Everything You Need To Know About English Saddles

Want to learn about English saddles? That is exactly what this article talks about. The different types of English saddles and major parts of an English saddle will both be reviewed. This article will also highlight a few differences between Western and English saddles. Some of the best English saddle brands, based on the quality of their products and customers’ feedback will also be discussed.

What Is An English Saddle?

An English saddle is the main saddle used in all English riding disciplines. Dressage, endurance, and jumping have their different saddle designs. But, they must all be English saddles.

All English saddles, by their design, usually enhance the movement of the horse. They allow riders to signal better to the horse. They have simplistic designs, unlike the complexities associated with Western and Australian saddles.

The use of English saddles is not limited to Anglophone countries. They’re used in all English disciplines throughout the world. In fact, if you are to ride in the Olympics, you’ll need an English saddle. The same is the case with participating in the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI). A recent exemption to this is for those taking part in the equestrian vaulting and reining.

Another feature of English saddles is the padding. They don’t have separate saddle blankets like Western saddles. But, if you see a saddle with panels under the seat, it’s an English saddle. Inside these panels is usually either air, foam, or wool. With this padding in place, the English saddle doesn’t need a separate saddle blanket, the horse’s back is already protected.

Types Of English Saddles

You’ll find various types of English saddles in tack stores. In the final analysis, your preferred discipline determines the choice you’ll make. But the comfort of your horse is also important. Here are the most popular types of English saddles:

1.  Dressage Saddle

The dressage saddle’s design is what riders on the flatwork will prefer. It enables them to sit deeper throughout because it has a deep seat. With the deepest part of it, the rider will be able to have and maintain closer contact with the horse. Its straight flap assists the riders to keep an upright longer leg position. The rider’s boot is thus close to the horse’s body. So, riders can give subtle cues to their horses. The panels under the saddles have padding, making rides comfortable for horses. Spectators hardly notice the communication precision as it’s performed without much effort.

2.  Jumping Saddle

The jumping saddles are the ones that tilt forward a bit. The design makes it easier for riders to get into jump positions. They have shallow seats which make them ideal for various English disciplines. Jumpers, hunters, and those involved in cross-country need the jumping saddle.  These saddles also have shorter stirrups and saddle flaps. Complementing them are the well-padded saddle flaps that are set forward. That makes for an easier transition in “two-point” or “half-seat” positions. The shorter cantle and pommels prevent any interference. The knee rolls also have a role to play in ensuring the stability of the ride. Their seats are set further back for closer contact. The jumping saddle has all these features because jumping events can be dangerous.

3.  All-purpose Saddle

This saddle is also known as the eventing saddle. Living up to its name, this saddle is ideal for a vast array of purposes. You’re good to go with the all-purpose saddle for dressage, jumping, or trailing. It’s nice when you are on pleasure riding or even for endurance riding too. But, it may not be too good for professional discipline levels. It won’t bring out the best performance of the rider like the ones actually designed for it. Its seat is deeper than a jumping saddle and shallower than a dressage saddle. So it’s a cross-over design of both. Its own flaps are also set a bit forward with some padding under the rider’s legs. But they are shorter than the flaps of a dressage saddle. The same is the case with the billet straps. If you have a younger horse, an all-purpose saddle might be your best bet because of its deep seat.

4.  Lane Fox Saddle

This saddle appears to be the preference of the gaited horse community. This is due to its flat seats.  Its longer and wider flaps are one of the reasons it is loved by many. The Lane Fox saddle allows you to shift your weight to the center of the horse or behind balance seat position. But, it has neither sweat flaps nor knee rolls. Still, it doesn’t interfere with the gaited horse shoulder actions.

5.  Endurance Saddle

The endurance saddle is specially built for long distance riding. Comfort is the major selling point of endurance saddles. Both the rider and the horse won’t have the usual discomfort of other saddles on long rides. With a padded and quilted seat and stirrups designed with a wider tread, the rider can go all the way. Pressures are evenly distributed on the horse because the under panels cover a wider area on its back. Also, there are D-rings that create room for the attachment of various items.

6.  Treeless Saddle

This saddle is flexible, soft, and lightweight. It can adjust in all directions to the horse’s back. It doesn’t have a tree that constricts the movement of the horse. So, horses saddled with treeless saddles move with more comfort. Horses with short and flat back also feel relieved because there’s no pressure under the cantle.

7.  Side Saddle

If you see a saddle with two horns on the front, that’s a side saddle. It’s still the best for a conservative rider on a horse, mule, or pony. During the Middle Ages with long skirts and social morals, women on the mount had to sit aside the horse. They couldn’t sit astride them those days.

Up until the modern times, this saddle still retains its equestrian niche. It features in exhibitions, shows, and parades. It has one short and one long flap. It has only one stirrup with two pommels and offers a reasonable measure of safety, even for a jumper. This saddle is wide enough to accommodate the rider’s thighs while both legs sit to its left side.

8.  Saddle Seat Saddle

This saddle seat is longer and flatter. It sets further back the center of balance on the horse. As a result, the front end of the horse produces more action. But to give free movement for legs and accommodate a higher neck set, the pommel is cut back. It has a wide flap without any blocks or rolls. With all these features, the saddle seat saddle can help riders produce high action gaits.

9.  English Show Saddle

This is an old traditional English rider saddle. The seat of this saddle is flat like that of the saddle seat saddle. The pommel is also cut a little back while the stirrups are forward. It has no knee rolls or blocks.

10. Polo Saddle

For those driving a wooden ball into a goal with long-handled mallets in a game called polo, this is the right saddle. With the flat seat and the long saddle flaps, the rider can have a longer leg position. There’s not much padding under the leg. This is so players can move with precise motion during the game.

Parts Of An English Saddle

You may have noticed the references to various parts of the English saddle earlier. Here are some important parts of the English saddle and their functions:

Bar

  • The stirrup bar that runs along the back of the horse

Billets

  • Also known as point; they’re the straps used in attaching the girth
  • Straps can be either long or short
  • The long straps attach below the saddle flap and free the rider’s leg
  • They’re attached to the tree under saddle flaps
  • There are multiple holes in each of them to tighten the girth

Calf Block

  • Padding behind rider’s lower leg
  • Helps to stabilize the rider

Cantle

  • The back part of the saddle seat; raised and connects the saddle tree bars
  • Enhances the rider’s safety

Channel

  • The gap between panels that are underside the saddle

D-rings

  • Metal rings in a D Shape, attached to the saddle toward the front
  • Helps to attach other equipment to the saddle

Girth Buckle Guard

  • Billets thread through it
  • Protects saddle flap from wear and tear from constant rubbing by the buckle

Gullet

  • The open space between panels running from the pommel to the cantle under the saddle
  • Runs from the pommel to the cantle underside of the saddle
  • Prevents saddle or rider’s pressure from affecting the horse spine by providing clearance

Iron

  • The metal part of stirrup; the footrest and support

Knee Roll

  • Padding at the front of the saddle panel
  • Very wide or thick, extra support for rider’s leg
  • Can be thin; also provides extra padding on the outside flap
  • Can also give extra grip

Leather

  • The leather part of the stirrup

Panels

  • Always in pairs
  • Attached to the saddle tree; run horizontally along the horse’s spine on both sides
  • Usually filled with air, foam flocking, wool, or sealed pockets
  • Gives cushioning for the horse’s back
  • Makes for an even distribution of the rider’s weight

Pommel

  • Also known as head
  • Front of the saddle raised higher than the seat
  • Ensures the safety of the rider by allowing clearance to horse’s withers

Saddle Flaps

  • The larger part of the leather on both sides of the saddle
  • They’re between the rider’s legs, billets, and girth buckles
  • Discipline and rider’s leg position determine the size and angle

Seat

  • The lowest section of saddle top that seats the rider

Skirt

  • Also known as jockey; small pieces of leather close to both sides of the saddle
  • It goes over the stirrup bar
  • Prevents rider’s leg against the buckle of leather strap connecting the stirrup

Staples

  • Metal rings attached to the saddle tree in the front area
  • Stronger than D-rings, suitable to attach to the saddle

Stirrups

  • Footrest for riders as they ride along
  • Attached to the saddle with leather stirrup straps
  • Enhance security and safety

Stirrup Bar

  • The bar attached to the tree under saddle skirt
  • Connected to the stirrup bars

Stirrup Leather Keeper

  • A loop or slot added to the flap of the saddle to the leather stirrup end and secure it

Sweat Flap

  • Protects the saddle’s outer space from horse’s sweat
  • It’s the large flap under the saddle fitting between the horse and the billets
  • Protects the horse from buckles and girth pinches

Tree

  • The main frame of the saddle usually made of quality wood
  • There are trees of synthetic materials like fiberglass or polyurethane

Twist

  • Also known as the waist; it’s the narrow part between welts on the front seat

Measuring English Saddle

Before ordering your English saddle, you need to get the measurements right. Remember that all the various parts must be fitting for you to avoid injuries.

To measure your seat size, you must be in a chair with your knees bent at 45°. Your feet must be flat on the ground. Measure your horse’s back to determine your gullet size.

The table below gives a general idea of your measurement in relation to the right saddle size for you.

Measurement (in inches) Saddle size (in inches)
Below 16.5 15
16.5-18.5 16
18.5-20 16.5
20-21.5 17
21.5-23 17.5
Above 23 18

Fitting English Saddle To Your Horse

You must make sure your saddle fits you and your horse before using it. It’s not safe to use an undersized or oversized saddle. You need to place a thin sheet or towel on the back of your horse before placing your saddle. You should then place your saddle on the back of your horse and see how well it fits. A fitting English saddle should appear level with the pommel. And the cantle should be about an inch higher.

Then attach the girth. Make sure that at least two fingers fit in-between the pommel and withers. Allow enough clearance to prevent the saddle from resting on the horse’s spine.

Don’t assume that you know if a saddle fits or not by looking with your eyes. You have to sit in the saddle and observe how it feels. You should feel balanced and centered in the right saddle size for you. A clearance of about two to four inches must be between you and the front pommel. The same should be true with the back of the cantle.

Anything outside this means the saddle is not your size.

Differences Between A Western And An English Saddle

There are striking similarities between a Western and an English saddle. But there are remarkable differences, too. These differences manifest mainly in the designs and riding disciplines.

The Western saddle’s design emphasizes an even spread of riders’ weight over a larger area. The English saddle focuses on maintaining close contact between horses and riders.

It’s generally accepted that the Western saddle is larger and heavier. But the small size of English saddles gives riders more flexibility. It also facilitates closer contact with the horse, enabling precision dressage movements.

The design of most Western saddles allows riders to spend long hours in the saddle. But, English saddles are better for jumping, hunting, and dressage.

Cost Of Saddles

The cost of saddles varies greatly and depends on several factors. In fact, you can see saddles going for less than $500. These are usually off-the-rack styles. They are often inferior in terms of the quality of leather and fittings. High-quality saddles can cost thousands of dollars, especially custom made ones. Designs and details involved in the specification account for the high price.

There are also used saddles in the market. They cost far less.

Reputable companies and tack stores have a variety of styles, fits, and specifications in stock. You won’t find custom-saddles in those stores though.

The Best Saddle Brands And Their Cost

Here are some of the best brands of English saddles. Each of these have good reviews across different stores:

1.  Bates

The brand carries all types of saddles. They range from their cheapest saddle, Bates Hunter Jumper Saddle to their most expensive, Bates Advanta Monoflap Eventing Saddle. Bates’ saddles range in price from $1,435 to $3,235.

2.  Camelot

This is the cheapest brand of saddle. You can find something as cheap as the Camelot Leadline Saddle Kit or as expensive as the Camelot Close Contact Saddle. These saddles typically range in price from $210 to $625.

3.  Circuit

The cheapest, for now, is the Circuit® Premier Dressage Saddle. The costliest, on the other hand, is the Circuit® Customizable Premier Professional Saddle. Circuit’s saddles typically range in selling price from $1,119.95 to $1,399.

4.  Henri de Rivel

You can find anything from the Henri de Rivel Exercise Saddle to th eHenri de Rivel Equipe Close Contact Saddle. This brand ranges in price from as low as $495 to as much as $895.

5.  Marcel Toulouse

The cheapest of Marcel saddles is the Marcel Toulouse Celine Close Contact Saddle. The most expensive is the Marcel Toulouse Marianne Dressage Saddle With Genesis. This saddle sets the bar. This brand ranges in price from $1,310 to $2,180.

6.  Ovation

You can find something as cheap as the Ovation® San Diego Saddle at $1,395. You can also find the $2,400 Ovation® Salinero II Dressage Saddle.

7.  Passier

Passier brand doesn’t deal with cheap saddles. The cheapest is Passier® Ingrid Klimke Event Saddle or as expensive as the Passier® Sirius. This brand’s saddles start at a price tag of $2,841 and range to $3,949.

8.  Pessoa

This brand carries saddles from the Pessoa® Rodrigo Pony Saddle With XCH® to the Pessoa® Tomboy II Solid Leather Saddle. They typically range in cost from $1,475 to $3,850.

9.  Wintec

Wintec 250 All-Purpose with Flocked Panels is the starting point for this brand. The Wintec Pro Stock Saddle with CAIR®, on the other hand, is where this brand shows the latest in saddle technology. Wintec saddles range in price from $445 to $1,345.

10. Vega

This brand’s offerings begin with the Vega Close Contact Saddle by Amerigo and end at the Vega Monoflap Event Saddle by Amerigo. Vega Saddles range in price from $4,350 to $4,500.

Table Of Contents

clickable navigation

Chapter 1 – Everything You Need To Know About English Saddles

Chapter 2 –  What Is An English Saddle?

Chapter 3 – Types Of English Saddles

Chapter 4 – Parts Of An English Saddle

Chapter 5 –  Measuring English Saddle

Chapter 6 – Fitting English Saddle To Your Horse

Chapter 7 –  Differences Between A Western And An English Saddle

Chapter 8 – Cost Of Saddles

Chapter 9 – The Best Saddle Brands And Their Cost

 

 

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