Different Types of Horse Riding Saddles

Updated on May 31, 2016


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 horses'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 are often general purpose saddles that can accommodate a range of different body types. But for anybody who has their own horse they will need to buy a saddle that not only suits their shape and size, 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 a master saddler from the equestrian shop measures up your horse and he knows 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 - $500 depending on their quality but for more specialist saddles they will be 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!


The horse saddle was invented by the Chinese

General purpose saddle

These saddles are ideal for the beginner and 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 balace 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.

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.

Jumping saddle

Jumping saddles are designed to puch 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 it is 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.

Hunting saddle

Hunting saddles are designed for riders who regulalry 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 riders weight back in the saddle and their feet forwards in the stirrups. This allows the rider to remain in a safer positioning leaning backwards when they are landing over large fences. The saddles have low a low cantle and pommell which makes jumps more comfortable. They are made from durable leather to match the traditional hunting attire.

Kids saddle

These saddles are very light weight and used for young children who are riding small ponies. They are made from synthtic 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.

Western saddle

Cowboys ride these saddles! They are made from brown leather and can be intrcately decorated with colourful Western designs. There is a horn at the fron of the saddle which aids balance while the other hand holds the reigns.The saddles are desiged to be more comfortable and sturdy for ranch hands who spent long hours on horse-back  oftern performing sharp turns.There are now around ten different types of Western saddle that have been adapted for the various disciplines of Western riding.


 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 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 a 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.

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 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.

Treeless saddles

 Treeless saddles lie somewhere between bareback riding and riding a horse with a a full saddle. They are usually made from leather and foam padding with a smaller pommel and cantle made from light-weight fibreglass. The saddles provide a closer contact with the horse and allow more body freedom but they are not as secure as a general purpose saddle 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 breast plate.

Australian Stock Saddle

This saddle is popualr around the world with anybody who needs to spend long hours on horse-back. This could include...cattle ranchers, trail riding, endurance riding and polocrosse. 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 after long periods.


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    • profile image

      3 weeks ago

      thank you

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      3 weeks ago

      i learnd lot

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      Kaydance 3 months ago

      this is the perfect site to use to get information about saddles for a project or for a essay.

    • profile image

      Allie 5 months ago

      Wow soooo much about saddles!! thx for writing this! ~ to Amberkn: the western saddle is actually very comfortable for a horse! and as long as you try to move with your horse, your good. you must remember horses are built for holding us. though i agree we should pay attention on how their comfortability is.

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      Killian Deano 11 months ago

      That rely helps a lot i'm doing a rely long progect.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 4 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for all the clear and useful information. I recently bought a general purpose English saddle online and am pleased with it. When I was growing up, we actually had a sidesaddle that my mother's childhood riding instructor gave us. I rode with it several times. It was really quite comfortable and secure.

      Voted up, useful and interesting! :)

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      Amberkn 4 years ago

      Thank you for all the information on the different types of saddles but I was wondering does anyone know the most comfortable type of saddle for your horse? She's the one carrying me so I try and make it as easy on her as possible. Sounds like the treeless saddle is but can you just confirm that?

    • CCFARM profile image

      CCFARM 5 years ago

      County Saddlery is a phonomenal custom fit! Www.seasidesaddleworks.com

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 5 years ago from England

      That's a fair point, Katrina. Thanks for commenting

    • profile image

      Katrina 5 years ago

      I would like to say something about your "interesting fact", the Chinese only invented the "tree" of the saddle not the whole thing. Many other countries have contributed to the making of the saddle.

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      Ali 6 years ago

      I was wondering if you know what year it was invented?

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 7 years ago from England

      Thanks for stopping by, Cynniya. That's a good question and I'll look into that.

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 8 years ago from England

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. As y ou know, there are so many different types of saddles available that it's hard to list them all but hopefully this has given the main ones.

    • Anne Coyle profile image

      Anne Coyle 8 years ago from Bronxville, NY

      Your article and illustrations will be very helpful for horse riders to shop for saddles depending on their purposes and venues. You certainly cover the gamut of types of horse riding saddles. I was interested to read about the transition of Australian stock saddles from general purpose English saddles. Good work!