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The Dressage Saddle
Dressage saddles have a long, straight-cut, upright flap. The flap is much longer in length than a jumping saddle, which accommodates the longer leg position of a dressage rider, who works only on the flat and does not need to jump fences. The pommel is a bit higher and the deepest point of the saddle's seat more forward, all to allow for this longer leg position.
The seat is usually much deeper in a dressage saddle than a jumping saddle, and allows the rider to comfortably sit and relax to best influence the horse. The stuffing of the panels is often kept to a minimum in a dressage saddle, to allow a closer feel with the horse. It often has a wider bearing surface than a jumping saddle.
Some designs feature an exaggerated amount of padding in front of the knee, much more than in a jumping saddle, to assist the rider in keeping the knee down and thigh back. However, there is usually little padding behind the calf, as the rider needs to be able to freely move their lower leg around to give leg aids to the horse.
Most dressage saddles have long billets which extend beyond the flap, although they can be purchased with short billets. Long billets allow the girth to be buckled near the horse's elbow rather than underneath the rider's leg which eliminates the bulge under the rider’s leg, assists in employing leg aids and allows for closer contact.
Note: When fitting a dressage saddle, it is important that the rider's leg fit appropriately into the flap of the saddle. Improper flap negatively affects the rider's balance, which is critical to engagement and also creates problems while employing leg aids. Poorly fitting saddles also create problems for the rider’s horse as well.
The Jumping Saddle
The jumping saddle (Forward Seat saddle, Close Contact saddle), is designed for the classic (English) disciplines of show jumping, hunt seat equitation, foxhunting, and the stadium and cross-country phases of eventing. This saddle is distinguished from other Classic saddles with its pronounced forward-cut flap that allows for a shorter stirrup length. This forward flap often has large supportive padded knee rolls, especially for show jumping and cross-country, less so for hunt seat. The balance of the seat is further back and comparatively flat, with the cantle and pommel low so that they don't interfere with the rider's jumping position which is known as "two-point position" or "half-seat".
The jumping saddle usually has three short billets. However some jumping saddles; such as mono flap jumping saddles, have longer billets similar to those of dressage saddles. Longer billets eliminate the bulge under the riders leg and allow for closer contact.
Note: When fitting a jumping saddle, it is important that the rider's leg fit appropriately into the flap of the jumping saddle when the stirrups are shortened. Improper flap length places the rider’s knee too far forward or back, which negatively effects the rider's balance creating problems while jumping obstacles. Poorly fitting saddles also create problems for the rider’s horse as well.