Have you tried to jump in a dressage saddle? Even though it feels quite different and sometimes uncomfortable, one can still get over jumps using a dressage saddle, but only up to a certain height. It gets especially difficult with a more forward and scopey horse.
Yes, you can jump in a dressage saddle, and there is a discipline where you ride a dressage test that includes jumps – “Prix Caprilli.” A dressage saddle, however, is not recommended for competing in show jumping. It is designed to keep the rider deeply seated in the saddle with a longer leg position, whereas a jumping saddle aids the rider in standing up in the saddle quickly and effortlessly.
Let me go into more detail about the designs of Dressage versus Show Jumping saddles and what this means for the rider and the horse. In order to perform to the best of your abilities and for your horse to perform at their best, you need the correct saddle and gear to do so.
What’s the difference between a dressage saddle and a jumping saddle?
A lot differs when looking at a Dressage and a Jumping saddle like the seat, flaps, balance, cantle, girth straps etc.
A good quality jumping saddle adds security to the seat for you, as the rider. The jumping saddle is designed to have a more forward position to allow the rider to stay in balance when the horse is going at a faster pace and when going over jumps. This will enable you to stay on top and in line with your horses’ center of balance while you are going over a jump, which allows your horse to jump without restrictions.
The larger knee rolls that are placed higher and to the front of the saddle provides for more leg security while jumping.
The stirrup bars are also placed more forward to give you a more forward seat. The forward cut flaps will allow you to shorten your stirrups and bend your knee. With this, you can stand up out of the saddle as to not interfere with the horse.
The flatter seat can allow you to use different positions in the saddle to find what works best for you and your horse. The shorter flap will give you more leg-to-horse contact.
The design of the dressage saddle gives you a longer leg position as well as a deeper seat, and the saddle also provides closer contact with the horse. The closer contact enables you to give your horse fine, small, and more exact cues using your seat and leg position to make it look and feel more effortless.
The deeper seat and longer leg position allow for even more contact with the horse and an optimal position for flatwork. You need to sit with your ear, hips, and heels in a straight line, which is achieved much easier with a dressage saddle.
The girth straps are longer and situated underneath the flaps of the saddle as to not interfere with your legs – this also helps for closer contact between you and your horse.
Closer contact with your horse allows you to feel every movement of your horse, and this enables you to feel the strides and time your aids with the movements of your horse. The deeper seat also allows you to stay in rhythm with your horse’s movement.
Can you jump in a dressage saddle?
You will need to shorten your stirrups for jumping because you do not want to be stuck in the seat and be lunged forward over a jump.
When shortening your stirrups on a dressage saddle for jumping, the following will most likely happen:
- The knee rolls are going to go under your knee – this moves most of your leg off the horse and also swings your lower leg back.
- Your seat will be moved back – into the cantle – and with the deep seat on the dressage saddle, it will hit you in the back every time you go over a jump.
- Your upper body will lean forward, and this places you ahead of the horse’s movement – causing disruption in both you and your horse’s balance.
This will only negatively affect you and your horse, especially when you try to jump a course. This is particularly true for higher jumps; thus, it is strongly advised against using a dressage saddle for jumping.
When you pop over a few small jumps and only have a dressage saddle, then go for it. When training and competing solely for show jumping, it would not be beneficial to you or your horse to use a dressage saddle.
Jumping in a dressage saddle is mostly uncomfortable for the rider rather than the horse. The rider will find it difficult to have a lighter seat and short enough stirrups to be able to go over bigger jumps.
The loss of balance that occurs when jumping with a dressage saddle also makes it more dangerous, as it becomes easier to lose your leg position and get left behind when going over a jump. You could also get pushed forwards and be in front of the horse’s movement, which will cause you to absorb less shock in the landing phase of jumping.
Ultimately, this will lead to you falling off or your horse, missing a stride, or over-jump to compensate for your loss of balance.
Reasons for using a dressage saddle for jumping
Here are some of the reasons as to why you would jump in a dressage saddle:
- You are mostly a Dressage rider and do small jumps for fun
- You do not have a Jumping or a GP (General Purpose) saddle
- Your horse is leased with only Dressage or other tack
- Financial constraints
- Your jumping saddle might not fit, and you are waiting for a saddle fitter
How Do Different Saddles Impact Horses’ Movement?
The straight flap of the dressage saddle allows your horse to use his shoulder more freely and easily for higher and longer strides. It also shows off the shoulder movement of the horse.
As mentioned earlier, the deeper seat allows you to follow the horse’s movement easier. This makes it more comfortable for your horse when doing dressage movements as your balance and seat do not move against, behind, or in front of their movement.
The shorter and more forward placed flaps, as well as the smaller knee rolls, allow you to use your legs to aid you when taking off and landing from jumps. This helps your horse stay in balance while you are always on top of their center of gravity.
The most important thing about a jumping saddle is that it is comfortable for your horse. If your horse is comfortable and happy in the saddle, they can move more freely and relax their back. By doing this, they can use their back more effectively while jumping.
It is so important to have a proper fitting saddle because you can hinder and hurt your horse regardless of the type of saddle you use or what discipline you ride. If the saddle pinches your horse’s shoulder or puts pressure on their spine, they will not be able to jump properly and will develop problems in the future.
Your horse will naturally hollow their backs if the saddle is causing any kind of discomfort. When your horse hollows their back, they will not be able to use their backs or hindquarters properly for jumping or flatwork.
An ill-fitting saddle will also cause balance issues for both you and your horse. As we all know, balance is especially vital in show jumping, and thus you need a properly fitting saddle for you and your horse to be able to attain balance.
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As previously mentioned, yes you can jump in a dressage saddle if doing small jumps or just jumping for fun. However, is not recommended for competing in show jumping, as it will give rise to some complications.
A Dressage saddle does not have the same shape as a jumping saddle, and it is designed to keep the rider deeply seated in the saddle with a longer leg position. A Jumping Saddle aids the rider in standing up in the saddle quickly and effortlessly. Both saddles have a specific purpose for the rider and the horse.
Other posts in this series to check out:
Do Show Jumpers Wear Body Protectors?
Why Do Show Jumpers Wear Ear Covers?
Why Do Show Jumpers Wear Spurs?