When you hear about saddle sores, you think about the old toughened cowboys riding on the range, day after day, herding cattle. After long hours in the saddle, you’d imagine a saddle sore or two would be common. Who would ever imagine that an immaculately dressed, classical dressage rider could ever have something so awful in common with a grizzled old cowboy? Well we do. It is a topic that is rarely spoken about, especially in dressage circles, but it does happen. I have up close and personal experience in this area myself. Saddle sores are painful, embarrassing and hard to treat, but with a little attention, you can avoid this horrible condition.
Saddle sores are effectively a boil caused by extended pressure and friction. Severe sores can be open and weeping. Dressage saddle sores are about the size of a marble. The most common area they can develop are around your underwear line.
I developed saddle sores when I began dressage training with my new instructor after I moved to her private yard. I train 5-6 days a week, mostly in the saddle, very little on the ground. I had never ridden that much before or at such intensity. I have a Wintec Dressage Pro saddle with the equisuede seat and I believe that this causes much more friction than a normal smooth leather saddle seat. My backside would literally feel like it was on fire from the friction of using my seat more and riding sitting trot. I developed sometimes golf ball sized saddle sores that were incredibly painful and because they are in such a delicate area, mostly on the underwear line at the very top of my inner thigh, very hard to treat.
In self treating, I tried antibiotic ointments like neomycin, diaper rash cream, Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, medicated powder, lotions and others, with no help. A pimple cream with benzoyl peroxide such as Clean and Clear Persa Gel seemed to help dry them up a bit, but on riding the next day they would return with a vengeance, sometimes becoming open and even more painful. I scoured the internet for solutions but nothing seemed to work very well. I decided to attack the root of the problem, the saddle that was causing the pain.
I borrowed a regular leather saddle, an old Albion Style, from a friend and within three days my saddle sores were beginning to clear. However, I had to give the saddle back and after only one ride in my old Wintec, the sores returned. Last week, I purchased an Acavallo Gel Out Seat Saver and that has also helped, my saddle sores are going after only three rides. However, I would not recommend this seat saver as it is a very sticky seat and feels like riding on a cold, wet gummy bear. I wish I’d bought their seat saver with the black vinyl cover.
I’m currently in the process of buying a new saddle which I think I richly deserve. No more saddle sores for me! If you are having this same problem, try to figure out exactly what is causing the sores. It can be anything from what kind of underwear you are wearing to maybe a seam on your breeches or even the seat on your saddle or maybe the way you are riding. Don’t give up until you find the cause and then attack the root of the problem. Dressage riders need to stick together, even when the problem is embarrassing and usually belongs to grizzled old cowboys.