Just a few days ago I was discussing my new saddle with a rider-friend, and we talked about the thigh-pads. To some, they may seem like an excessive aid, but I claim that if the top riders in the world use such saddles, then I can, too.
Anyway, it made me think about how riding equipment has changed over the years. Today I stumbled upon this interesting article – The Evolution of Dressage Equipment. This article is mostly based on the book “Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way“.
Apparently, a lot of the changes in saddles were made for the horse’s benefit:
Pearman says the most significant change in design from the horse’s perspective has been the widening of the gullet, the section between the saddle panels. He explains: “This section is now generally much wider, which allows for a lot more freedom of movement for the horse’s spine and is consequently much more comfortable for the horse. Trees have also become much more open—for example, the arch at the head of the tree [the pommel] is now much wider, which allows for the horse’s scapula to move and therefore for the musculature to develop properly.”
Pearman and Gorretta believe many of the modern changes to dressage saddles can go a long way to improving the horse’s comfort at work. Pearman explains how advances in tree construction—both the materials used and the design—help to ensure freedom of movement.
Changes in bridles were also made considering the comfort level of the horse:
Pearman points out some of the most significant innovations to bridle design: increased padding, especially on the crownpiece and noseband, increased width for the horse’s head and anatomically friendly cutbacks behind the horse’s ear. The goal of these changes is to eliminate pressure points on the horse’s head, hopefully encouraging the horse to move toward the bridle comfortably.