English saddles are the most common type of saddle you’ll see used throughout the world, and have the typical shape you’ll see young children draw in pictures, with a relatively flat seat and large flap. Their biggest differentiating factor from western saddles (the other type of saddle) is that they have a much smaller tree, which creates the s...
English saddles are the most common type of saddle you’ll see used throughout the world, and have the typical shape you’ll see young children draw in pictures, with a relatively flat seat and large flap. Their biggest differentiating factor from western saddles (the other type of saddle) is that they have a much smaller tree, which creates the structure of the saddle and helps create the space under the saddle for the spine, in which two panels sit either side of. In an English saddle, trees are small and have no horn, which is the “handle” at the front of the saddle.
The English saddle as we know it today originated in England in the 18th century, as foxhunting became more popular and horse and rider were required to be more athletic and tackle ditches, hedges, walls, and fences. Traditionally, saddles used for long-distance travel and work had high pommels and cantles, but this style of saddle is too restrictive for fast work and jumping.
Modern English saddles have evolved significantly, especially in the last three decades or so as technology has advanced and competitive riding has become more accessible. There are now numerous styles and iterations of each type of English saddle, these are:
The fit of English saddles depends on the shape of the tree, the width of the gullet, the cut of the saddle over or behind the shoulder, and the seat size.
Girths typically do up under the saddle flap (under the leg) on jumper and general-purpose saddles, though sometimes they have billets (the leather straps the girth does up to) like those on dressage and eventing saddles, where the billets are long so the girth does up lower down, typically near the rider’s ankle.
When the saddle fits the horse correctly you need very little extra equipment to use one, though there are plenty of options if you want to adjust the fit slightly or add some extra security. To use an English saddle all you need is a girth, stirrup leathers, and stirrups, and a saddle pad is used at all times other than for some showing classes, to give the saddle more grip, wick away sweat, and provide some extra cushioning for the horse. Other equipment you may see used are half-pads under the saddle and breastplates to prevent the saddle from slipping back.