December. 25, 2019 – Ask Monty Newsletter
Question: Do you think Join-Up is for dressage queens?
Why do you do your Join-Up demonstrations using an English saddle and never a Western? Is that why lots of cowboys think Join-Up is for dressage queens?
There are many reasons why the saddle that I choose to use for my demonstrations has evolved to its present form. It is not an English saddle. It is not a military saddle. It is not a Western saddle. It is a modified exercise saddle of the kind used on most Thoroughbred racehorses for morning workouts.
The saddle I have chosen has practically no tree at all. As you might imagine, as I travel the world doing my demonstrations, I deal with horses of all sizes and shapes. If I had a full tree in a saddle, it would be virtually impossible to cause it to fit the wide array of horses that I work with.
I buy these exercise saddles from a company that provides them for the racing industry. Once the saddle is in my possession, I then take it to one of the saddlers who have been trained to make the modifications I have designed. The first thing they do is to replace the billet straps (those straps that the girth connects to on each side of the saddle). They attach billets about three times the length of the original ones. This allows me to use a very short girth, which will fit a tiny horse or a pony when it’s taken up to the top on both sides. If the girth is attached to the longest notches, then it will fit even a big draught horse.
I use a soft girth with elastic on the offside connection. While the saddler is replacing the billets, he builds into the front of the saddle a special handhold similar to the one you might see on a bareback bronc rigging. This allows my riders to remain in the saddle even through sessions of bucking.
D-rings are attached in three strategic locations. One is at the extreme rear portion of the saddle. Two more are placed in the front of the saddle about 8 inches or so from the pommel. The rear one is part of the attachment for the mannequin rider that I use for horses that want to buck. The two in front will allow me to attach a breast collar so that the saddle can’t slide back.
It is true that my riders can feel the horse and use leg aids that are more difficult to achieve with a Western saddle, but the primary reason why I use this type of saddle is that it is light in weight. If I traveled the world with a Western saddle, the airlines would be levying thousands of dollars of overweight charges. The inconvenience of the size would also be a factor. And, as I have already mentioned, fitting all the horses I deal with would be virtually impossible.
To answer the question in full, please let me assure you that the dressage people of the world ask me why I don’t use a dressage saddle, while the Western people inquire why I don’t have my riders use that sort of equipment. It has nothing to do with dressage, Western or English. It is a saddle that has been especially adapted to dealing with horses being started or remedial horses across the spectrum of size, breed and discipline.
Read the full newsletter: December. 25 Do you think Join-Up is for dressage queens?