10 Types of English Saddles: The Ultimate Guide

English saddles are used in English riding disciplines all over the world. There are several different types of English saddles. Although there is no official classification of its types, they are generally categorized according to their structure and use. 

For example, if you need a close feel with the horse to give it better signals, then it’s best to have a dressage saddle. With English saddles comes greater movement and consequently greater freedom. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about English saddle types.

What are English Saddles?

An English Saddle is a broad term used for all the saddles used in English riding disciplines like eventing, dressage and many more. The saddles are named after the discipline in which they are used such as:

  • Eventing saddle 
  • Dressage saddle
  • Saddle seat saddle
  • Endurance saddle
  • Polo saddle 
  • Racing Saddle
  • English Showing Saddle
  • Jumping Saddle

If you’re looking to buy one, then I’d highly recommend checking out our top picks here.

One of the most obvious differences between English Saddle and Western Saddle is their size. Western saddles are larger and heavier as compared to the English Saddles. The English Saddle helps the rider achieve closer contact with the horse to steer it more efficiently. 

On that note, you can also check out our piece on the types of Western saddles.

Since there’s a difference in the English and Western saddle, so both riding styles differ a bit as well.

The position of the rider remains unchanged irrespective of the riding discipline. The main difference between the two styles is that in the English riding style, the rider has contact with the mouth of the horse via the reins. This helps when directing and speeding the horse. On the contrary, the Western riding style is a bit more complicated because there is no contact available with the reins to the mouth of the horse. In this style, the horse is steered by the seat by varying the weight of the rider and using the reins.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Types of English Saddles

Several types of English saddles are produced for specific riding disciplines. Here are all the types of English saddles.

1. Eventing Saddle (AKA the “All-Purpose” Saddle)

Eventing saddle is called the “All-purpose saddle” because you can use it in any riding discipline that you want without spending a lot of money. It comes with concealed knee rolls, a deep-padded seat and some padded flaps.

Eventing saddles are very comfortable for the horse due to their padded panels. However, if you’d like to make them even more comfortable, then we’d recommend pairing them with a nice horse saddle pad (here are our top choices).

Flatwork can be easily done with the help of longer flaps and a high cantle. This saddle is perfect for trail riding because of its deep padded seat. The lowered pummel offers the horse the freedom to jump. If you’re looking for an all-rounder, I’d surely recommend you to try this saddle on Amazon.

2. Dressage Saddle

Dressage saddles are used in a riding event called dressage. It is an event in which the rider and the horse are judged on how well a series of movements can be performed by them. 

The dressage saddle has a deep-seated appearance. This saddle is designed to offer maximum comfort and utility in a dressage event, both for the horse and the rider. This saddle must keep the rider intact for the majority of the time. So while jumping, the saddle angles forward to keep the rider in place.

A dressage saddle requires a higher cantle and a straighter flap to functionally operate. If you’re looking to buy a saddle for such a type of event, then give this one a look on Amazon.

3. Jumping Saddle

Wanna take on those high fences? Then this is the saddle you need. Jumping saddles include a cutback head that fits well on the majority of the horses. 

The deep seat of a jumping saddle is perfect for that extra stability you require during a jump. The dressage saddle is a bit high on top. On the contrary, the jumping saddle is quite flat. The pommel and cantle of this saddle are also very low and that is the main reason why it does not hinder in jumping. If jumping horses is your passion, then I’d recommend you to check out this saddle on Amazon.

4. Saddle Seat Saddle

This is a saddle that’s particularly used in an event called Saddle Seat. Some believe that the Saddle seat saddle is a variation of the show saddle that’s used in English riding.

The saddle seat is somewhat longer and flatter than the dressage saddle. When using it, the center of gravity of the rider is farther back on the horse as compared to other saddle types, though, the rider still maintains balance. 

This type of English saddle consists of a cutback pommel to allow the shoulders and legs of the horse to move freely. The flap of saddle seat saddle ends closer to the cantle. Interestingly, no other saddle ends so close in English riding. These extended flaps keep the rider’s legs safe.

5. Endurance Saddle

Endurance saddles are used for long-distance competitions. The main task of this saddle is to provide long term comfort to both the rider and the horse so that they can cover rough terrains and longer routes efficiently. These saddles are slightly extended for better contact with the back of the horse, hence, the fatigue is reduced dramatically. 

The panels are stuffed with materials that can spread the weight and pressure evenly on the horse. The Western endurance saddle, however, is larger and heavier but it can, at times, strain the horse. If you are looking for an English endurance saddle, then you should take a look at this one that I found on Amazon.

6. Pony Saddles

There are two types of pony saddles, the all-purpose style saddle and the close contact style saddle. This type of English saddle is usually made of leather but other synthetic materials can prove to be cost-effective. 

Generally, pony saddles are used for children but some companies also make pony saddles for adults. Out of all the Pony saddles available on Amazon, this one is my favorite.

7. Side Saddle

The side saddle was used by women from the 14th to 19th century, in which they would sit with both legs on the same side. Today, it is used by riders who have injuries that may otherwise prevent them from riding a horse. 

Some riders also think that riding while sitting on a side saddle is a combination of skill and art and continue to do so to keep the skill alive. 

Side saddles may be used in show jumping. However, since very few people use them today, they are hard to find and can be costly as well. Today, side saddles are usually found at antique shops and in barn lofts. Sidesaddle has one stirrup along with two pommels and a horn. The ones that do not have a horn are considered unsafe. The seat is wide so as to accommodate the rider.

8. English Showing Saddle

English showing saddles are used in show horse competitions. It is a minimal saddle with a straight-cut flap.

English showing saddles offer little or no support to the rider as there are no thigh or knee rolls. The stirrup bar is more forward and the pommel is backward. The seat, however, is less flat than the Western saddles. 

9. Polo Saddle

Polo saddles are used in mounted games like, you guessed it, polo! The flaps of these saddles are long and straight so that the legs can be kept aligned. Other than that, polo saddles have a flatter seat.

The thing that makes polo saddles different is that there is no padding under the leg so that the rider can move the legs freely. If there were any blocks, the rider could not move his legs freely while riding and scoring. 

10. Racing Saddle

Racing Saddles are designed to not interfere in the running of the horse. They need to be as light as possible because if they are not lightweight, the horse and the rider may end up losing the game. 

Racing saddles have a long seat and no dip in them while the flaps are extremely forward to accommodate the jockey. Other than that, racing saddles have a flat pommel and cantle so the rider is also not interfered by anything. The stirrups are looped over the wooden bars so that the bulk can be reduced. Racing saddles generally weigh 1 pound, the lightest, however, is 8 ounces. 

How to Size and Fit an English Saddle?

The size and fit of an English saddle mostly depend on the riding discipline. In dressage, for example, the rider has to sit in an upright position, so the seat needs to be closer to the withers. This way, the center of gravity of the rider will be just right. 

In disciplines like jumping, in which you require great balance, the flap needs to be more forward and consequently, the seat needs to be moved farther back. Similarly, the seat itself moves more towards the cantle. If the flap is not forward, the leg would get pushed out, resulting in instability. On the other hand, if the seat is not moved backward, the rider would scoot forward when the horse clears a fence. 

The size, shape and amount of filling material inside the saddle also vary a lot between the saddles used in each discipline. A polo saddle is made with minimum padding so that it does not interfere with the rider’s movement atop the horse and allows him maximum reach with the polo stick. Jumping and eventing saddles have more padding to offer greater comfort. 

English Saddle Types FAQ

Several questions are asked about saddles by people all over the globe. Some of them are described below:

What are the different types of English Saddles?

English saddle is a term for all the saddles used in English riding disciplines. There are various types of English saddles including: 

  • Eventing saddle 
  • Dressage saddle
  • Jumping saddle
  • Saddle seat saddle
  • Endurance saddle
  • Sidesaddle
  • Pony saddle
  • English Showing Saddle
  • Polo saddle 
  • Racing Saddle

As you can probably tell, English saddles are divided into different types based on riding disciplines.

What are the best English Saddle brands?

Most of the saddle brands produce good quality products. However, if you want the best saddle for your horse, then these are the top English saddle brands:

  • Pessoa Saddles
  • M. Toulouse 
  • Collegiate Saddlery 
  • Bates Saddles
  • Freedman’s Saddlery
  • Stubben

What is a close contact saddle?

The saddles that are used for hunt seat events are close contact saddles. These events include fox hunting and hunt seat equitation. Close contact saddles are also called forward seat saddles. Their flaps are rounded and short as compared to the dressage saddle. The seat is deep but convex. These saddles are made up of a girth and three billets with two buckles. 

How much does a Good English saddle cost?

The cost of saddles depends on whether you want to buy ready-made or custom-made saddles. The ready-made saddles generally cost about $500 but the quality of the leather is often poor and withers out early. Custom-made saddles, however, can cost thousands of dollars depending on the size of the horse and the material that you want. Another option is to buy a used saddle. These saddles come in a variety of prices depending on the saddle’s quality, type and how much of use it has endured. 

What size English saddle do I need?

If you have had a western saddle before, then it is quite easy to determine what size English saddle you need. An English saddle is normally two inches larger than the Western one. Just to give an example, if you ride a 16.5″ Western saddle, you will most probably need an 18.5″ English saddle.

If you haven’t had a Western saddle before, then you’ll need to measure your leg size to get a ballpark figure of the size of your English saddle.

For this, you’ll need to sit down on a chair with your feet placed flat on the ground. Then with your back pushed all the way back against the chair, measure from the tip of your knee to the back of your buttocks.

The resultant measurement is your upper leg size.

Here’s a table of English saddle sizes based on leg length calculated using this method.

Leg Measurement English Saddle Size
16.5 inches or less (less than 42 cm) 15 inches
16.5-18.5 inches (42-47 cm) 16 inches
18.5-20 inches (47-51 cm) 16.5 inches
20-21.5 inches (51-54.5 cm) 17 inches
21.5-23 inches (54.5-58.5 cm) 17.5 inches
23-24.5 inches (58.5-62 cm) 18 inches


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *