Saddle Shopping Made Easy
Horseback riding is expensive, especially when you need a new (or used) saddle. Not only does it need to suit your activity, but it also needs to fit your horse and you. Finding this saddle “trifecta” can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible.
If you want to show in a specific discipline or class, you should shop for the best saddle you can afford for that specific event. Riders more interested in riding for recreation should choose the most comfortable saddle. In either case, you should always ensure the saddle you select fits your horse very well.
An ill-fitting saddle can cause discomfort, bad behaviors, and long-term damage to your horse.
There are many different choices when it comes to English saddle shopping, so the first thing we’ll do is break down the different types:
- All Purpose: These saddles have been modified to allow the rider to lengthen the stirrup for lower-level dressage or jump for lower-level eventing. This particular style of saddle doesn’t specialize in either discipline. It is best for recreational or trail riding.
- Close Contact: Also referred to as jumping saddles, close contact saddles are ideal for getting the rider into a forward-seat for jumping. They are also prevalent in hunter under saddle and equitation classes (on the flat).
- Dressage: Dressage saddles are built with a deeper seat and allow for a longer leg position. The rider should be centrally balanced. Dressage saddles are appropriate for dressage classes or recreational riding if you prefer this saddle style.
Are you looking for an all-purpose saddle? Check out our top 6 recommendations for English all-purpose saddles.
There are certain areas where cutting corners to save some dollars is appropriate and encouraged. (Stocking up on a new pair of winter riding boots in April? Absolutely.)
There are also other areas where it’s really worth spending the extra dollars. The top three areas in the “Buy the Best You Can” category are:
- Your Horse: When horse shopping, be realistic about your budget and expectations. It may make sense to spend extra money upfront in this area. For example, I spent less initially on my first horse, a green-broke three-year-old. I paid for it in the long run—it took two full years to get to our first horse show, and I spent thousands of dollars on horse training because I wasn’t the right person to train this particular horse. Had I saved up more initially, I could have increased my price range to buy a horse better suited to me and my riding goals from the start.
- Your Helmet: Horses are large, prey animals. They can be unpredictable. It is always suggested to wear a helmet when riding.
- While cheaper helmets may protect you (if they fit correctly), more expensive models will have a more customized fit, be more comfortable, and (quite honestly) look better. All of these factors will encourage you to wear the helmet instead of leaving it behind. You only have one brain—best to protect it!
- Your Saddle: Your saddle connects you to your horse. You will spend hours in it. If you or your horse are uncomfortable, it will show in your performance and could cause long-term problems. (Think: back issues for one or both of you!) Human and horse chiropractors are expensive—you’ll be better off buying the best you can afford from the beginning.
The “best” English saddle will be the one that fits you and your horse.
If you buy the highest quality saddle you can afford (don’t forget about used saddles—they can be a great option, especially if you are budget-conscious), it can last you many years.
A well-made, well-cared-for saddle could easily last 15-20 years. It is worth spending the extra money!
Check out this post on leather care for expert tips on keeping your saddle in great shape.
New vs. Used Saddles
Although new saddles can come with a high price tag, the brands featured in this post are durable. You can expect your initial investment to continue paying off for years to come.
With that being said, there is an argument to be made for investing in a used saddle.
A high-quality used saddle often has many miles left, especially if it’s a reputable brand and has received appropriate care.
But, buying used comes with risks. Saddles can have irreparable damage not apparent to the untrained eye. For example, a broken tree can cause discomfort and pain to a horse.
If you’re considering a used saddle, it’s always best to consult an expert to ensure the saddle will be functional for you and the horse.
Did you know there are professionals trained in the art of saddle fitting? Scroll down to read more about how this specialist can help correct saddle fit issues.
Here is a comparison chart showing some different saddle makers and basic info:
|Best English Saddle Brands|
|Made for performance|
|Designed for advanced rider|
|Bates (State Line Tack)||Focused on comfort|
|Collegiate (State Line Tack)||Exceptional price|
|Great entry-level saddle|
|Pessoa (State Line Tack)||Great on the flat & over fences|
|Known for feel & balance|
|Hermès||Hand-made to your measurements|
|High cost for high quality|
Who Makes the Best English Saddles?
These saddles are all hand-made with complete customization options to perfectly fit you and your horse. Produced in Saintes, France, the Antarès brand is committed to preserving the French saddle-making legacy while protecting traditional crafting.
Antarès saddles are divided into three categories:
- The Antarès Sellier line offers a completely custom saddle in jumping, dressage, endurance, and eventing disciplines. Over 120,000 unique points of differentiation are possible within just the jumping saddle design.
- Signature by Antarès provides a semi-custom option designed to improve your riding position for competition events. This collection includes dressage, jumping, and mono-flap models, emphasizing balance and contact.
- The Altaïr collection provides ready-to-wear saddles designed for riders looking to improve their technique. This line includes dressage, jumping, a mono flap, and a junior saddle.
- The Signature Jumping Saddle is made with premium Argentinian leather and a traditional beechwood tree for optimal comfort.
- The Altaïr jumping saddle has a semi-deep seat for pelvic engagement. It is designed to encourage a correct leg position.
Bates saddles are innovative and engineered to optimize your and your horse’s performance in specialized saddles by discipline. High quality is of the utmost importance. The brand prides itself in “unsurpassed quality, innovation, and radically different performance each rider can expect.”
What sets it apart:
- Leather —These saddles are made from the highest quality, hand-selected European leather. Bates categorizes the leather they use into three categories: Luxe, Opulence, and Heritage.
- High-Performance Features — Bates places a heavy emphasis on quality control and has advanced testing and monitoring techniques to ensure top quality
- Saddle Fit — Bates saddles come with a revolutionary “EASY-CHANGE Fit Solution” to ensure you have an optimal fit for top performance.
Collegiate is focused on connection—they offer products you need to make the best possible connection with your horse.
What sets it apart:
- Fit—Collegiate saddles come with an Opti-Fit changeable gullet, so your saddle fit can change as needed with your horse
- Warranty—Collegiate offers a 2-year saddle warranty and 10-year tree warranty
- Value—Collegiate offers comfortable, quality saddles at more of an economy price point
Nelson and Rodrigo Pessoa developed a complete line of saddles that excel both on the flat and over fences. They focus on innovation and high quality. The tree helps riders find the correct position for optimal balance.
What sets it apart:
- Balance—All Pessoa saddles utilize the same tree, providing exactly the same balance and position.
- Fit—Pessoa saddles feature a patented X-Change Interchangeable gullet system, and panels focused on eliminating pressure with the best possible fit.
- Tree—-Pessoa uses a flexible carbon fiber spring tree. These are lightweight but strong, providing flexion without losing resistance.
Hermès sells more than just saddles—head to their website and browse fragrances, clothing, watches, and equestrian items. Hermès is based in Paris and believes in the freedom to create, emphasizing beautiful items that will be unique and “stand the test of time.”
What sets it apart:
- Custom—Saddles are hand-made by a single craftsman to your measurements.
- Partnership—Hermès works with known champions and young riders alike to solicit feedback, allowing for an innovative approach to saddle making and design.
- Price—All new saddles are priced at $8,200.
The Role of a Saddle Fitter
Did you know that there are professionals who can help ensure the perfect fit between you, your horse, and the saddle?
These professionals, known as saddle fitters, can evaluate a saddle’s appropriateness and make adjustments as needed.
Saddle fitters sometimes work with a specific saddle brand and offer new and used saddle options.
When I purchased my dressage saddle, I had a saddle fitter come out to the barn with several options, and I could try each one out before buying. Thanks to the saddle fitter, I found a high-quality used saddle at a fraction of the price tag typically found on a similar new saddle.
Although a saddle fitter can help you during the initial purchase, fitters can also be helpful when your horse’s behavior indicates a saddle fit issue. Common indicators of saddle fit issues include bucking, difficulty with leads, trouble bending, and avoiding contact.
Whether you purchase a used or new saddle, periodically consulting a saddle fitter can significantly improve your horse’s comfort and performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Wintec a good saddle brand?
Wintec makes good quality synthetic saddles that are durable and very comfortable to ride in. They are great IF they fit you and your horse and you would like to ride recreationally or on the trails.
If you are interested in showing, we would suggest looking at leather saddle options instead.
What are the best jumping saddle brands?
In addition to the brands listed above, these saddle brands are also well-known and reputable in the jumper ring:
- Albion Saddlemakers K2 jump
- Black Country – Vinici Solare
- Childéric single flap
- Classique jumping saddle
- Hermès Cavale
- Mark Todd Charisma Generation saddle
- Tonino Lamborghini GP1
What are the top western saddle brands?
The top two brands of show saddles that you will see in the show ring are Harris and Blue Ribbon.
What are the most expensive saddles?
Nothing beats riding in a high-quality, comfortable saddle. Unfortunately, most of these saddles cost more than the horse they’re sitting on!
- Devoucoux: They offer saddles for show jumping, cross country, and dressage. Expect to spend between $4,000 and $8,000 for a new saddle.
- Voltaire: This luxury brand starts at around $5,000 and offers many customization options.
- CWD: Known for their incredibly supple and comfy jumping saddles, expect to shell out $6,000 to $9,000 for a new one.
- Harris: This popular western show saddle brand will cost between $15,000 and $25,000 new; custom saddles may sell for even more. They hold their value—used saddles can easily go for $10,000 or more.
What is the average cost of an English saddle?
The price of an English saddle can vary widely and depends on many factors. New will cost more than used (though with higher-end saddles, a used one isn’t much cheaper than new), and a lot depends on your discipline.
You can get a decent all-around English saddle for as little as $100 (used). The luxury brands can get up to $9,000, especially if you choose to customize.
If you can, aim for a budget of $1,000 to $2,000. This will ensure quality materials, a comfortable fit for you and your horse, and a long lifetime.
So many choices are available for English saddles; it can certainly get overwhelming!
Try to buy a saddle from a reputable seller that will let you try it out—sitting on a saddle at a tack store isn’t the same as riding in it on your own horse. And if possible, involve a saddle fitter from the beginning to ensure a more successful buying experience.
A saddle can be a significant investment, and it is essential to ensure the proper fit for you and your horse.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- 5 Best English Saddles for Beginners With Big Dreams
- 5 Best English Equitation Saddles for Show Ring Success
- The 5 Best English Saddles for Hard-to-Fit Quarter Horses
- Best Bits for Quarter Horses (A Helpful Illustrated Guide)
- What is it called when you put a saddle on a horse?
- Cinched Not Pinched: 8 Most Comfortable Girths for Horses
- Whup, Trot: 4 Best Saddle Seat Saddles for Show Ring Success
- Plain English Please: Types of English Horse Bits Explained