When learning to ride it is wise to know a little about the saddle you will sit upon. But there are SO MANY SADDLES! Don’t Panic. We have it covered.

Parts of the Saddle dressage eventing jumping racing polo
Parts of the Saddle
Image of a GP Saddle from tds-saddlers

In part one of The English Saddle Series, I introduced you to the three main types of English saddle:

  • The Dressage Saddle
  • The Jump or Jumping Saddle
  • The Event or Eventing Saddle

This article aims to introduce you to:

  • The Show or Showing Saddle
  • The Side Saddle
  • The Endurance Saddle

Remember! Saddles must be a suitable fit for BOTH horse and rider. This is imperative for comfort and safety.

The Show Saddle

show saddle
“The Classic Show Saddle has been developed with leading show rider and producer Katy Carter, to provide the perfect show saddle for both pony and rider.”
Description and photo from Black Country Saddles catalog

The design of the show saddle is to show off the conformation of the horse or pony being ridden. It achieves this with:

  • an elegant and minimalist profile
  • low pommel and cantle for neatness
  • straight-cut, dressage-style saddle flaps that free up and show off the horse’s shoulder
  • small knee rolls to subtly support rider’s leg position
  • the saddle can sometimes be in suede and the metal buttons covered in leather instead of exposed
There are many ridden classes in the showing world. This is the Mountain and Moorland class at The Horse of the Year Show

Note – it is customary to use a saddle-shaped saddlecloth or to forego the use of a saddle cloth entirely when in ridden show classes. This is to minimize covering the animal with excess tack. If I remember my Pony Club days correctly, it is to show the saddle is the correct fit for the horse or pony.

The Side Saddle

side saddle show endurance
A side saddle on a horse at the 2007 Devon Horse Show in Devon, PA, USA
Image by Fountains of Bryn Mawr

When adding the side saddle to my list of saddle styles, I failed to take into account that for every saddle you ride astride, there is a side saddle version. Talk about opening up a can of worms! The side saddle has:

  • double pommel (or horns). The top pommel is called the Fixed Head and is the one the right leg is hooked over. The bottom pommel is called the Leaping Head and curves over but does not touch the left thigh
  • the usual three billets/girth straps for the girth plus a fourth billet mounted lower for the balance girth (similar to the rear cinch of a western saddle)
  • flatter seat with lower cantle
  • only one stirrup (I have no idea why I felt the need to point that out!)
Some side saddle riders are just bonkers! I advise you to look up more YouTube videos of side saddle fanatic Susan Oakes. She is incredible!

The Endurance Saddle

Endurance saddle showing side
ReactorPanel Pegasus Super Lightweight Endurance Saddle RRP £2,995.00. Designed in conjunction with top British Endurance riders Kate and Rachel Atkinson.
Paraphrased description and photo from ReactorPanel® Saddles catalog

The design of the endurance saddle is to achieve maximum performance with the highest comfort, ensuring free movement of the horse’s shoulders while being lightweight. Extra design features include:

  • extra padding for horse and rider to keep both comfortable over long distances
  • large knee rolls to support the rider in a standing canter
  • open seat with close contact with the horse
  • larger weight-bearing surface
  • lots of D-rings to attach things to the endurance saddle such as water bottles and pouches
  • many endurance saddles have adjustable stirrup bars to change how the rider’s leg hangs

Part three will introduce you to my final three English style saddles. While I am sure my esteemed colleague, Beth Rauch, across the pond, will show you more distinct Western styles of saddles.

If you know what else an endurance rider hangs from those D-rings on the saddle, please let me know in the comments section. I had a Google fail with that one!