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English Saddles - Types & Buying, Selling

Close up of English saddle stirrup leather with stirrup slid up the strap. The first saddle to be built on a wooden frame, or tree, was introduced at the onset of the Christian era, but it took another three to four hundred years before the stirrup was in general use. Many types and styles of saddles have been invented over the centuries, but English saddles were developed for lightness. Styles of English saddles were devised to aid the position of the rider on a horse performing certain movements and an aid to more freedom of the horse.

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Bull fighting and classical dressage were the first disciplines that demanded a saddle that gave more freedom o movement for the horse for a specific discipline. Later, the sport of fox hunting added its demands and English Saddles evolved accordingly. When the forward seat position was invented by the Italian Captain Federico Caprilli , the designing of saddles was revolutionized the world over and as sporting disciplines gained in popularity across the world, various styles of the English saddle were adapted


All English saddles are a good bit lighter in weight than Western saddles, none of them have a saddle horn and the pommel or front of the saddle is shaped to improve the fitting range of the saddle. Basically, nothing sticks up in the air higher than the tree of the saddle itself. The stirrup irons are secured by the stirrup leather to forged steel stirrup bars. There is a single girth which buckles on either side of the saddle and which is removable from the saddle, unlike the rigging of the Western saddle.

English saddles are made with a cushion between the tree an the horse's back, with a central channel underneath to ensure that the weight is carried to either side of the horse's spine and cannot in that way ever inhibit the movement of the back or cause it to become sore. The shape of the panel and the setting of the flaps of the saddle follows the shape of the tree itself.

The keynote with English saddles is proper fit. If the saddle does not fit the rider, the rider's balance will not be suitable to the particular task at hand. A correct form has been established for each specific discipline and the form and function are intertwined. If the saddle does not fit the horse, all sorts of physical problems can occur, including some that are rather long term, and behavioral problems also develop, from subtle to not so subtle.

English saddles are made of leather, supple, strong and lasting. There are saddles made of synthetic materials that are less expensive and easily maintained, but they are not as durable. All have either a laminated tree, usually inset with springs to give resilience or plastic trees.


Current English Saddles include the following styles, each with specific requirements: the all purpose, or eventing saddles; the dressage saddle; the jumping saddle; the English show saddle; the saddle seat or cut-back saddle; the endurance saddle; the polo saddle; and the racing saddle.

All phases of English riding sports, are closely related, the largest difference being the slightly varied balance demanded by each.

For Dressage:
Saddles manufactured for dressage have more of a straight design, with straight flaps and a deep seat because the point of balance is for collection and control. The length of the stirrups is long.

For Jumping:
Jumping saddles use shorter stirrups and need a more forward cut to because of the forward position of the rider and the lifting of the rider s weight over jumps .Deep knees pads at the front of the flaps help the rider to maintain a secure grip.

For Hunting:
These saddles are mid-way between the jumping and dressage saddle since control is needed, but the hose must also have freedom of forward movement. The stirrup length is also mid-way giving enough length for safety, yet being short enough for jumping.

For Endurance:
Endurance saddles are styled with a high cantle and pommel, and include heavy knee pads.

For Racing:
Racing saddles are very small and light since the rider crouches on the horse s back for short lengths of time and the goal is speed, while the rider tries to not interfere with the aerodynamic flight of the horse. The only security the rider has is balance.

For Polo:
Polo saddles must insure the rider great freedom of movement. The stirrups are shorter than dressage and not as short as jumping. The padding of the saddle is slight to allow the rider's body to torque with the play of the game and for the variation in shots that are needed.

For Saddle Seat Riding, The Cut Back Saddle:
Saddle Seat saddles are manufactured with the pommel being cut away, at least four inches, in a U shape, to allow the horse s shoulders to produce the more animated movements of their gait. The center of gravity is moved backward, the saddle is flat, with no leg rolls or extra padding.

For Eventing:
Endurance saddles are constructed for long duration competition and are light in weight, with padding to support jumping, yet also providing utility on the flat, over varied terrain. The seat is deep with a forward, flap that is long. Balance under varying conditions is the keynote, with weight distributed to reduce pressure-stress on the horse and to keep the horse as comfortable as possible during extreme performance.

For English Showing:
Manufactured for the purpose of the show ring, and for use over low fences, these saddles are flat with no knee or thigh roll. There is a slight cut back pommel yet the center of gravity for the rider is similar to that needed in dressage. The stirrup bars are placed in a slightly more forward position, like the Saddle Seat saddles.

Listings on this site by companies who make or sell saddles can be located in the Shopping section of the site, and individual listings will display product information, often photos and pricing, and contact emails, phone numbers and links to individual Tack or Saddlery shops.

Visit other site pages about specific types of English Saddles:

Jumping Saddles
Dressage Saddles
Saddle Seat Saddles

Other HSC site areas of interest to horsemen are Horse Industry Stables/Farms/Ranches, Stallions at Stud, Horse Associations - Clubs and Horses for Sale - each area offers an online search facility.

Return to the main Saddles page.