Palm Partnership Training
Building a Partnership with Your Horse
This is a subject that reminds me of our Western Dressage motto “Why Not?!” A saying I have said since I learned of the vast interests in Western Dressage at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games. For the first 30 years of riding I rode consistently in the Dressage saddle. I still find myself training the exact same way if I am in a western saddle or the dressage saddle. Dressage principles are the basis of my show ring success. By using these principles with the training of the horses I find I ride the same when riding in a Hunt Seat or Western Saddle.
I would guarantee you if you put a western saddle (correctly fitted of course) on a Gran Prix horse and started to do Piaffe, Tempi changes, Passage, Half Pass, etc., you would find that a horse can do just as well in a western saddle! It does not matter to a horse what saddle, unless it does not fit the horse or rider correctly. Actually, I find the Dressage and Western saddles are the most similar. You ride in a sitting position at the walk, trot, and canter in a dressage saddle and one that rides correctly sitting in the western saddle at the walk, jog, lope in a western saddle mirrors the same basic principle of dressage. You can post to the trot in the Western or English saddle too.
Comparing Dressage and Western Riders: Get a book with Dressage riders and then with Western Riders. My latest book, A Riders Guide To Real Collection, will be perfect to use. Make sure your books are of good quality training and correct horsemanship. Now, compare photos of riders. You are going to find the English riders and the Western riders are in similar positions. You should be able to define a vertical straight line from their ear, shoulder, middle of the hip, back of the heel to the ground. This vertical alignment that we must maintain while riding the horse in his three gaits is so similar. For example, the western rider can ride with two hands just like the English rider. This is a similar balanced position. Remember, the horse does not care about the saddle as long as it fits properly.
Communication through the natural aids: Whether you are riding in a Dressage or Western saddle, the universal aids to communicate with seat, legs, and hands are all the same. It should not matter what saddle you are in, as long as you are consistently using your aids correctly. If you had a big bulky and thick leathered western saddle, you may not be able to use your aids as “close contact” as a dressage saddle. My Western Dressage saddle is just as much close contact to my horse as my dressage saddle. I just love it! If you are interested to see my two custom made Western Dressage saddle that I use, click here! Also, take a peak at our English Dressage saddle; handmade in France that has a tree we developed specifically for the Stock Horse breeds or other horses with broad shoulders and broad backs. It is something special and surely gives you a correct balance when you ride in it. If you would like to see this, just click here. If you would like to try one of our saddles, please contact my husband, Cyril at email@example.com. He would be more than happy to answer any saddle or saddle fitting questions you may have. He is an expert in this field.
The training of the horse and the levels you follow to improve the horse’s knowledge and performance, as well as your own skills, does not matter what saddle you ride in! The saddle is just a tool to keep you in balance with your horse, feel the horse underneath of you, and to give your horse comfort as he carries your weight. A horse should have no problems unless the saddle does not fit.
I find that most riders love the western saddle because it has a bigger seat, a horn for confidence, and more saddle that is around you. A western saddle does not challenge your balance as much as an English dressage saddle does. All English saddles require more balance from the rider and a skill level so they don’t rely on the horn if they should need it for balance. However, we require all our western riders to ride English! I believe that riding English (Dressage or Hunt Seat) will improve your Western riding. Over the years this has proven very true.
I would like to end this training article with a challenge for you. If you have a friend or student who rides only western, try to get them in an English saddle. They will find it will help their western riding by enhancing balance and confidence. If you know an English rider, try to get them to ride in the western saddle. They will have a blast, as it is so much more comfortable if the saddle is of top quality. Most riders retire riding in a western saddle! Don’t ever forget that!