Gear Riding

5 Best English Equitation Saddles for Show Ring Success

best english equitation saddles
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Written by Susie W.

Start with these top-rated choices to stand out in the show ring.

Equitation classes, whether on the flat or over fences, focus on the rider’s form and effectiveness. A saddle that helps encourage and maintain a correct position is important to be successful in. Additionally, the rider’s turnout and appearance is judged—you’ll want to find a saddle that will look nice in the show pen.

For these reasons, the budget for an equitation saddle may need to be a bit higher than that of an entry-level equestrian more focused on recreational riding. The saddles reviewed in this article are known to be the best of the best! When in doubt, consult a saddle fitter to help dial in the perfect match for you and your horse.

Key Considerations

The most important factor to consider when purchasing a saddle is how it fits—both you and your horse. You should try to buy the best saddle you can afford, but it will be even more important in a class like Equitation where you are judged on your position and appearance/turnout.

  • Saddle Type: English Equitation is judged either on the flat or over fences. If it is a flat class, you will be judged on whether it looks like you can successfully navigate a jump. A forward seat is critical—you will only want to consider close contact (jumping style) saddles for equitation classes.
  • Adjustability: Obviously customization gets expensive. You don’t necessarily need to shell out tons of cash for a custom saddle—there are several “off the rack” sizing factors when considering the fit for you, mostly check seat size and flap length. There also are a few sizing aspects of the saddle that affect the horse. Since saddle trees are generally not adjustable—you’ll want to pick the right size from the beginning (generally narrow, medium, or wide). The gullet is where you often have some more control over adjustments. Many saddles come with adjustable gullets which are helpful if you are switching between different horses, or if your horse’s fitness level changes.
  • Balance: To excel in an Equitation class, you need to be able to maintain a correct and effective position on your horse as you navigate a course of fences or a pattern on the flat. A saddle that helps put you in the correct position is important. Some saddles better emphasize balance and correct position than others. The best way to know if a saddle is comfortable and works for you is to ride in it. Some saddle sellers will offer test rides—a great way to try before you buy. We also suggest taking some time to understand specific return policies.

Best English Equitation Saddles

Antarès Original Signature Jumping Saddle

Antarès saddles are made in Saintes, France. They are hand-made and the company takes pride in preserving the French saddle making legacy and traditional craftsmanship. This brand divides their saddles into three categories; the Antarès Sellier line is completely customized to the horse and rider.

The Signature by Antarès line offers semi-customization and is meant to improve riding position for competitive events (definitely an attractive feature for Equitation riders). If customization is less important, the Altaïr collection includes ready-to-wear saddles still positioned at improving rider technique.

antares signature saddle

Click to see it at SmartPak

Pros:

  • Fantastic customer reviews—this saddle is highly recommended by those who own it. 93% of reviewers on SmartPak’s website recommend it
  • The leather is very grippy, which is helpful for maintaining the proper position during an equitation class
  • Comfortable and designed to reinforce correct rider position—very important in equitation classes

Cons:

  • Very popular saddle; several reviewers commented that it was on backorder without an accurate ETA
  • Price point may be a bit high for an entry-level equitation saddle

Where to Learn More: SmartPak

Bates Caprilli Close Contact+ with CAIR

Bates saddles

are designed for high quality and comfort. The patented CAIR Cushion system helps better distribute the rider’s weight over the horse’s back. Bates saddles also come with an EASY-CHANGE Gullet and riser system, helping customize fit to your specific horse’s conformation. Additionally, the leather is soft, grippy, and high-quality.

Bates-Caprilli-Close-Contact-Saddle-CAIR-min

Click to see it at State Line Tack

Pros:

  • A reasonable price point for a new saddle, especially if you are just getting into the sport
  • Highly customizable options for optimal fit; known for its ability to fit multiple horses
  • Relatively easy to find in terms of distribution

Cons:

  • Mixed reviews from customers
  • CAIR system described as “bouncy” by some riders

Where to Learn More: State Line Tack

CWD Close Contact Saddle

CWD saddles

are very popular at the top-rated hunter/jumper and eventing competitions. One source cited 11% of the top 100 riders globally use CWD saddles. These saddles are reliable, popular, and comfortable. Designed for jumping, this saddle offers freedom of movement and customization options.

CWD close contact saddle

Click to see it at CWD

Pros:

  • Very popular saddle among top jumping competitors (for good reason)
  • Saddles focused on innovation and attuned to show requirements
  • CWD is highly focused on customer service

Cons:

  • High price point – It may be worth considering a used saddle if you have your heart set on this brand
  • Limited distribution – may need to buy directly from CWD

Where to Learn More: CWD Website

online horse courses

Prestige Italia Versailles D Jumping Saddle

Prestige saddles

are made in Italy with a focus on innovation and craftsmanship. These saddles are designed to enhance the rider’s comfort and well-being of the horse. “To appreciate Prestige is to appreciate quality.” This close contact saddle has a medium depth seat with a narrow twist and is a great choice for a balanced, forward seat over fences.

Prestige Italia Versailles

Click to see it at Amazon

Pros:

  • 2 year warranty and lifetime warranty on the tree and stirrup bars
  • Perfectly balanced
  • Highly customizable sizing options for a great fit

Cons:

  • Not recommended for horses with large withers
  • These saddles may be a bit tougher to find, especially if you are looking at the used market

Where to Learn More: Amazon

Pessoa Gen X Elita II Saddle

Pessoa saddles

, made in Argentina, are popular choices in the Equitation ring. They are known for quality, have a good resale value, and are designed to help the rider find balance. With a patented X-Change Interchangeable Gullet System and flexible carbon fiber spring tree, these saddles are comfortable for the horse as well as the rider.

Pessoa-Gen-X-Elita-II-Saddle-min

Click to see it at State Line Tack

Pros:

  • Pessoa saddles are known for their quality and tend to hold their value well
  • A great novice saddle, Pessoa saddles excel in both flatwork and over fences
  • There are many sizing options available to customize fit to both the horse and the rider

Cons:

  • This particular saddle has an interchangeable gullet, but only a Medium size tree, so it may not be the best choice for a very narrow or wide horse
  • Some reviews referred to this saddle as more of a “general purpose” than close contact saddle, citing that it may not be optimal for a horse that needs a lot of leg contact

Where to Learn More: State Line Tack

Parting Thoughts

While proper fit is always important, finding a saddle that fits well, is comfortable, and encourages correct body position is essential for Equitation classes. Don’t let the price points of these saddles deter you. They are considered “worth it.” Reading up on these different saddles, design terminology, and customer reviews will help educate you for your saddle search.

It’s never a bad idea to consider a used saddle—you may be able to afford a higher quality saddle that will make a positive impact on your riding by exploring the secondhand saddle market.

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Sources/References

https: //horsesandfoals.com/pessoa-saddle-review/
https: //www.theplaidhorse.com/2017/08/02/top-two-popular-english-saddles/
https: //www.purehorsesense.com/blogposts/bates-caprilli-close-contact-saddle-review
https: //www.horseforum.com/threads/any-experiences-with-bates-caprilli-saddles.367586/

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About the author

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Susie W.

Horses are my first love, but travel is a close second! I grew up riding in 4-H and went on to ride on my college equestrian team. As an adult, I've ridden and shown Quarter Horses for 20+ years, including several wins at Quarter Horse Congress. I also worked for 7 years at a leading horse feed company, and I'm passionate about equine health and nutrition. Lastly, I have a big soft spot in my heart for senior horses!