Help: Saddle-Finding Confusion!

Okay, here’s the deal. I just bought an 18.2hh Hann. He’s spectacular, a Wallstreet Kid x Davignon gelding that’s transitioning from Hunters to Dressage. It was a spur of the moment purchase; I saw him, fell in love, and bought him. I get him next week.

The problem? I don’t have a saddle. My all-purpose was sold with my Jumper gelding. I need some pointers on saddle finding as I know little to nothing about dressage saddles. I’ve always bought horses who came with custom made saddles and haven’t had to worry about this.

He’s not particularly round, probably a medium-wide. I’ve seen a lot of saddles that are adjustable; does this mean that a saddle fitter can change it so it fits him? I’m 6’0, so will need a long flap. I’m only 120lbs with a small seat. I’d like to buy used if possible, preferably a good brand. I’ve heard that Hennig and Schleese are good, any opinions? All advice is very much appreciated! Thanks in advance

No - an adjustable cannot be made to fit any horse. If the tree/panel shape is generally correct for your horse, it can be narrowed or widened in the tree to fit.

I recommend finding a fitter to come evaluate you and your horse, bring saddles to try, and make recommendations on what to look for if they don’t have something for you. It’s worth the expense - saddle fitting is miserable.

Hennig and Schleese are good brands- but that doesn’t tell you much. I personally can’t ride in a Schleese because the configuration of the seat does not work with my personal conformation. Hennig’s are very custom - some you can love one and hate another.

Dressage saddle fit is MUCH more finicky than jumper saddle fitting. Fine Used Saddles is a great place to window shop and check out a bunch of high end used saddles in one place. It may help you narrow your choices a bit. I would echo joiedevie’s advice and find a reputable independent fitter to get a good wither tracing and some recommendations. Finding out what any fitting challenges are will go a long way in helping you pick something to try. If you can find someplace with a large selection of used saddles, make a field trip and go sit in them all to figure out what you like, and what you hate. Some brands are more forgiving in fit, and full customs are generally not forgiving at all fit-wise.

I did have an old style Roosli that worked on pretty much everything I put it on, but those are hard to find. The new ones are just not quite the same. Rick’s Heritage Saddlery in PA had one in their online inventory a few days ago in a 17, but I am not sure if it was the old design or not. Mine was a hot commodity when I sold it in the late '90s, so an old style one now would be pretty freaking ancient.

Also, be prepared for whatever you get to not fit as your horse muscles up over the withers and back. Dressage training can change the shape of a horse drastically.

Do you have some tack shops in your area that do consignments? If you can make a moldable form of your horse’s back, it might be easier to scan through stuff locally. Speaking from experience, you can burn up a good portion of your saddle budget just from trying things remotely.

Both Schleese and Hennig have different models that accommodate various horse and rider types. I’ve ridden saddles from both companies. They are high quality saddles but expensive.

My advice would be to try as many saddles as you can locally, both at consignment places and through whatever reps are in your area. Another comment I’d like to make is to buy a demo or used saddle if at all possible. Getting something custom can be a total crapshoot. I’ve had 2 bad experiences and ended up sending the saddle back both times since it was so badly off as to look like it was made for a very different horse.

Adjustable can mean different things. There are some saddles that have plates that can be widened or narrowed with a tree press and there are some with changeable gullet plates. However, the bones or tree of the saddle needs to be a generally good fit for the horse, longitudinally and laterally. Just changing the front doesn’t make an angular saddle flat.

First off - can I just say did I read that correctly? 18.2?? There is an 18H at my barn and I though he was big…

If you’ve never ridden in a dressage saddle before, if you have an opportunity to go to a shop with a good selection of consignment dressage saddles, that would likely be a great place to start. It is hard to make any suggestions without knowing what is comfortable for you - narrow twist, quick rise, forward flap, etc…

Thank you for the suggestions everyone - very helpful!! :slight_smile: and yes, rothmpp, you read it correctly. He stands 18.2 and is massive! Thankfully he rides like a much smaller horse though.

We had one bigger visit our barn a few weeks ago. A 19 hand Percheron! He sure cleared the auditors out fast when he got a little close to us haha.


I did have an old style Roosli that worked on pretty much everything I put it on, but those are hard to find. The new ones are just not quite the same. Rick’s Heritage Saddlery in PA had one in their online inventory a few days ago in a 17, but I am not sure if it was the old design or not. Mine was a hot commodity when I sold it in the late '90s, so an old style one now would be pretty freaking ancient.

And that is why I will never sell my Roosli!

I would not buy a Hennig or a Schleese for a horse that is transitioning to a new discipline because his topline will like change quite a bit. Then again, I probably wouldn’t buy one anyway because I don’t think you need to spend that much to get a nice saddle. I’ve owned a Schleese and while the leather was gorgeous, I ended up not keeping it because it didn’t work as well for me as another saddle

If it were me, I’d have my saddle fitter out and ask what saddles are likely to fit him. My own fitter doesn’t sell saddles so has no dog in the race. Then I’d ride in as many saddles as I could lay my hands on and find one that works today knowing that it might not work in a year.

I’d actually start by sitting in as many dressage saddles as possible, and keep detailed notes about what is comfortable for you. Go to tack stores (especially those with consignment saddles), ask your barn-mates if you can sit in their saddles, etc. Then get a fitter’s help… The goal being to balance your needs and the horse’s.

(Not posting about my saddle fitting saga at all, it’s terribly depressing and I wouldn’t want to scare you off! However, the way you are built, you should have a much easier time finding something that fits you.)

Generally there are three ways in which you find your saddle…

  1. You try on a bunch of saddles, get depressed, and finally, one day, in that remotely distant one day, all stars align for you, and you hit the jackpot.

  2. You try on a bunch of saddles, get depressed, and finally, one day, you give up, and you find a saddle fitter to direct you in the murky windy road of saddle fitting. Then all stars align for you, in the form the saddle fitter.

  3. You forgo all the nonsense from above, and just get a good saddle fitter.

I suggest that if at all possible, find a good saddle fitter. If you want a used saddle (a new custom saddle in general takes at least three months to make), he/she can suggest you the brand/model of saddles that both you and your horse love. You pay a consultation fee to the fitter, and run to the tack shop to find the saddle. You then get the saddle fitter back to reflock the saddle for your horse.

Seriously, if at all possible, find a saddle fitter. It will save you a lot of grievance.

I agree 100% with the above. Don’t get this to be your forever saddle.

Our measurements are within 1 inch and 5 pounds of each other. Do yourself a favor and get a short block. That will allow your knee to be wherever it needs to be.

If your knee and you are pushed back in the saddle, you will tip forward and you will not really be able to sit in the saddle, nor will it feel very good at all.

I went through a lot of skin breakdown and nasty bleeding stores because of this.

Congratulations on your new horse, and best of luck!

I like Prestige and Custom Saddlery dressage saddles. Some of the top US and European dressage riders ride in these–and, I think, for good reason. I have chosen them because they fit me and my horses.

Perhaps find a used/inexpensive one, as RHRT said, of a SOLID, respectable brand and then look for your forever saddle.

Go sit in a BUNCH to start–are there any nearby consignment stores? SOME saddle fitters can be helpful…good riders/instructors can be too.

Does anyone in the barn have one you could PAY to borrow/try/lease? Your instructor, perhaps?

Good luck!

You can of course ask the Seller if they will sell you his saddle. If not, ask for more information about that saddle.

Dressage saddles are very customized, to fit the horse and rider.

You can order a couple of saddles for “trial” and send back the ones that don’t work.

Call a reliable saddle fitter to come visit you - schedule now - when you can ride the horse in the trial saddles in front of the fitter. They can help evaluate (for a fee) the fit of the “trial” saddles you ordered, and also can come with a van full of saddles to sell you (new and used).

Some tack stores also have this travelling service. Such as Skylands Saddlery in NJ.

An expensive saddle should be considered as an investment - IF it is completely adjustable (in tree width AND angle as well as flocking) it should be able to be altered over the course of your horse’s life…presto - maybe initial outlay is larger than with a ‘non-adjustable’ saddle, but at the end of the day you are only needing to buy one rather than having to buy a new saddle every couple of years. Make sense?