Differences Varieties of Horse Saddles

As the central piece of horse tack and essential for modern horseback riding, horse saddles come in several varieties. The two types from which all others are derived are the English saddle and the Western saddle. At its most basic, a horse saddle is a structure that sits atop a horse’s back to support a rider. It is held in place by a girth – usually a leather strap running underneath the horse. Although the two most common variants of saddles are named English and Western, neither actually originated in England or the American west, respectively. A common type of English saddle was developed by a Frenchman, and the Western saddle is a descendent of Iberian saddles brought to the New World by Spanish Conquistadors.

Despite their origins, the saddles owe their names to custom and common use. The English saddle is used by riders throughout the world riding in the English style. The term is used to describe many types of equestrian events including polo, horse racing, dressage, saddle seat and show jumping. The Western saddle, on the other hand, also known as the “stock” saddle, was brought into prominence in modern times by its use among cattle ranchers of the western United States. Rodeos, barrel racing, cattle roping and trail riding are horseback riding activities that use the Western saddle to this day.

There are some notable differences among English and Western saddles, but they share many of the same components. The main parts of a saddle are the tree, seat, pommel or swells, cantle, stirrups, leathers, girth and padding. The tree is the base upon which the saddle is constructed. It will vary depending on the size of the horse and rider. The seat is where the rider sits, while the pommel or swells is the raised area in the front of the saddle. The cantle is the back of the saddle, the stirrups are where the riders’ feet are placed, and the leathers are the straps that connect the stirrups to the tree. The girth or cinch is the strap that goes underneath the horse and keeps the saddle in place. Lastly, the padding is cushioning that rests between the horse’s back and the saddle.

English saddles are flatter in appearance, with a lower pommel and cantle which allow the rider more freedom to move about on the saddle. This saddle took on its modern form in the 18th century for fox hunting expeditions. Later, the flaps – a component of the leathers – were placed at an angle to allow riders to jump high fences and ride quickly over tough terrain. Western saddles have what is known as a horn – traditionally a knob to secure a lariat, a higher pommel and cantle, and because it has no padding of its own, a saddle blanket is required.

These two saddle types comprise the bulk of equestrian saddles. There are, however, other types used by various ethnic groups, but in the Western world the English and Western saddles and their derivatives are most common.


The saddle is the connection between horse and rider and one of the most important elements in your partnership so why go anywhere else to choose the most important thing for you and your horse. We are a market leader in supplying equestrian products such as saddles. We honestly believe our range of saddles offers a great choice for discerning riders. 

British Saddlery aim to assist you in your quest to find a saddle and give you impartial advice. We make the process of buying a saddle simple and easy- Let's face it; you would probably prefer to be riding your horse than sitting worrying about what saddle you should be sitting in.

We offer saddles with revolutionary new designs and exceptional support and stability. We offer dressage saddles supporting your position and give you depth and security. Show jumping saddles engineered for precision performance and ultimate contact for those tricky turns against the clock and GP saddles that give you everything you need for all disciplines and activities. We can also provide English saddles and Western Saddles if you prefer the cowboy look and feel.

We give you the real low-down on the products. Letting you know not only the features of the saddles but our honest opinion. Where else can you get that?!

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