dressage saddle
jumping saddle
general purpose saddle
racing saddle

Saddle Sizing



Ever wondered how saddles are measured?  A saddle must fit both the horse and rider.  A small child may not be comfortable in a very long saddle, and an adult may not fit onto a child's shorter saddle.  A pony can have a long back, and therefore need a larger saddle, and large horses won't be comfortable in a shorter style.

The length of the saddle is measured from the nail head to the cantle as shown in the picture below.
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Types of Saddles

Unless otherwise indicated, all pictures on this page are reproduced with permission from the Shires online catelogue

Following the history of the saddle up to the present day, the original saddle has evolved into a number of different varieties depending on the equestrian discipline being undertaken. 
General Purpose Saddle
Jumping Saddle
Dressage Saddle
Racing Saddle
Polo Saddle
Western Saddle
Parts of the Saddle
Saddle Sizing

Saddles


General Purpose Saddle

Most hobby owners of horses, or people who ride at riding schools will be familiar with the commonest saddle of them all, the general purpose saddle. 

This saddle is suited for elementary stages of almost every discipline.  It is possible to jump, do dressage or cross country using this saddle unless you are going to specialise in any particular discipline or enter serious competition.

Jumping Saddle



The saddle flaps of jumping saddles are more forward cut than those of the general purpose saddle which enables the rider to keep his legs close to the saddle when riding with shorter stirrups.  This saddle is recommended for riders who wish to ride bigger fences at competition level.



The dressage saddle has longer and straighter flaps and is designed for schooling horses on the flat.  A rider's legs are held closer to the horse's body as the straighter cut saddle allows for stirrups to be worn longer.  Longer girth straps are also used to help the rider keep his legs in closer contact.

Dressage Saddle


Horse racing on the flat requires a saddle that is crouched over rather than sat on.  Racing saddles are flat, and are fitted with very short stirrup leathers.  Saddles used for racing are very light - starting from as little as 325g, and are available in a range of different weights.  Saddles can be brightly coloured to match the owner's racing colours.




Picture courtesy of Global Pampas http://www.globalpampas.com.ar
Extra long sweat flaps, no knee or thigh rolls and a flatter seat distinguish the Polo Saddle.  In Polo the horse travels fast, and the rider have to manovre to hit the ball so the saddle is designed not to restrict the movement or either horse or rider.


polo saddle
Picture courtesy of Global Pampas http://www.globalpampas.com.ar

The Western Saddle


western saddle

Racing Saddle


The Western Saddle is comfortable and secure for long distance riding.  The high front prevents the rider from being thrown forward.  The horn allows a lasso to be attached for working purposes.

Parts of the Saddle



The saddle has evolved to be a complicated article of equipment, as well as the most expensive item of tack.  Look at the pictures above and you will see the engineering that goes into it!  For how the saddle has evolved read Saddle History.
parts of a saddle - under the flap
parts of a saddle
Pictures courtesy of Global Pampas http://www.globalpampas.com.ar
measuring a saddle
Saddles come in a range of sizes from 16 1/2 to 21 inches (in increments of 1/2 inch) or in metric sizes from 42 to 53 centimetres, and are sometimes even smaller for ponies.  It is not a quick process to find a saddle that fits your horse properly, but the hunt is worth it as a saddle that does not fit will bruise the horse's back and damage the muscles - sometimes irretriveably.  Synthetic or second hand saddles will be cheaper than new leather ones.  Second hand saddles have the advantage that they are already worn in, and the straps supple.  However, it is sometimes best not to set your heart on a particular saddle, as you may find it will not fit your horse, especially if he is not the 'normal' shape. 

But take heart - there is a saddle out there somewhere that will suit both your horse and the style of riding you have to do.  You may find it may stretch your purse a little further though!  But to get the perfect fit for you both, spending the extra on this item of tack is definitely worth it, and will pay dividends in the end.  Paying out for vet's bills and back specialists, and having your horse out of work with a bad back will be far worse in the end!
See also:  The History of the Saddle
Polo Saddle