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Horse Saddles

Horse Saddles: Style and Selection

You’ve chosen your horse, and now it’s time to purchase a saddle that fits both you and your equine companion. Since a horse saddle is the most expensive piece of equipment you’ll buy after the cost of your horse, you’ll need to decide which type of saddle to use for the style of riding you prefer.

Three of the most widely used saddles are:

  • Western saddles: roping saddle, endurance saddle, barrel racing saddle
  • English saddles: dressage saddle, polo saddle, jumping saddle
  • Sidesaddles: includes both the English sidesaddle and the Western sidesaddle

Did you know that the Western saddle began with the Spanish vaqueros (va�que�ros), better known as “cowboys”? With the addition of the saddle horn, the Western saddle became a very functional piece of equipment for roping and controlling cattle. There are a few differences between the Western and English saddle

  • The Western saddle has no padding of its own. A saddle pad or blanket is used to provide a comfortable fit for the horse
  • Western stirrups are roomy and sturdy so that boot-heeled shoes can hold your feet in place to prevent slipping through the stirrup.
  • The Western girth (also called a “cinch”) is tied on with a leather strap, compared to that of an English girth, which buckles on.

English saddles are fairly plain on the outside and contain inner padding to protect and provide comfort to the horse. Other distinctions of an English saddle are:

  • An English saddle does not have of a saddle horn.
  • Most English saddles are sold without the “fittings” of stirrup leathers, stirrup irons, and a girth.
  • English saddles are equipped with a “flap” on both sides, which protect the horse from being pinched by the stirrup leather.


Dressage is known as the training of horses in obedience and personal conduct. The word “dressage” is derived from the French word “dresser” (to set up, arrange) and is now acknowledged as: the guiding of a horse through a series of complex maneuvers by slight movements of the rider’s hands, legs, and weight. Facts about the dressage saddle:

  • The dressage saddle is one type of an English saddle.
  • The seat has a deeper cut than any other English saddle to show off the horse to the best advantage.
  • The dressage saddle is built to keep the rider in an upright manner and provide stability.


The sidesaddle is built for the rider to sit aside rather than astride the horse, and it is making a prominent return to the art of riding. A few sidesaddle notations are:

  • The sidesaddle was designed for women, emphasizing the grace and beauty of a female rider.
  • The two main sidesaddles are Western and English.
  • The sidesaddle has a flat seat, which improves the rider’s balance.

Leather is the traditional material for a saddle, but synthetic leather and suede have become increasingly popular because they are lightweight and easy to clean. If you choose a leather horse saddle, make sure the leather is of good quality, which is much more important than a bargain price. Many selections of saddles are available and range from general-purpose to specialized equipment for a variety of activities.

Patience is essential when choosing a horse saddle. Consider your interests in riding and take a horse-care professional shopping with you. The benefits of a proper saddle are the rewards of pleasure and good health for both you and your horse.

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