Choosing the Right Horse Saddles for the Ride

While many people often enjoy horse back riding, they often find it can be uncomfortable at times.? The secret to riding comfortable is to have a good solid seat and this, of course, starts with the horse saddles.? To find the perfect fit, there are many factors that must be considered, including what type of riding discipline is being practiced and the size and shape of the horse and rider.

One of the first factors to consider when choosing a horse saddle is what type of riding will be done.? For those who find they ride in several disciplines, several saddles will be needed.? Thankfully, many will find the horse easily adapts to a variety of both saddles and riding.

Western riders will have a wide variety of options to choose from in both styles and the material the saddle is made with.? Of course, the one chosen will depend upon the type of riding.? For example, there are some that are made for everyday riding, while others are for specific activities, such as cutting.? This activity requires the rider to be able to be close to the horse?s back and a smaller horn to allow for easier reining.? Should the wrong saddle be chosen, the rider could risk injury.

Many options are also available to those who prefer English riding.? Some of the option may include saddles that have a flatter seat for the rider, as well as those with a deeper or higher seat.? Depending upon the activity the horse and rider are participating in, the saddle should be chosen with care.? An example would be the rider and horse who plays polo.? The polo saddle is often made from a lighter weight material, such as latex and then covered in fine leather.? This ensures a greater strength and it also provides a better fit for both the rider and horse for maximum comfort.

On another note, riders may have a particular type of horse that requires a specialized saddle.? The draft horse, for example, is one of the largest horses and demands an oversized and heavier saddle.? As draft horse saddles can be one of the more expensive styles, buyers may want to search for used horse saddles that will be more affordable.? For those who ride gaited horses, a special gaited horse saddle may be ordered for a better ride.

In either one of the disciplines, you will find similar type saddles.? For example, side saddles can be found for both the English and Western form of riding.? If the rider has any question to the type of saddle that would best suit them and their horse, the best thing to do is ask an expert trainer and they would be able to explain all of the options that are available.

When purchasing horse riding saddles another item is needed for best results.? Horse saddle pads will actually protect the horse?s flesh from being damaged by the wear of the saddle.? As each horse has a different shaped back and each saddle may fit the horse differently, several saddle pads may be needed.? They come in a variety of shapes and styles to make sure the saddle and rider fit comfortably on the back of the horse and neither do not cause damage to the horse?s flesh.

One of the problems facing many horsemen, no matter the type of riding being done, is that owning several saddles may be overextending their budget.? However, cheap horse saddles can be found.? The best thing to do is search horse saddles for sale online.?? Keep in mind, though, that when ordering saddles online, you don?t actually get to really see what you?ve ordered and the quality may not be what is expected.? For this reason, always make sure you order from a respectable company.

The biggest question in anyone?s mind is how the saddle is fitted to the horse.? A good seat is required for the rider and a saddle without a good fit can easily discomfort to the horse.? The saddle is basically made of two parts.? The tree or underside of the saddle is what is fitted to the horse.? The seat itself is fitted to the rider.? To make sure that the saddle is the proper one for a horse, it should be fitted by a professional.

Far too many people do not understand the complexities of choosing the right horse saddles.? This can, unfortunately, lead to much discomfort for the horse and may even put both horse and rider at risk for injury.? Whether you need gaited horse saddles for your ride or a simple pleasure saddle for Western riding, always make certain that it is of the proper fit.? Choosing one may take time, but in the end, both horse and rider will be much happier.


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2 Responses

  1. Anne C. says:

    You make a great case for choosing a horse riding saddle that is a great fit not only for the horse but also for the rider. This is not only for comfort but to avoid injury. You provide valuable information about Western and English saddles for consumers who ready to buy a well-fitting saddle. And thanks for addressing the issue of choosing the right horse saddle pads for the comfort of the horse.

  2. We have published an article on our website, which you might find useful:
    When purchasing a saddle several factors need to be considered:
    The horse:
    The saddle should enhance the horse’s performance and never restrict it.

    1. The panels of the saddle should smoothly and evenly distribute the weight of saddle & rider on either side of the spine
    2. The panels of the saddle should be stuffed softly and evenly so it sits comfortably on the horse. Hard stuffing or lumps in the stuffing will cause resistance in the horse
    3. The gullet should allow sufficient space on either side of the spine so that the panels do not interfere with the horse’s back muscles and ligaments
    4. The pommel should allow suitable space for the horse’s wither
    5. The saddle should be designed in such way that it provides freedom to the horse’s shoulder movement
    6. The saddle should never cover the area beyond the horse’s last rip
    7. The girth should be fitting in such way that it does not cut into the horse’s skin or interferes with his elbow

    The rider:

    Saddles have originally been designed to make riding more comfortable.

    1. The saddle should sit on the horse in such way that it enables the rider to sit in the point of gravity. If the pommel is too high the rider is pushed against the cantle of the saddle. This puts his weight too far back for the horse and leaves him behind the movement. His knees will come up and he will find himself in a “chair seat” which makes it virtually impossible to swing with the horse’s movement or apply leg aids as his legs will be placed too far forward. The other extreme is a saddle with a too high cantle which places the rider on his thighs, moves his legs back and will provide a highly uncomfortable ride. Besides it places too much weight too far forward on the horse, which will strain the horse’s forehand.
    2. The seat of the saddle should correspond to the rider’s size and should allow approximately four fingers between the rider’s bum and the cantle. Less space in the seat will make it impossible for the rider to apply back/weight aids and with his bum reaching over the cantle it will place his weight at the back of the saddle and will make the horse uncomfortable as well. Too much space in the saddle will make the rider slide and insecure on top of the horse, especially in canter and again will cause discomfort to the horse .
    3. The pommel needs to allow sufficient space for the horse’s wither but should not be that high the rider cannot place his hand comfortably above it. If his hands are positioned too high the line from the rider’s elbow over his hand to the horse’s mouth will be broken and a soft contact is impossible. Most modern saddle come therefore with a cut-back pommel.
    4. The saddle flaps should go beyond the top of the long riding boots to prevent catching them. On the other hand they should not be too long as placing the leg in a relaxed position will be impossible.
    5. The knee rolls should be placed in such manner that the rider’s knees lie comfortable against them. This is depending on what type of saddle you choose. If you opt for a jumping saddle the knee rolls will be placed further forward to enable riding with shorter stirrups. Equally for the dressage saddle the knee rolls often will be less dominant and the saddle flaps will be cut much straighter to allow the rider too adopt long stirrups and ride with relaxed legs (e.g. no gripping)

    In dressage saddles it has become fashionable to provide a deep seat, which means the cantle is heightened and provides the rider with a “more secure seat”. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of not being able to move in the saddle when applying seat/weight aids. Very dominant knee rolls are another development seen in dressage saddles for the same reason to provide the rider with a more secure seat, but again allow him less freedom as well. Knee rolls on jumping and eventing saddles should be thicker as one needs the support to tackle obstacles. A newer development here are rolls behind the rider’s legs, which are particularly useful when going cross country.

    This summary of facts surrounding saddle fitting is comprehensive but totally disregards one important factor: Horses and riders comes in various different shapes and sizes. Off the shelf saddles usually come in minimum three saddle width:

    * Narrow
    * Medium
    * Wide

    Depending on the quality of the saddle manufacturer this covers roughly 80% of all horses. A medium fitting (27) Passier saddle will allow a comfortable fit for a narrow/ medium, medium and medium/wide horse. Other manufacturers allow less adaptability. This touches the next important factor: Horses change during their ridden life. A recently backed horse will develop more muscles as his education progresses and the saddle should allow if not encourage muscle development. A horse which has been off work will loose muscles and might when brought back to work be narrower. A saddle should allow for this as well and this should be possible by either amending the stuffing or in more serious cases by adjusting the tree. More modern saddles do allow for this, but require a qualified saddler to do so.

    Furthermore warmbloods in particular have changed their shape over the past twenty years and most horses nowadays have a less defined withers and are much broader. This has provided them with more shoulder freedom and their movements have become more stunning. At the same time a broader horse will feel less comfortable to the rider, especially if the rider is rather small. The “narrow twist’ is the answer to this issue. Even though the horses have become broader the narrow twist still allows the rider a close contact. The less defined wither has also resulted in straighter backs, which have been tackled with the “French” panel, which is a triangular piece of leather inserted at the end of the panel.

    Another trend has triggered saddle manufacturers’ attention: People are increasingly looking for alternative breeds, such as the Icelandic, the Friesian, Quarter horses, Appaloosas and any type of “Barrock” horse all of which are broader and have less withers. Most horses are more compact, have a shorter back,s which provides better engagement of the hindquarter and makes the back stronger. This results in less space to fit the saddle.

    At the same time population in general and riders are no exception has become heavier, so saddler manufacturers are faced with larger riders on shorter coupled horses. While horses have developed towards smaller saddles riders have developed from 16.5/17 inch seat to the now more common 18 inch seat. Some saddlermakers have provided “off the shelf” solutions with saddles specifically designed for this (Passier Optimum).


    The fit of the saddle should be checked regularly!

    Three possible soluitions:

    1. Opt for an economy priced saddle and anticipate that it needs to be replaced when the horse changes. This might be a good option especially when backing a young horse as he might cause damage to the saddle. This, however, will only work if:

    The saddle fits the horse properly and provides sufficiently soft panels to encourage muscle development and if it fits the rider as well. Economy saddles usually lack in the quality of leather after some years the saddle flaps might start rolling around your legs. The seams are less well manufactured and might dissolve over time. Watch that the panels are evenly stuffed and sufficiently soft. The trees are mostly synthetic and reasonable sturdy but less sophisticated.

    2. Opt of for a good make of saddle off the shelf either used or new. Invest in properly fitting it. Even when purchasing a secondhand saddle if you are not confident yourself consult a saddler. Good new saddles will cost approximately ?1500 and used ones can be picked up from ?300 onwards, but stick to quality here. My recommendations would be Passier, Stubben, Kieffer, Prestige, Albion (the older models), County (though the older models here might cause rocking on a modern horse. Get that checked). The newer models all come with a synthetic tree, which is lighter and durable, adjustable widths and quite often with synthetic stuffing, which has no memory. This means they can be used on different horses without moulding to a specific horse.

    3. Have a saddle made to measure. This can be quite costly with some firms but provides the most perfect fit.

    There are of course options such as the treeless saddles, which in general provide good value for money and are certainly a very good alternative for the “happy hacker”. There are all sorts of models and makes around and many people are very satisfied with them. I am personally “old fashioned” and prefer the traditional tree, because it provides a more secure fitting if done well. I would also avoid any treeless options which come with pads to fit them or have divided panels.

    Last but not least Western and Australian Stock saddles are worth mentioning. They are generally much easier to fit, cover a broader area of the horses back and can provide really good results on horses who have had bad experiences with traditional saddle, but do keep in mind: These saddles are not close contact saddles, their padding in much thicker or you will find yourself “on top of the horse” rather than sitting “in the horse”. For long distances, back problems of horse and rider they are fantastic and they can assist the less experience rider to stay on with a lot more confidence.

    Please, feel free to add your comments, suggestions, replies!

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