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5 Best English Saddles for Beginners With Big Dreams

best english saddle for beginners
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Written by Susie W.

Shopping for your first saddle? Here’s what you need to know.

Selecting the right English saddle for you and your horse can feel overwhelming—there are so many different choices! To understand your options, it’s important to first learn about the different types of English saddles and which ones are best suited to beginners.

Types of English Saddles

types of english saddles

source: canva

First, there is the All Purpose saddle. These are designed to allow the rider to use one saddle for both lower-level dressage and jumping or lower-level eventing. These saddles can be a great stepping stone if you have a modest budget and aren’t sure which direction to go yet. They also work well for recreational or trail riding.

Second, there is the Close Contact saddle. These are jumping saddles, designed to help the rider get into a forward seat. You will also see close contact saddles in flat classes such as Hunter Under Saddle or Hunt Seat Equitation.

Third, there is the Dressage saddle. Dressage saddles have a deeper seat and longer stirrup length for a different leg position than what you’d see in a jumping saddle. The rider should be centrally balanced in this saddle. It’s best for dressage or, if you find it comfortable, for recreational or on-the-flat riding.

Key Considerations

There are many factors that influence buying decisions when purchasing a saddle. Does it fit you and your horse? Is it comfortable? Is it a good match for what you need to use it for? Can you find it in the correct size in your area? Do you like the look of it? Does it fit your budget?

Three of these criteria are most important:

  • Fit: An ill-fitting saddle will be uncomfortable for you and your horse. Either will encourage bad habits and could cause soreness to the point your horse starts acting out under saddle to escape the discomfort. That’s why it’s paramount to ensure your saddle fits you AND your horse. Fortunately, when it comes to horse fit, many saddles now come with adjustable gullets to help tailor the fit to your horse.
  • Budget: There are three areas within the equestrian world where you should spend as much as you can afford—your horse, your saddle, and your helmet. Saddles, if well cared for, can last for decades. Additionally, you will spend countless hours in the saddle. It’s not worth saving a few hundred dollars if you won’t be happy. If you’re on a tight budget, consider a used saddle as it might open up more doors for a higher quality saddle that best fits you and your horse.
  • Form/Function: Ensure the saddle you purchase is going to work for what you plan to do with it. If your goal is to learn to jump long-term, look for a close-contact saddle that will help stabilize your leg position and balance in a more forward-seat. The riding position required for dressage is very different from that of a jumper—set yourself up for success and select a saddle that will make it easier to do your job and improve as a rider.

English Saddles Popular With Beginners

Henri de Rivel Lumina Close Contact Saddle

This is a great entry-level jumping saddle. A medium deep seat combined with a narrow twist keeps the rider in close contact with the horse. The leather is grippy and adjustable blocks can aid in customizing the fit to the rider. Additionally, the tree has a lifetime warranty by the manufacturer.

Henri-de-Rivel-Lumina-Close-Contact-Saddle-min

Click to see it at State Line Tack

Pros:

  • Economical price point for a new saddle
  • Grippy leather and adjustable blocks
  • Reputable manufacturer

Cons:

  • Minimal adjustable fitting options for the horse; saddle comes in regular and wide with no adjustable gullet
  • The tree is made from plastic, which more likely to break than fiberglass or wood

Where to Learn More: State Line Tack

Collegiate Lectern Dressage Saddle

The Lectern is a hand-crafted saddle made by Collegiate. The large knee blocks combined with a deep seat help keep the rider secure. The Y-shaped girthing system is more comfortable for your horse.

Collegiate-Lectern-Dressage-Saddle-min

Click to see it at State Line Tack

Pros:

  • Changeable gullet to help customize fit to your horse
  • 2-year saddle and 10-year tree manufacturer warranty
  • Entry level price point for a reputable dressage saddle

Cons:

  • Offers a changeable gullet, but only one tree size for this model of saddle
  • Ambiguous seat sizing for the rider

Where to Learn More: State Line Tack

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Pessoa Gen X Elita II Saddle

Pessoa saddles

are known for their quality, patented X-Change Interchangeable Gullet System, and balance, as all saddles use the same tree for uniformity of position. These saddles utilize a flexible carbon fiber spring tree, which is lightweight and strong while providing flexion.

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

Click to see it at State Line Tack

Pros:

  • Pessoa saddles are known to excel both on the flat and over fences—it’s a great starter saddle for riders looking to jump
  • Saddles come in different options other than just seat size to better customize to the rider (for example, a long flap and forward flap option in addition to normal dimensions)
  • Pessoa saddles are known for quality and hold their value

Cons:

  • The price point of this saddle might be a bit high for an entry-level rider
  • While the gullet is changeable, the tree only comes in Medium

Where to Learn More: State Line Tack

Wintec 500 Flocked All Purpose Saddle

Wintec synthetic saddles

are known to be comfortable and low-maintenance—you can literally hose them off, unlike a leather saddle. They are supportive and grippy, with many options available to better customize the fit to your horse.

Wintec-500-Flocked-All-Purpose-Saddle-min

Click to see it at State Line Tack

Pros:

  • Easy-Change gullet system helps optimize fit to your horse
  • Equi-Leather is synthetic and easier to care for / more durable than real leather
  • Soft flocked panels mold to fit to your horse’s specific conformation

Cons:

  • Synthetic materials are generally unsuitable for horse shows
  • Saddles only come in one tree size

Where to Learn More: State Line Tack

Bates Caprelli Close Contact+ Saddle CAIR

Bates saddles

are innovative, very comfortable, and known for quality, as saddles undergo rigorous testing. The CAIR Cushion System helps increase comfort to you and your horse. The Bates brand is known for “unsurpassed quality, innovation, and radically different performance each rider can expect.”

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

Click to see it at State Line Tack

Pros:

  • A high-quality saddle at an affordable price
  • Easy-Change Gullet and riser system to customize fit to you and your horse
  • Quality leather that will look good in the show ring

Cons:

  • Price point may be a bit high for a first-time saddle buyer; if you are set on a Bates, you could also consider the used market
  • Tree comes in one width only

Where to Learn More: State Line Tack

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most comfortable English saddle?

Bates and Wintec saddles are both known to be very comfortable. Both saddles are manufactured by Saddlery Brands International, which explains why they have similar designs.

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What is the best English saddle brand?

The best brand is the one that fits you and your horse—and is within your budget!

What is the best all purpose English saddle?

All Purpose saddles can be good for the entry-level rider that isn’t sure which direction they want to go yet. Many saddle brands make an “All Purpose” type saddle—each will have its own strengths and weaknesses. We recommend trying to do a test ride in a saddle before committing to buy it.

How much is a good saddle?

There are some good options for under $1,000; if you have the budget and want to make an investment with decent resale value, however, look for a new saddle in the $1,000-$2,500 range. A great way to stretch a lower budget ($500-$1,000) and still get a high-quality saddle that will fit you and your horse well, is to consider used saddles.

Parting Thoughts

While saddle shopping might be overwhelming, it is worth investing both time and money in the process to ensure you find the right fit for both you and your horse. If you buy a saddle that is uncomfortable, for you or your horse, it could cause all kinds of problems—better to do the research (and spend the $$) up front and avoid potential issues down the road. Happy shopping!

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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!