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The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Perfect English Saddle

The Ultimate Guide to English Saddles: Selecting the Right One

English riding is a discipline not only known for its elegance and deeply rooted traditions but also for its sophisticated gear and apparel. Among the most crucial pieces of tack is the saddle.

An English saddle encompasses much of the rider’s weight and communicates the subtle aids to the horse. Choosing the right one is vital for both the rider’s comfort and the horse’s wellbeing, especially during long rides or competitions.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the three primary types of English saddles: the all-purpose, the close contact, and the dressage saddle. We will cover their distinct traits, recommended uses, and essential considerations when selecting the right saddle.

Types of English Saddles

All-Purpose Saddles

As its name suggests, an all-purpose saddle is versatile and appropriate for a wide range of riding styles. It features a moderate to deep seat, straight-cut flap, padded knee rolls or blocks, and is suitable for lower-level dressage, jumping, lower-level eventing, recreational riding, and trail riding.

Due to its flexibility, beginners often start with an all-purpose saddle before mastering one discipline. It’s also great for riders on a budget who want to invest in one saddle that can be used for multiple activities.

Close Contact Saddles

A close contact saddle is popular among jumpers, hunt seat equitation, hunter under saddle, and flat classes. It has a minimalistic design, a flat seat, and a forward-cut flap that permits the rider to stay in an optimal position while jumping.

A significant feature of this saddle is its close contact with the horse, giving the rider better communication and a more natural feel. Advanced riders prefer close contact saddles as they demand greater balance and lower center of gravity, which can be challenging to achieve.

It typically has minimal padding, allowing the rider to move effortlessly and quickly while jumping or going over obstacles.

Dressage Saddles

Dressage saddles have a deeper seat, a longer stirrup length, and a significantly different leg position than other English saddles. They are designed to allow the rider’s leg to hang long while maintaining a correct position, and the deeper seat allows the rider to feel the horse’s every movement.

These saddles are essential for dressage, but they are also suitable for on-the-flat riding and recreational riding. Dressage saddles are not only for advanced riders but also a valuable investment to beginners aspiring to take dressage lessons.

They help develop a proper leg technique and position that will be useful in other disciplines.

Key Considerations


One of the most crucial aspects of choosing an English saddle is ensuring that it fits both the horse and the rider. The saddle should be designed to fit the horse’s back correctly, without pressing on the spine or withers and distributing the rider’s weight evenly.

For the rider, the size and shape of the seat and the placement of knee rolls or blocks play a significant role in their comfort and ability to maintain the correct position. Saddles come in various sizes and tree widths, and they must fit the rider’s body and fully support their weight.


English saddles come in various price ranges, from a few hundred dollars to thousands. While it may be tempting to opt for a cheaper model, keep in mind that a poorly fitting or uncomfortable saddle can cause long-term damage to both the horse and rider.

Consider your budget carefully and invest in a quality saddle that will last for years instead of a cheaper model that may need replacement or repair down the road. Form/Function

The form and function of an English saddle go beyond the design and price tag it includes the rider’s ability, riding discipline, and riding goals.

While there are saddles that offer versatility, each discipline has specific saddle requirements that must be considered. For instance, a jumper will need a close contact saddle that offers close contact and flexible movement.

A dressage rider will need a dressage saddle that promotes the correct leg position and provides a deeper seat for stability. Therefore, it is essential to consider your riding goals, discipline, and ability before selecting a saddle.

English Saddles Popular with Beginners

Choosing the right English saddle can be challenging, especially for beginners who are unfamiliar with the brands and designs. To ease the process, we have compiled a list of popular saddles among riders new to the discipline.

Henri de Rivel Lumina Close Contact Saddle: This saddle features a deep seat and padded knee rolls, perfect for riders starting their jumping journey. Collegiate Lectern Dressage Saddle: This saddle offers a deeper seat, ample clearance, and adjustable knee blocks, making it suitable for dressage riders of all levels.

Pessoa Gen X Elita II Saddle: Ideal for riders who want a versatile saddle, this model features a medium-deep seat and ideal for jumping, flat classes, and lower-level dressage. Wintec 500 Flocked All-Purpose Saddle: This saddle offers maximum comfort with adjustable knee and thigh rolls and has a wider gullet to fit a broader range of horses.

Bates Caprilli Close Contact Heritage: This saddle features an innovative CAIR panel system that enhances the horse’s comfort and flexibility while providing a close contact feel for the rider. Ideal for riders transitioning from a beginner’s saddle to intermediate level.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes an English saddle comfortable? The seat width, the shape of the seat, the depth of the seat and position of the knee rolls, and the padding all contribute to the rider’s comfort.

Which brand makes the best English saddles? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as different brands have their strengths and priorities.

However, some popular brands known for their quality and innovation include Pessoa, Bates, Henk de Rivel, and Collegiate. What is the best all-purpose English saddle?

The best all-purpose saddle depends on a rider’s needs, budget, and ability. However, some popular all-purpose saddles include the Henri de Rivel Advantage Saddles, Collegiate Convertible Diploma Saddle, and the Wintec 500 All-Purpose Saddle.

How much is a good English saddle? The price of an English saddle depends on various factors, including the brand, quality, and design.

A good saddle can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

Final Thoughts

Selecting the right English saddle is crucial to optimizing performance, preventing injuries, and keeping both the rider and horse comfortable. Consider the discipline, fit, and budget when choosing an English saddle.

With thorough research and the correct information, riders can find the perfect saddle for their needs and abilities. English saddles play a significant role in riding performance, and as such, choosing the right saddle shape, size, and design is crucial.

From a beginner to an experienced rider, an ill-fitting saddle can cause discomfort, bad habits, soreness, and affect balance and performance. Therefore, when selecting an English saddle, it is essential to consider the following key factors – fit, budget, and form & function.


An ill-fitting saddle can cause serious harm to both the horse and rider. An ill-fitted saddle can cause discomfort and even soreness to the horse, making them unhappy and unwilling to move correctly.

When the horse is not moving correctly, the rider may resort to bad habits to compensate, leading to poor riding posture and performance. To avoid this, it is crucial to ensure that the saddle fits both the horse and the rider correctly.

A well-fitted saddle should distribute the rider’s weight evenly, and the horse should not feel any pressure points on the back. In addition, a good saddle should stabilize the leg position and help the rider maintain the proper form throughout the ride.

One way to ensure a good fit is by finding the right saddle size. It is also crucial to measure the horse’s back to ensure that the saddle’s length and width fit its shape.

Additionally, some saddles feature adjustable gullets, allowing the rider to change the width of the saddle to fit a broader range of horses.


Horses require several pieces of gear and accessories, such as a saddle, a helmet, and the well care. Many riders also invest in training and lessons, making equestrianism an expensive sport.

Therefore, when thinking about purchasing a saddle, it is essential to consider the budget. For riders on a tight budget, going for a used saddle is an excellent option.

However, it is crucial to ensure that the used saddle is in excellent condition and fits both the horse and the rider correctly. Additionally, investing in a quality saddle can last for decades, saving money in the long-term, even if the initial cost is higher.

It is essential to be careful about making trade-offs between price and quality. Low-cost saddles may seem like a great deal, but poorly manufactured saddles may not fit the rider and the horse accurately, leading to discomfort and poor performance.


When selecting an English saddle, it is vital to consider the discipline, riding style, and rider’s goals. Different saddles are designed to meet the specific needs and requirements of different riding styles and levels.

A close-contact saddle, for instance, is ideal for jumping and promotes a forward seat riding position. A dressage saddle, on the other hand, has a deeper seat and promotes the correct leg position.

Without the right saddle, it is challenging to succeed in a particular discipline or make significant improvement.

Saddle Selection

Selecting the right saddle may be challenging, especially for beginners. However, some top-selling brands offer quality saddles with reasonable pricing and unique features that appeal to varying riding styles and budgets.

Henri de Rivel is a reputable manufacturer of equestrian products known for producing quality and affordable saddles. The Henri de Rivel Lumina Close Contact Saddle is suitable for entry-level jumping and features a medium-deep seat, narrow twist, and grippy leather.

The saddle also has adjustable blocks and comes with a lifetime warranty. Another brand, Collegiate, offers the Collegiate Lectern Dressage Saddle, a hand-crafted saddle, perfect for dressage riders of all levels.

The saddle features a deep seat, large knee blocks, and a Y-shaped girthing system that offers the rider improved stability and feel. The saddle also comes with a changeable gullet and is priced at an entry-level price point.

It comes with a 2-year saddle warranty and 10-year tree manufacturer warranty. Pessoa Gen X Elita II Saddle is another example of quality and comfortable saddle design that offers a patented X-Change Interchangeable Gullet System.

This saddle provides superior balance with its flexible carbon fiber spring tree and is suitable for jumping. The Pessoa Gen X Elita II Saddle comes with an adjustable seat size, a long flap, and a forward flap to customize the saddle’s fit.

This saddle is known for its high value retention in the used saddle market. Wintec offers the Wintec 500 Flocked All-Purpose Saddle, a low-maintenance synthetic saddle that has a modern and sleek design.

The saddle offers the rider support and a grippy seat with the Equi-Leather. The saddle also features a soft flocked panel and comes with an Easy-Change gullet system and saddle customization options.

Lastly, Bates Caprilli Close Contact Heritage is an innovative saddle that is very comfortable, suitable for riders transitioning from beginner to intermediate levels. The saddle includes the CAIR Cushion System that enhances the horse’s comfort and flexibility.

The Bates Caprilli Close Contact Heritage saddle is also known for its affordable price and offers an Easy-Change Gullet and a riser system. With its quality leather, this saddle has a high value retention in the used saddle market.


In conclusion, selecting an English saddle should not be taken lightly since the right choice can affect the horse and the rider’s performance and wellbeing. When selecting a saddle, it is crucial to consider the fit, budget, and form & function.

By understanding these key factors and considering reputable brands, riders can invest in a quality saddle that meets their needs and improves their performance. English saddles are an essential part of horse riding, and choosing the right one can make a significant difference in the rider’s comfort, performance, and the horse’s wellbeing.

However, with so many brands, models, and types of saddles on the market, selecting the right one can be confusing. In this section, we will address several frequently asked questions about English saddles.

What is the most comfortable English saddle? The most comfortable English saddle depends on the individual rider’s preferences and needs, but some brands have gained a reputation for producing comfortable saddles.

Bates is one such brand, known for its CAIR Cushion System, which offers superior comfort and adjustability. Their saddles evenly distribute pressure across the horse’s back, preventing soreness.

Wintec saddles are also praised for being comfortable due to their supportive and grippy Equi-Leather, which conforms to the rider’s position while providing a secure seat. These saddles also feature the Easy-Change gullet system, which offers adjustability to ensure a comfortable fit for the horse.

What is the best English saddle brand? There are several reputable English saddle brands on the market that are known for producing quality products.

However, the best brand for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. When selecting a brand, consider quality, fit, and the horse’s comfort.

Popular brands include Pessoa, Bates, Collegiate, Stubben, Passier, and Henri de Rivel. These brands offer saddle options for all riding disciplines, including dressage, jumping, and all-purpose.

What is the best all-purpose English saddle? The best all-purpose English saddle depends on several factors, such as the rider’s skill level, body shape, and riding style.

Nevertheless, several models are ideal for beginner riders and feature saddle customization options that ensure a perfect fit. It is always advisable to test ride a saddle before purchase.

The Bates Caprilli Close Contact Heritage saddle is a suitable option for entry-level riders. It has the CAIR Cushion System, which provides comfort and easy adaptability to the horse’s back shape.

The saddle also features the Easy-Change Gullet and riser system, and quality leather makes it a high-value retention saddle in the used market. Another option is the Wintec 500 Flocked All-Purpose Saddle, which features a low-maintenance Equi-Leather, providing a supportive and grippy seat.

The saddle’s Easy-Change Gullet System allows for customization to fit the horse better, while its soft flocked panel offers utmost comfort for the horse. How much is a good saddle?

The price of a good saddle depends on the quality, brand, and customization options. Generally, a high-quality new saddle costs more.

However, it is essential to consider the saddle’s long-term value and plan to invest in a quality saddle that lasts many years. Saddle prices range from under $1,000 to up to $10,000, with most quality saddles available in the $1,000-$2,500 range.

For those on a tight budget, purchasing a used saddle is an excellent option

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