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Choosing and Fitting an English Saddle: Part 1, Saddle Types

Choosing and Fitting an English Saddle: Part 1, Saddle Types

Choosing the perfect English saddle can be a daunting task for even experienced riders, as many variables go into choosing a particular type or style of saddle, and the sizing of both the seat and saddle tree. This is an important process for which great care must be taken though, as one of the number one cause of soreness in a horse (along the spine, withers, and along the horse’s sides) or for the rider is from a poorly fitted saddle.


Choosing the wrong type of saddle can also be disastrous, as the fit and style of a saddle is often designed with specific tasks or uses in mind. A dressage saddle, for instance, with its deep seat and long, thinly padded flaps, would make a poor jumping saddle as it would not allow the rider to easily sit in the proper position during a jump, and would not have enough padding to absorb the shock of a high jump fully.


The process of choosing a saddle should start with an evaluation of both the rider’s and horse’s needs. A rider who is looking for an all-around saddle for schooling/riding, light showing, jumping, and trail riding should look into all purpose saddles, for instance. Outlined below is a table giving a quick reference to what kinds of saddles might best suit your needs:


Saddle Type Ideal For Summary
All Purpose Saddles Trail Riding Flat Work Light Jumping Light Eventing Endurance Riding This is a great starter saddle or all-around saddle for most riders who don’t participate in a specialty discipline. All purpose saddles are the quintessential schooling saddle for riders young and old and are also a favorite for breaking horses to saddle. This saddle is a crossover between a jumping and a dressage saddle and features a deep seat to aid the rider in flat work, giving cues to the horse, and provide a comfortable seat during long endurance or trail rides. The flaps are set forward and typically padded to aid during jumping.
Dressage Saddles Riding Lessons
Dressage Flat Work Building Equitation
Dressage saddles are very deep-seated, long and straight flapped saddles that are designed for flat work and are not intended for horse sports such as jumping, hunting, or eventing, but were built instead for flat work and dressage as they allow the rider to give the horse body cues easily without relying on the bit. These saddles help the rider build proper equitation thanks to their deep seat and often minimal padding, which allows the rider to feel the horse’s movements and the horse to respond to subtle cues from the rider.
Endurance Saddles Endurance Riding
Trail Riding
Endurance saddles, as their name implies, are built for long distance rides such as endurance events or for trail riding. These saddles are designed to be shock absorbing and provide long-term comfort to the horse and rider. The under-pads of these saddles are often larger to help distribute pressure better, with deep seats that are often quilted or padded for comfort. These saddles also typically have extra attachments for breast collars, cruppers, and saddle breeching.
Close Contact or Jumping Saddles Trail Riding Flat Work Hunt Seat
Hunting Eventing Show Jumping
These saddles are designed for jumping, eventing, cross-country and other more aggressive horse sports which require very close contact between the horse and rider. Close contact saddles are similar to all purpose saddles and work well for a variety of disciplines, but have less padding and a longer hunt style seat with a flatter pommel and cantle. These saddles are a great option for riders who need a saddle that allows them to communicate well with the horse while having a build that doesn’t interfere with jumping or hunting events.


This table should help give you a good start towards figuring out what styles of saddles best fir your needs. In our next article, we will discuss how to fit an English saddle, what different measurements mean, and how this affects you and your horse. If you are looking for one of the saddle types above, check out the links below to our author’s choice favorite saddles!



Author’s Choice Saddle Picks



All Purpose Saddles


- Henri De Rivel Advantage All Purpose Saddle


- Derby Originals Top Trainer All Purpose Saddle


- Derby Originals Economy Synthetic All Purpose Saddle



Dressage Saddles


- Santa Cruz French Leather Supreme Dressage Saddle


- Paris Tack Australian Leather Dressage Saddle


- Derby Originals Dressage Saddle Set



Endurance Saddles


- Derby Originals Marathon Endurance Saddle



Close Contact Saddles


- Henri De Rivel Memor-X Memory Foam Seat Saddle


- Paris Tack French Designed Lafitte Series Saddle


- Henri De Rivel Club HDR Saddle

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