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The Purpose Of Knee Blocks In Dressage Saddles

Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester, Edward Gal… when it comes to saddles one thing they all have in common is knee blocks on their dressage saddles.

But why do we have them? Is it simply for fashion? Or do they truly serve a purpose?

History Of The Dressage Saddle

Let's rewind to the 1700s when dressage saddles were very different to what we see today. Dressage saddles used in the 17th century were constructed from a wooden frame, and featured high cantles and pommels. The saddles in the 17th century were extremely similar to those that we see used today at the Spanish riding school of Vienna.

During the 1800’s the style of dressage saddles changed; when sports like show jumping, eventing, and fox hunting increased in popularity. Dressage saddles changed to have longer girth straps, an even higher cantle & pommel, a deeper seat, and longer straighter flaps, giving us the basic blueprint of dressage saddles that we see today.

The Dressage Saddle Of Today

Over the next 200 years as our knowledge on saddlery has advanced, dressage saddles have continued to change further, as the type of dressage horse has changed.

Dressage horses in the 1800’s used to be either Thoroughbreds, or Warmbloods with lots of cold blood; fast forward to 2021 and dressage horses are still mainly warmbloods, but they have completely changed from the cold blooded horse they used to be in the 1800’s. Over the last 200 years, Arabian and Thoroughbred blood was added into the warmblood breed; so as the stamp of the popular dressage horse changed, that meant dressage saddles had to, too.

Gullets have now been widened to allow more movement, and trees have been opened to allow the horse to develop more musculature. We now have dressage saddles in all different shapes and sizes to accommodate any breed of horse; from native ponies, to heavy horses, to Iberians, and warmbloods, along with many added extras for the rider including a close contact seat, knee blocks, and thigh blocks.

Knee Block FAQS

What Is The Purpose Of Knee Blocks?

Knee blocks also known as knee rolls, helps prevent the riders knee from shooting forwards and upwards, thus keeping it in a more stable position.

Are Knee Blocks Removeable?

This depends on the brand of dressage saddle, some have removeable knee blocks. while others are fixed and stitched onto the saddle.

Are All Knee Blocks The Same?

No, knee blocks can come in many different shapes, styles, and sizes.

Why Do So Many Dressage Riders Use Them?

The dressage horses of today are extremely big and powerful, and riding movements like piaffe, and passage is actually incredibly bouncy! Knee blocks are used by many top dressage riders for support, and as an additional tool to help aid their leg position.

Choosing The Right Knee Blocks For Your Dressage Saddle

It’s extremely important to find the right saddle fit for your horse, but it’s just as important to find the right saddle fit for the rider to; along with the correct knee blocks. If a rider is put into a saddle with knee blocks that are not suitable they can actually put the rider in the completely wrong position and be a hinderance rather than a help. So it’s important to liaise with your saddler about the right saddle and knee blocks for you.

Looking for your next dressage saddle with knee blocks?

You can purchase a used dressage saddle from our vast range of used saddles here at Sheepham. Contact one of our saddlery experts today! Call us on 01822 853024.

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