Saddle shopping made easy
Horse riding is expensive, especially when you need a new (or used) saddle. Not only does it need to suit your activity, it needs to fit your horse and you. Finding a “trifecta” can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible.
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 very common in hunter under saddle and equitation classes (on the flat) as well.
- Dressage: Dressage saddles are built with a deeper seat and allow for a longer leg position. The rider should be centrally balanced, and is appropriate for dressage classes or recreational riding if you prefer this saddle style.
If you are looking to show in a specific discipline or class, you should shop for the best saddle you can afford for that specific event. Riders who are more interested in riding for recreation should choose the saddle that is most comfortable. In either case, you should always make sure the saddle you choose fits your horse very well.
An ill-fitting saddle can cause discomfort, bad behaviors, and long-term damage to your horse.
There are certain areas where cutting corners to save some dollars is both appropriate and encouraged. (Stocking up on a new pair of winter riding boots in April? Absolutely.)
There are also other areas where it’s worth it to spend the extra dollars. The top three things in the “Buy the Best You Can” category are:
- Your Horse: When horse shopping, be realistic about your budget and expectations. This is one area where it may make sense to spend the extra dollars up front. 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 in the beginning, I could have increased my price range to buy a horse better suited to me, and my riding goals, from the beginning.
- Your Helmet: Horses are large, prey animals. They can be unpredictable. It is always suggested to wear a helmet when riding. While the cheaper helmets may protect you (if they fit properly) the more expensive models will have a more customized fit, be more comfortable, and quite honestly, look better on. 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 is going to 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, many years. A well-made, well-cared-for saddle could easily last 15-20 years. It is worth spending the extra money.
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. There are over 120,000 unique points of differentiation 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, with an emphasis on balance and contact.
- The Altaïr collection provides ready-to-wear saddles designed for the rider 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.
are innovative, engineered to optimize you and your horse’s performance in specialized saddles by discipline. High quality is of the utmost importance. The brand brides 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 advance testing and monitoring techniques to ensure top quality
- Saddle Fit — Bates saddles come with a revolutionary “EASY-CHANGE Fit Solution” to make sure you have optimal fit for top performance.
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 over to their website and browse fragrances, clothing, and watches in addition to equestrian items. Hermès is based in Paris and believes in the freedom to create, with an emphasis on 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Wintec a good saddle brand?
Wintec makes good quality synthetic saddles that can be very comfortable to ride in and quite durable. 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.
There are so many choices available for jumping 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. A saddle can be a big investment and it is important to ensure proper fit for both you and your horse.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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