10 Different Types of Horse Riding Saddles
Ancient people were quite content to ride horses without saddles. Indeed, in many parts of the world, people still do ride "bareback," and it can even be a useful way for riders to improve their balance and feel for the horse's movements. But anybody who wishes to ride in competitions, on the roads, or learn many of the techniques associated with English and Western riding will need to use a saddle.
Saddles provided to beginners at riding schools are often general-purpose saddles that can accommodate a range of different body types. Anybody who has their own horse will need to buy a saddle that not only suits their shape and size but also the type of riding that they will be doing and their horse's body. For this reason, it's vital to have a thorough knowledge of the different types of horse-riding saddles and what each one is used for. With a great knowledge of riding saddles, you'll be able to find a suitable one for you and your horse.
It is highly recommended that before buying a saddle, you should have a master saddler from the equestrian shop measure up your horse. It's also important that your saddler know the disciplines the horse will be taking part in, be it general riding, jumping, dressage, hunting or cross-country.
Saddles can range in price from $100 to $500, depending on their quality, but custom or specialist saddles may be even more expensive. Try to pay a little bit more for your first saddle and get the best one you can. You'll feel the rewards while riding!
1. General Purpose Saddle
These saddles are ideal for the beginner or intermediate rider who has just bought their first horse and enjoys various types of riding. They are sturdy with flaps that are cut forward and can accommodate the rider well for basic jumping, dressage and hacks or hunts in the country with small jumps. Riders balance well on these saddles and there are no pads at the front of the saddle for the knee. They are often used in riding schools because there are so many riders of different abilities and sizes that ride there.
2. Dressage Saddle
Dressage saddles are designed for advanced riders who are regularly competing in flat-work competitions. The saddles enhance the traditional straight-legged and upright torso dressage position. They have a deeper seat that looks more like a U-shaped curve when viewed from the side which is intended to provide better balance for the rider. Dressage saddles have straight flaps and they are made from lightweight, thin material which provides the rider with closer leg contact for precision moves.
3. Jumping Saddle
Jumping saddles are designed to push the rider slightly forward into the two-point jumping position for when they are going over fences. This is done by providing a flatter seat than dressage saddles which looks more like a mellow C-shaped curve when viewed from the side. The saddle flaps are much bigger, which gives the leg more support, and there is padding at the front of the flaps which provides stability and protection for the lower leg during jumps.
4. Hunting Saddle
Hunting saddles are designed for riders who regularly go fox-hunting in the English countryside. Many hunts involve jumps over large hedges with very steep drops on the other side. For this reason, the saddle is shaped to push the rider's weight back in the saddle and their feet forwards in the stirrups. This allows the rider to remain in a safer positioning leaning backward when they are landing over large fences. The saddles have low a low cantle and pommel which makes jumps more comfortable. They are made from durable leather to match the traditional hunting attire.
5. Youth Saddle
These saddles are very lightweight and used for young children who are riding small ponies. They are made from synthetic materials like cotton with small bits of leather or plastic. The shape of the saddle is much smaller, which allows the child to be more balanced in the seat. Some of these saddles will have a handle at the front which can be used for balance. They are often cheaper than adult saddles and fit a wide range of ponies.
6. Western Saddle
Cowboys ride these saddles! They are made from brown leather and can be intricately decorated with colourful Western designs. There is a horn at the front of the saddle which aids balance while the other hand holds the reigns. The saddles are designed to be more comfortable and sturdy for ranch hands who spent long hours on horse-back, often performing sharp turns. There are now around ten different types of Western saddles that have been adapted for the various disciplines of Western riding.
7. Side Saddle
When women started riding horses in European countries in the middle ages, it was not deemed proper for them to straddle a horse, particularly because they would be wearing skirts. Hence the side-saddle was developed as a way for them to sit aside a horse with their legs crossed. This was very lady like and allowed them to keep their fine clothes clean. The saddles have two pommels, or horns, that hold the rider's legs in place. The right leg rests on top of the top pommel and the left thigh goes under the lower pommel. This two pommel design can be secure enough for women to jump fences and gallop.
8. Racing Saddles
Racing saddles are very small and lightweight. They are used specifically for jockeys who are galloping and jumping fences on thoroughbred horses. The saddles have only one girth strap and the stirrups are very short. The seat is flatter than those of other saddles as they are not intended for a rider to sit in but for them to hover over while crouching in the stirrups. Saddles for flat racing have much smaller flaps than steeplechase saddles, which have larger flaps to give the jockey a more secure lower leg over fences.
9. Treeless Saddle
Treeless saddles lie somewhere between bareback riding and riding a horse with a full saddle. They are usually made from leather and foam padding with a smaller pommel and cantle made from lightweight fibreglass. The saddles provide closer contact with the horse and allow more bodily freedom, but they are not as secure as general-purpose saddles, for example. Horses that have backs that are difficult to fit saddles to could benefit from a treeless saddle, as could riders who feel uncomfortable with their position in a full saddle. Because they are lighter, the saddles may not be as secure as others, so it is recommended that riders using them also fit a breastplate.
10. Australian Stock Saddle
This saddle is popular around the world with anybody who needs to spend long hours on horseback. This could include cattle ranchers, trail riders, endurance riders and polocrosse players. The saddle was adapted for Australian stock handlers from the general-purpose English saddle, but this one has a much deeper seat, a higher pommel—possibly with a horn—and extra padding, particularly around the knees. There may also be webbing and padding under the saddle for extra support and an over girth, a strap that runs over the saddle for even more security. These features help to give the rider a more secure and balanced seat allowing them to be more comfortable in the saddle over long periods.