Dressage How far in a GP saddle?

spacie1977

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Hi there,
I’m about to buy my youngsters first saddle after being back. I’m hoping he’ll be an all rounder with a bit more emphasis on dressage. I’m trying to figure out whether it’s best to get a GP for just a year or so, or go straight for a dressage saddle. He obviously won’t be doing any dressage tests for a while as he’s a baby, needs to build fitness, develop balance etc. And he won’t be introduced to jumping for a year. Thinking about stretching the pennies and the practicalities, if I were to get a GP saddle how far up the levels of dressage can I use that before I start looking a bit silly and find myself surrounded by competitors only using dressage saddles?
 

shortstuff99

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It is what works for you really. There will be riders at Intro in a dressage saddle, equally a friend of mine was having issues with the fit of dressage saddle and did Grand Prix in a jump saddle 🤣.

I prefer a jump/GP when backing as it is a lot easier to sit any shenanigans in and can do poles, hacking, little jumps in a lot easier.
 

007Equestrian

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The advice I was given which was brilliant was to buy a jump saddle, which supports you really well jumping and you can tolerate for dressage, then when you’re doing a high enough level of dressage to warrant a second saddle, buy a dressage one. It saved us a lot of money rather than having a GP which didn’t really work well for either.

I rode in my jumping saddle until affiliated Elementary, then got my dressage at Medium (I’m now at Grand Prix). Unaffiliated shows and the eventing scene will have loads of jumping saddles in the dressage.

One thing to note is that your youngster will outgrow one or two saddles before he matures, so it might be worth asking your saddler which would be the most adjustable or if they lease saddles.
 

Fern007

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I have an ex racer. I have an event saddle and a dressage saddle. He goes so much better in the event saddle . Currently doing novice dressage but have done elementary . There is nothing in the BD rules that state you have to use a dressage saddle right the way up the levels. Use what works for you.
 

catkin

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With a youngster you have to accept that they are more than likely to be growing out of saddles rather quickly as they mature and do more work. At this stage what you need is a saddle that fits both of you really well, the horse so they don't get sore and supportive of the rider so you can hold a good position. The best saddle for each pair is not always the same. Work with the best saddler you can find, don't worry what type the saddle is if it works and be prepared to change/reflock frequently.
 

spacie1977

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It is what works for you really. There will be riders at Intro in a dressage saddle, equally a friend of mine was having issues with the fit of dressage saddle and did Grand Prix in a jump saddle 🤣.

I prefer a jump/GP when backing as it is a lot easier to sit any shenanigans in and can do poles, hacking, little jumps in a lot easier.
That’s good to know about your friend I thought I’d get marked down if not using the ‘correct’ saddle.
I’m in two minds about whether riding in a GP would be more stable than riding short in a dressage saddle. I’ve always had an event saddle, but find I sit more ‘in’ a dressage seat. It kind of cradles the bum. He’s currently sharp, very sensitive and short backed so I need all the help I can get to keep me in the seat 😂
 

spacie1977

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With a youngster you have to accept that they are more than likely to be growing out of saddles rather quickly as they mature and do more work. At this stage what you need is a saddle that fits both of you really well, the horse so they don't get sore and supportive of the rider so you can hold a good position. The best saddle for each pair is not always the same. Work with the best saddler you can find, don't worry what type the saddle is if it works and be prepared to change/reflock frequently.
Totally agree with you. I’m going for a changeable saddle and will be getting the fitting checked every 8 weeks until his growth starts to slow down. He changed massively in just 4 months of long reining him 3 times a week! He’s Spanish so has a lot of filling out to do.
 

shortstuff99

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Totally agree with you. I’m going for a changeable saddle and will be getting the fitting checked every 8 weeks until his growth starts to slow down. He changed massively in just 4 months of long reining him 3 times a week! He’s Spanish so has a lot of filling out to do.
As a fellow Spanish owner I will say to check how wide the channel is. Spanish tend to have wider spines then your average horse so need more clearance.
 

Littlebear

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Totally agree with you. I’m going for a changeable saddle and will be getting the fitting checked every 8 weeks until his growth starts to slow down. He changed massively in just 4 months of long reining him 3 times a week! He’s Spanish so has a lot of filling out to do.
I found that only a few types suited my Spanish horse, the shorter back and massive shoulder (assuming yours is that type also) limited my options down so it may be that you need to just go with what suits even though i can understand the want to budget a bit with this. The makes I found were ideal, equipe, a few albions and bates were the most suitable second hand options.
 

j1ffy

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Another Spanish horse owner here. My 4yo (the one in my avatar) started out in a Jeffries GP, which I found fairly hopeless to ride in as it put me in a fairly extreme chair position. He's now filled out a lot and developed a big shoulder, and fits my older PRE's VSD and dressage saddle - hooray!

The dressage is being reflected so I'm doing everything in the VSD at the moment, which is an old Farrington and the dressage is Black Country. I've also found Ideals and Bliss to fit my other PRE well. I've only done one small unaffiliated comp so far and that was in the VSD. I really wouldn't worry what you do it in, the judge only cares that the tack is legal and the horse is going well!
 

spacie1977

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I found that only a few types suited my Spanish horse, the shorter back and massive shoulder (assuming yours is that type also) limited my options down so it may be that you need to just go with what suits even though i can understand the want to budget a bit with this. The makes I found were ideal, equipe, a few albions and bates were the most suitable second hand options.
Thanks Littlebear. my lads shape is a bit awkward at the moment as he has the typical short back but has very high withers without much shoulder yet. So not much there to stop the saddle sliding forward up his withers.
 

spacie1977

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Another Spanish horse owner here. My 4yo (the one in my avatar) started out in a Jeffries GP, which I found fairly hopeless to ride in as it put me in a fairly extreme chair position. He's now filled out a lot and developed a big shoulder, and fits my older PRE's VSD and dressage saddle - hooray!
my boy is also 4yrs but not filling out too much yet. The saddler gave me a little Thorowgood GP just for his backing and that puts me in a horrible chair position too, hence one reason why I’m thinking of getting a dressage saddle. Something that makes me sit up nicely is deep in the seat and opens up his shoulders would be good. It’ll also save me the hassle of switching saddles later on when we’re ready to move up a level in dressage. But wondering whether that will give as much security as a GP whilst he’s still being a spooky excitable baby. Maybe a VSD is a good compromise for us 🤔
 

spacie1977

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As a fellow Spanish owner I will say to check how wide the channel is. Spanish tend to have wider spines then your average horse so need more clearance.
I mentioned that to my saddler the other day as I’ve heard it too. He said most of the new saddles have fairly wide channels now, it’s just the older ones that can be quite narrow. Do you think this is genuinely the case?
 

shortstuff99

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I mentioned that to my saddler the other day as I’ve heard it too. He said most of the new saddles have fairly wide channels now, it’s just the older ones that can be quite narrow. Do you think this is genuinely the case?
One of mine dedinitely has a much wider spine, as noted by vets and physios. She had to have a custom WOW with an H-girth as that is all that would fit her! She has a very large and forward shoulder so all other saddles end up half way up her neck.

Must have done the trick though as vets and physios remark at how good her muscles are over her back.
 

j1ffy

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SS9 - that's interesting. I've not heard that specifically about Spanish before but I agree that most saddles these days seem to offer plenty of space.

I've heard / seen a few posts on here and FB that PREs can be difficult to fit, but having had four PREs they've all been fairly straightforward! I did have one that kept getting a sore back but I think I was mis-sold a saddle tbh, and the saddler then kept over-flocking it so the lovely soft serge panels ended up rock hard. Lesson learnt!
 

spacie1977

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J1ffy The thought of being miss sold a saddle is really worrying me. I don’t want to cause a behavioural or physical issue for my lad, but not qualified to know if something is a little ‘off’ with the fitting. The first I’ll probably know about it is when I’m dumped face down in mud. I’ve heard so many horror stories and my livery has gone through three different saddlers, all saying and doing different things.
 

spacie1977

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One of mine dedinitely has a much wider spine, as noted by vets and physios. She had to have a custom WOW with an H-girth as that is all that would fit her! She has a very large and forward shoulder so all other saddles end up half way up her neck.

Must have done the trick though as vets and physios remark at how good her muscles are over her back.
Ouch that sounds pricey! Trust me to buy a horse whose breed is typically difficult to fit 🙄
 

SEL

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The WOW saddles would be easier to tweak as he changes shape - big initial investment but might save £££ over time. I'm not an expert but I think you could change parts to convert from GP to dressage.

I'd have been over my mare's head a few times as a baby without some decent knee rolls. She liked to show how athletic she could be 🙄
 

little_critter

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The advice I was given which was brilliant was to buy a jump saddle, which supports you really well jumping and you can tolerate for dressage, then when you’re doing a high enough level of dressage to warrant a second saddle, buy a dressage one. It saved us a lot of money rather than having a GP which didn’t really work well for either.

I rode in my jumping saddle until affiliated Elementary, then got my dressage at Medium (I’m now at Grand Prix). Unaffiliated shows and the eventing scene will have loads of jumping saddles in the dressage.

One thing to note is that your youngster will outgrow one or two saddles before he matures, so it might be worth asking your saddler which would be the most adjustable or if they lease saddles.
That's what I did. I bought a 'mild' jump saddle first (nothing with massive blocks etc) and did everything in that, then bought the dressage saddle a year later.
 

sbloom

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That’s good to know about your friend I thought I’d get marked down if not using the ‘correct’ saddle.
I’m in two minds about whether riding in a GP would be more stable than riding short in a dressage saddle. I’ve always had an event saddle, but find I sit more ‘in’ a dressage seat. It kind of cradles the bum. He’s currently sharp, very sensitive and short backed so I need all the help I can get to keep me in the seat 😂
Riding short in a dressage saddle depends on the dressage saddle - if the knee blocks are high enough, or forward ehough, or removable, and the seat is flat or very long so you don't end up on the cantle (worse if it's a high cantle) then you're okay. However the trend for deep seats and big fixed blocks means that's rare.

Totally agree with you. I’m going for a changeable saddle and will be getting the fitting checked every 8 weeks until his growth starts to slow down. He changed massively in just 4 months of long reining him 3 times a week! He’s Spanish so has a lot of filling out to do.
Changeable - changing the width is only one of at least nine aspects, you may be better having a used wooden treed saddle, much more choice of tree and panel shape so statistically you may be more likely to get a better fit in the first place.

my boy is also 4yrs but not filling out too much yet. The saddler gave me a little Thorowgood GP just for his backing and that puts me in a horrible chair position too, hence one reason why I’m thinking of getting a dressage saddle. Something that makes me sit up nicely is deep in the seat and opens up his shoulders would be good. It’ll also save me the hassle of switching saddles later on when we’re ready to move up a level in dressage. But wondering whether that will give as much security as a GP whilst he’s still being a spooky excitable baby. Maybe a VSD is a good compromise for us 🤔
The right GP can align a rider really well, depends on the rider, and what's available for that shape of horse, the space available etc, and of course budget and availability. The flap cut - GP or VSD - is only a small part of what may make a saddle suitable for a combo. Even the seat shape affects how your leg hangs, as does the seat size, and the placement of the stirrup bar. So one rider in too narrow a twist might tip back and go into a chair seat, and think because her knees come over the flaps that she needs a more forward saddle, she doesn't, she first needs to have more width under her pubic arch and THEN see what flap/stirrup bar combo she needs. Even a saddle being out of balance can make you think it's a flap shape issue.

I mentioned that to my saddler the other day as I’ve heard it too. He said most of the new saddles have fairly wide channels now, it’s just the older ones that can be quite narrow. Do you think this is genuinely the case?
Yes and no, I still see some saddles being made that have barely 5cm channels towards the back, including one very popular big brand changeable headplate saddle I saw yesterday, less than a year old. I would say 6cm is a minimum, 7-9cm commonly needed. Much wider than that may be too wide depending on other factors.
 

spacie1977

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Thank you Sbloom, that’s massively helpful. Sounds like I should be having you out to see my lad!
As I now know I can get away with not having a dressage saddle for at least the lower levels of dressage, I think it’s probably best to go down the route of buying a GP, then look at getting a dressage saddle later on. He’s a sensitive flower so I need to be able to sit the occasional spook or rodeo, which will be harder if I end up with a dressage saddle I can’t ride short in.
My current saddler thinks the Arena and Monarch saddles fit his shape. He sells them new and we’ve not discussed other makes as a 2nd hand option. Do you know what these makes channel widths are like?
 

spacie1977

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The WOW saddles would be easier to tweak as he changes shape - big initial investment but might save £££ over time. I'm not an expert but I think you could change parts to convert from GP to dressage.

I'd have been over my mare's head a few times as a baby without some decent knee rolls. She liked to show how athletic she could be 🙄
I have a friend who has two PREs and ended up buying a WOW because everything else she tried touched their spines and their reaction was mega scary.
She thinks they’re fantastic saddles but unfortunately there’s no way I can afford one.
 

sbloom

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My current saddler thinks the Arena and Monarch saddles fit his shape. He sells them new and we’ve not discussed other makes as a 2nd hand option. Do you know what these makes channel widths are like?
I've no idea I'm afraid, I only fit two brands and have seen little else on the market that I like enough to fit, and I don't go out checking other brands so don't see brands in the flesh to that extent :) Perhaps some other owners will know, though of course your fitter should ensure that the channel is wide enough and that it puts you in balance as a rider.
 

SEL

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I have a friend who has two PREs and ended up buying a WOW because everything else she tried touched their spines and their reaction was mega scary.
She thinks they’re fantastic saddles but unfortunately there’s no way I can afford one.
The second hand FB sites often have good deals if you did feel this was a route for you
 

EnduroRider

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Just measured my Monarch Dressage (Cob version, 17'') and at it's narrowest and right up in the channel is 5cm, however measuring at the point where you can see it has been weight bearing on the horse's back it is 6.5cm at it's narrowest.
 

DawnS

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Re. the WOWs, they're fine IF you have a great deal of trust in your local WOW fitter, because they are few and far between so you can't easily get anyone else to give a second opinion or adjust it. It's why I sold both of mine - lost trust in the fitter after my physio pointed out some grievous errors. Incidentally I feel much more secure about spooks in my dressage saddle and will hack in that on very windy days. On my GP saddle I have a gel out seatsaver which has saved my bacon more than once.
 

Marigold4

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That’s good to know about your friend I thought I’d get marked down if not using the ‘correct’ saddle.
I’m in two minds about whether riding in a GP would be more stable than riding short in a dressage saddle. I’ve always had an event saddle, but find I sit more ‘in’ a dressage seat. It kind of cradles the bum. He’s currently sharp, very sensitive and short backed so I need all the help I can get to keep me in the seat 😂
If he's short-backed, you may need a saddle that is a little smaller than you would ideally like. They say you need half a size bigger for dressage saddles to fit between higher cantle and knee blocks. I found a flatter, more open seat much better on my short-backed young horse. It was impossible to find a dressage seat big enough for me but short enough for him.
 
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