Guide To Saddles & Bitting For Eventers

Although a well fitting general purpose saddle may be perfectly adequate for eventing, separate dressage and jumping saddles are often used to improve performance and encourage the horse to move appropriately in each phase.

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Although a well fitting general purpose saddle may be perfectly adequate for eventing, separate dressage and jumping saddles are often used to improve performance and encourage the horse to move appropriately in each phase.

Dressage Saddles

The dressage saddle is designed so as to put you in the correct position for dressage and allow free movement of the horse.

A deeper seat and girth buckles underneath the saddle allows a close contact with the horse, allowing the rider to give precise aids to the horse.

The stirrup bars are set so as to achieve a better hip, ear and heel position, combined with a deep seat with straighter saddle flaps to put the rider in a more classical position.

Jumping Saddles

In contrast, the aim of the jumping saddle is to allow the rider to adopt a forward seat. This is necessary for the rider’s weight to be over the horses’ centre of gravity and for free movement and balance at gallop and over a fence.

There is a flatter seat, allowing the rider to adopt different positions in the saddle and the flap is more forward cut which allows for the shorter stirrup length necessary for stability over a fence.

Close contact is maintained by shortening the flap length and, in some saddles, the stirrup bars are set further back to further encourage the forward seat.

Choosing The Correct Bit

Choosing the correct bit for your horse can seem like a similarly complicated exercise.

leverage-bits double-jointed-mouth-pieces rubber-mouthing-bit

When choosing a bit it is important to consider several factors:

  • The horse’s conformation
  • Stage of training
  • Rider’s riding style and requirements.

Consideration of the horse’s welfare should be at the heart of any bitting choice, as well as the rules of the governing body for competition.

Choosing The Correct Bit For Dressage

For the dressage phase the British Eventing rules stipulate ‘An ordinary snaffle is a plain snaffle with a straight bar or joint in the centre. If a snaffle has two joints, all parts must be rounded and smooth.’

There are hundreds of combinations of mouthpieces and cheeks to suit your horse. The most common is perhaps a loose ring, where a movable mouthpiece discourages leaning and encourages mouthing. An eggbutt may be helpful to encourage a horse to stretch into the contact whereas a full cheek snaffle will help reinforce the turning aids.

Choosing The Correct Bit for Jumping

For the jumping phases there are an enormous number of different bits available. A general rule of thumb is to always choose the ‘kindest’ bit possible to suit you and your horse.

Stronger and more complicated bits are often chosen to control excitable or strong horses, or to gain more accurate control at speed. However it is important to remember that these should be used with an elastic contact, as any bit can be ‘strong’ with a heavy handed rider.

Bitting is only half of the story, and the fit of the rest of the tack, especially nosebands, can have a huge influence on the ‘strength’ of bit required.

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