cushy as the newer saddles, but my Grand Gilbert was under $1K used has served me well.

Wintecs also wouldn’t be a bad choice at that price, if you don’t mind synthetic.

I was actually going to say Albion. They are so nicely balanced, and I think you can find a good one under $800 or so. There are some built specifically on a TB tree, so something to keep an eye out for. Passier is also a good choice. With an older saddle, you might want to budget for a full re-flock in case the wool is worn out or lumpy. When I had this done it was around $350, IIRC.

Not sure what seat size you need, but there are two nice Passiers for $500

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Yeah, that price division really the guide. Dressage saddles like jump saddles are divided into 2 kinds.

Semi custom ordered through a rep starting in the $3 to $4,000 range on up to $10, 000 (I’m in Canada, everything costs more). When you buy these saddles second hand they have been originally designed for a specific horse and rider pair, and if you are lucky you can find a good match. In general these saddles have excellent quality materials and workmanship but if they are wool flocked they need periodic reflocking or tweaking the fit.

The other category of saddle is the off the rack saddle sold in tack stores that may have a changeable gullet plate. I would say such saddles are more commonly bought as starter jump saddles for kids and juniors than as dressage saddles for adults.

A good friend was stuck on buying Thorowgoods that never quite fit her or her horse. She finally moved up to a second hand Passier dressage and discovered her hip pain and some position problems were immediately resolved. Of course these saddles do work for some folks.

However honestly I don’t even look at second hand saddles that are off the rack and sell new for under $2000.

Not sure how that would be possible since Thorowgood was founded in December 1994 and the first saddles were not sold until 1995, which at last count was 26 years ago.

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i know i bought mine before i moved to missouri in 1994. I’m pretty sure i bought it when i still had my mustang and boarded in GGP…and that was between 1984-1994.

Well, it wasn’t from Thorowgood, which didn’t exist prior to 13 December 1994.

nope. It was most definitely a Thorowgood. Just a quickie little history tour from my photo album. I have pics of me riding my young Morgan stallion in it in GGP… I even remember the tackstore i bought it from in CA…and how glad i was that it fit both my new stallion and my mustang mare. I moved from California WITH that saddle in Nov 1994.

Don’t know how else to explain to you that Thorowgood, as a company, did not exist prior to that date. On their own website they say they have been in existence for 30 years.

so, my little ‘fanclub’ of one… (it’s flatteringly funny how you find me sooooo irresistible!)

i don’t know how to explain to you that maybe they didn’t instantly pop into business without first having made any saddles.

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