The Best Dressage Saddles + Buying Guide
Dressage Saddle Buyers' Guide
It goes without saying that whatever saddle you buy, it should fit your horse. But the ideal dressage saddle is one that places you into the ideal position, too. While you can fluff through the bottom levels in a GP saddle if you like, as the movements get more difficult, you’ll need a dressage saddle to keep you sitting tall and deep and allow your horse’s shoulder to move more freely. By the middle of the levels, a dressage saddle is required for competition.
The perfect saddle assists you into the right position: sitting deeply in the saddle, with a tall and relaxed back, a strong and supple core, and a long, draping leg. The design of the seat and stirrup bar can have a massive impact on your position and balance, particularly your shoulder, hip, and heel alignment. When sitting correctly, the rider’s shoulder, hip, and heel are all on a vertical line. A stirrup bar that’s too far forward pulls the rider’s heel out from under the hip, forcing you to flop back into a chair seat that’s unpleasant for your horse to carry. On the other hand, a poorly balanced saddle that is too high in the back tips your pelvis forward, sending your lower leg back and rendering your seat all but useless. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses before choosing a saddle for yourself. For instance, a rider who tends to ride in a chair seat needs a saddle with more pronounced knee blocks to keep the leg from sliding forward, where a rider who tends to perch could use a saddle with a higher pommel and deeper seat.
This is why it is utterly essential to ride in a saddle before buying it. Not only does the saddle fitter have to check that it fits your horse, but you also have to see what changes it makes to your position and how comfortable you feel in it. You’ll be spending many hours in that seat – be sure you like it before you buy it.
The Four Best Dressage Saddles
Best Overall Dressage Saddle
This is the upmarket cousin of the Wintec. Using exactly the same design, it also provides an adjustable gullet for a perfect fit on the horse and a beautifully designed seat that keeps the rider in the right position.
This is the upmarket cousin of the Wintec (below). Using exactly the same design, it also provides an adjustable gullet for a perfect fit on the horse and a beautifully designed seat that keeps the rider in the right position. This time, though, it’s made from fantastically soft, supple, lustrous leather. The seat is incredibly soft and comfortable and your lower leg feels rock-solid in this saddle. The most remedially spooky horse I ever rode had a Batessaddle and through all of her wild antics I was never once unseated, and I attribute much of this achievement to the fact that I never slid anywhere in that Bates. It held me like a safety belt. Once again, it does have Cair panels, so the panel shape cannot be adjusted to the individual horse.
The drawback of the Wintec – and the reason why it’s cheaper than other options – is its material. While everyone loves leather, Wintec saddles are made from a nasty synthetic that isn’t nice to touch or to look at. The horse doesn’t know the difference, and this synthetic lasts forever and is incredibly durable, but some riders just can’t come to terms with how it looks and feels. When used with sturdy breaches – like those made of denim – it can also cause some chafing for the rider. However, if you’re looking for an outstanding fit on a tight budget, there’s no better option than a Wintec Isabell. For a cheapskate like me, the Wintec has always been the only option. There’s also a Wintec Wide variant for those super-round horses that many lower-level dressage riders are fond of, such as cobs and Friesians (and fatties like mine).