/ by /   Balleroo, Riding School, Training / 0 comments

For the love of your trainer, DON’T BUY AN ALL PURPOSE SADDLE!

Years ago I had someone tell me ‘You ride like you are on a ski lift’!  I was so offended! Having spent so much money on lessons and still I rode like shit?!  I found out later she was correct.  Its not something anyone wants to hear but especially a 16 year old riding in her lovely all purpose saddle!

Anyone that knows me also knows how picky I am especially about my horses gear!………..

If you have ever ridden an 11hand pony in an All purpose (or General purpose) you understand.  All of the comfort, practicality and function gets thrown out the window! Quite often young child who usually rides in this saddle gets thrown ‘out the front door’ off the pony.

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people that disagree with me here, and that’s OK, we are all entitled to our own opinion.  I’m writing this as a horse trainer who rides up to 8 horses a day and has taught lots of different children and adults.

Yesterday I was riding a little pony in an AP saddle which had been fitted to him by a professional. Something I always recommend. As soon as I got on I could see the saddle did not support the front of my leg at all. All purpose saddles are cut this way with minimal support for the front of the leg so my leg was sitting off the back of the saddle flap.   Pretty much all I am using this saddle for is a seat and somewhere to hang my stirrups from. (There is a video link further down which will show a great visual of this)

Which brings me to my second point.

The stirrup bars are always way too far forward which means if you have your stirrups up as high as the saddle makes you want them, you are sitting in an ‘armchair’ position.  As a coach, this is a real pain!

To have to fight for your position as a rider when it feels like you are always going against where the saddle wants you. And then because the stirrup bar is so far forward its puts my weight all out of balance on the pony which then makes the saddle slip onto the pony’s shoulder.

I have lost count of the amount of times I have ended up riding a ponies neck because of an AP saddle.  Said pony put in a little pigroot yesterday.  I end up on its shoulder. Lost all his neck as you do on ponies and when he comes back down, because the saddle has slipped so far forward, the saddle has come down hard on his back because there is a big gap between his back and my bum.

AP saddles are still such a popular but counter productive piece of equipment because of the traditional English Pony club system… and don’t even get me started on that! When riding, we want an ear, shoulder, hip, heel line balanced over the centre of our horse. Take a look at the pictures below.



My fantastic 'ski lift' position
My fantastic ‘ski lift’ position

Another armchair position. Leg out in front of the rest of the rider. No lower leg contact on the horse.

Plonk a rider on a horse and see where their leg naturally hangs. Here we have our ear, shoulder, hip, heel line.
Plonk a rider on a horse and see where their leg naturally hangs. Here we have our ear, shoulder, hip, heel line.


To teach someone in an AP saddle is a nightmare.

How many times have you heard coaches yelling ‘lower leg back’?  Take a look at what their student is riding in.

With a beginner rider trainers really want to be setting them up to succeed.  If they are riding in an AP saddle and I’m spending half my time telling them they need to get their leg back it’s going to be so frustrating for both of us!

Its important to also remember beginner riders don’t yet have control of what their hands are doing. As a rider we want to balance off our reins putting beginners in an AP saddle and an armchair position really just results in pulling on ponies mouths because the riders weight is so far back and behind the motion.

I generally recommend a good fitting dressage saddle.

A dressage saddle will help a beginner rider sit more effectively and in the long term, not have to retrain muscles into sitting correctly. There are plenty of dressage saddles on the market, even for little ponies. Just look around.

Well, thats the end of my rant. Long story short, buy a dressage saddle or if you are really into jumping, a jump saddle.  These saddles offer the best chance of getting your position right.  Every horse in my riding school has a dressage saddle. One day someone might prove me wrong and have a lovely fitting, well balanced AP saddle, until then, I’ll stick to my dressage saddles.


Until my next rant 😉



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