top of page



This is basically a seat on the back of a horse that is kept in place by a strap that runs under the belly, called a girth. It is typically made of leather and raised at the front and rear.

Almost anyone who has attended riding school would have started their equestrian career in a general-purpose saddle, designed to accommodate a range of body types and styles of riding. That’s not to say that this is a one-size fits all type of saddle.

Whether you are buying a general purpose or an all-singing, all-dancing dressage saddle, it is highly recommended that you invest in the services of a master saddler who will measure your horse and provide you with options that are fit for you, your horse and your chosen discipline. And yes, there are different shaped saddles for different disciplines. Here are a few:

Dressage Saddle

Dressage saddles are designed for riders who veer more towards flatwork and dressage exercises. These saddles are built to accommodate the straight-legged, upright torso of the classical dressage position and they generally have a much deeper seat than other saddles. These saddles tend to be made of lightweight, thin material, to provide closer leg contact, and straight flaps to free up the horse’s shoulder.

Jumping Saddle

Jumping saddles have a flatter seat than dressage saddles and forward cut flaps that allow for shorter stirrup length to accommodate a bent knee for greater stability over fences. Jumping saddles are designed to allow the rider to adopt a two-point or half-seat position more easily.

Western Saddle

Affectionately known as ‘cowboy saddles,’ these were originally designed for the comfort of ranchers spending most of the day on horseback. However, rather like their English cousins, the standard western saddle has evolved over the years to meet the requirements of western riding disciplines such as reining and barrel racing.

In its most basic form, though, an all-round western saddle has a horn at the front, to aid balance while the other hand holds the reins. Built with a sturdy tree, to take the pressure of ‘roping’, these saddles come with a close contact skirt and a flat seat.

Image by Manfred G. from Pixabay

Racing Saddles

Small and lightweight, these saddles are specifically for jockeys who gallop and jump fences at high speed. Racing saddles only have one girth strap, and the stirrups are incredibly short. The seat is very flat, as they are not intended for the rider to sit on, but to hover over while crouching in the stirrups. Steeplechase saddles have larger flaps than flat-race saddles, to give the jockey a more secure lower leg over fences.

Photo by annca from Pixabay

Treeless Saddle

Treeless saddles don’t have the rigid internal frame of regular saddles, known as the tree, so these saddles sit closer to the horse, allowing them to move freely and without any restrictions on their shoulders. For some, the experience is said to be a more natural, close-to-bareback ride. Treeless saddles are usually made from leather with foam padding and a smaller pommel and cantle made from lightweight fibreglass.

Photo courtesy of Jayne Richards.


As well as choosing a saddle to suit your chosen purpose, you also need a saddle that fits both you and your horse. As this is such an important issue – badly-fitted saddles can cause a host of problems for your horse as well as injury – we cannot stress enough how important it is to get a professional saddle fitter involved when it comes to buying or trying out a second-hand saddle. It is also important to keep saddle leather clean and oiled, for suppleness and longevity, and to get your saddle regularly flocked (repadded).

bottom of page