Need a saddle that can do it all?
Finding a good saddle that fits both horse and rider can be complex. While we 100% recommend contacting your local saddle fitter to make sure the saddle you buy fits your horse, it is also important to know what kind of saddle you want to use.
Maybe you don’t know what kind of saddle you want? Maybe you love dressage, but also love to pop over a cross-rail or two in your lessons…enter the All-Purpose (AP) Saddle. On one hand, an AP saddle is perfect for people exploring different disciplines. On the other hand, it may not be completely ideal for a specific discipline. The AP Saddle is a “jack of all trades and a master at none.” That said, the rest of that phrase goes “but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Without further adieu here are our top recommendations for AP Saddles!
What is an All-Purpose saddle?
AP saddles have a longer flap than a jumping saddle, but shorter flaps than a dressage saddle. They are forward cut (which means the flaps don’t go straight down) allowing the user to jump, but they can also be used for flatwork and trail rides.
All-Purpose (AP) saddles are also referred to as General Purpose (GP) saddles and the terms are pretty interchangeable. For this article, I’m using the term All-Purpose saddle.
|Henri de Rivel Vegan-X All Purpose||1 Carrot||Very affordable and lightweight|
|Bates All Purpose||3 Carrots||Easy to customize to your horse, comfortable|
|Arena All Purpose
|4 Carrots||CAIR cushion system, balanced seat, performance panels|
|Wintec 500 All Purpose
|2 Carrots||CAIR cushion system, an ergonomic stirrup bar for security in the saddle|
|Collegiate Scholar All Purpose||2 Carrots||Quality leather and a warranty!|
|Kincade Leather All Purpose||1 Carrot||Medium deep seat and airflow padded panels|
1 Carrot- $300-500, 2 Carrots- $500-999, 3 Carrots $1000-1500, 4 Carrots- $1500-2000, 5 Carrots- $2k+
The Pros to an All Purpose Saddle
AP saddles are widely popular in the English riding world. Here’s why:
- Great for multiple disciplines
- Low-Level Eventing
- Lower Level Jumping
- Trails and Flatwork
- Varied Price Points
The Cons to an All Purpose Saddle
While there are a lot of positives, there are some downsides to owning an AP saddle:
- Not ideal for a proper seat for equitation/hunt seat classes or higher jumps
- Not long enough/correct style for higher dressage classes
- Will need to be sold to purchase a discipline-specific saddle if you choose to specialize
Saddle Fitting Basics: How to Correctly Fit a Saddle
Correct saddle fit could be a whole blog post in itself, but here are a few basics to remember when looking for a correct fit.
For the Horse
- Saddle only. When fitting a saddle, do not use a saddle pad. You need to see how it sits directly on the horse.
- Wither clearance is important! Too high of a clearance? It could mean it is too tight and isn’t sitting properly. Too low could mean that the tree is too wide and isn’t going to allow your horse proper freedom of movement.
- A Level Seat. Does the saddle look level? It should provide proper weight distribution in the saddle. If it is tilting up or tilting down that could mean there is a problem in fit!
- Always test a saddle on its own first. Then try it with a girth and recheck! The change in pressure can change the fit of the saddle.
For The Rider
- Fit to the knee angle. I know that sounds weird, but you’re really fitting the saddle to your femur in a way. That means, you want to make sure your knee isn’t too pinched up on the saddle or hanging too long. If your knee hits at the top of the flap, it is too small—you need at least an inch of space!
- Hand on the Back. When you are sitting in the saddle, can you easily fit an entire hand on the back without any fingers spilling off? If not, your saddle is too small. If it is more than just one hand, it may be too big. Either is not ideal and can lead to you having incorrect positions.
- Goldilocks flap. Don’t let it be too long or too short! The knee angle/fit is most important, but you want to keep this in mind as well.
Best All Purpose Saddles
Henri de Rivel Vegan-X All Purpose Saddle
A unique non-leather alternative that is easy to clean and affordable.
- Soft and comfortable
- Easy to clean
- Won’t stand up to long-term use
- Synthetic wool flocking
Bates All Purpose in Heritage Leather
This saddle is great for a hard to fit horse!
- Easy Swap Gullet System
- Super grippy leather
- Not available in Luxe Leather
- Imported, so test models may be difficult to find
Arena All Purpose Saddle
Arena’s CAIR system distributes a rider’s weight evenly and is a unique aspect to this saddle! Not to mention gorgeous leather and an Elastiflex Tree!
- European Leather
- CAIR Cushion System
- Easy Change Gullet
- Moveable knee blocks can be a con for you… but a pro for your trainer! ha!
- Top-of-the-line quality means top-of-the-line price
Wintec 500 All-Purpose Saddle with HART
A classic AP saddle with new improvements!
- CAIR Cushion Panel system
- Easy Change Gullets
- Y girthing for saddle stability
- Synthetic leather (can flake after prolonged use)
- Non-leather sections wear quickly
Collegiate Scholar All Purpose Saddle
A saddle with a warranty? Sign me up!
- 2-year warranty! That’s amazing!
- Semi-deep seat for extra security
- Changeable gullets
- Stiffer leather
- Have to purchase other gullet sizes (comes with medium) and they can be hard to find
Kincade Leather All-Purpose Saddle
A great starter saddle at a great price!
- Memory foam panel for comfort
- Airflow padded flaps
- Memory foam can squish over time
- Lighter color may not work for the show ring
- Stiff when new
Ultimately, the best saddle is the one that fits you and your horse correctly. When looking for a new saddle, the conversation needs to begin with your trainer and include a consultation with a saddle fitter, or a conversation with someone at a tack store! Make sure you check the return policy on some of the online sites before you purchase. No one needs to be stuck with an expensive piece of equipment they can’t use.
Also, if you are budget-conscious, check out places like thetackhack.com or thetriedequestiran.com (or other consignment stores) to see what options they have. An added bonus? Used saddles are already worn in!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- 7 Best Non-Slip Saddle Pads That Actually Stay Put
- Best Supplements for OTTBs Who Need Extra Support
- Best Feed for an OTTB: An Art and a Science
- 8 Best Dressage Saddle Pads For Letter-Perfect Tests
- 7 Ways to Wow Judges & Improve Your Dressage Scores
- What Are the Levels of Dressage?
- 3 Best Dressage Boots for the Perfect Leg Position
- 3 Best Dressage Boots for Horses Moving Up the Levels