When it comes to Quarter Horse English saddle fit, the struggle is real.
American Quarter Horses (AQHAs) are well known for their versatility. If you ride in different disciplines, you may need several different saddles. For example, I often ride in a Circle Y Western work saddle, but I switch to a Blue Ribbon show saddle with an equitation seat for Western show classes. For English events, I practice and show in a Pessoa hunt seat saddle.
In this article, we will review the parts of the English saddle, saddle types, and saddles sizing—an important part of the selection process for you and your AQHA. We also discuss five saddle brands that are most popular in the Quarter Horse world.
|Best English Saddle Brands for Quarter Horses|
|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|
|Toulouse (Amazon)||Quality at an affordable price|
|Popular among AQHA people|
Anatomy of an English Saddle
First things first, let’s look at the anatomy of an English saddle.
The picture below shows the gullet of the saddle; this is also how we measure tree width.
Learn why Quarter Horses topped our list of the 11 Best Breeds for First Time Horse Owners.
Types of English Saddles
Here are the three main types of English saddles you’ll see in the Quarter Horse world.
- Close Contact: Sometimes referred to as a jumping saddle. This style of saddle is appropriate for Quarter Horse shows. Classes include: Hunter Under Saddle, Hunt Seat Equitation, Hunter Hack, Working Hunter, and Equitation Over Fences
- All Purpose: A saddle that has been modified so that the rider can lengthen the stirrup for lower-level dressage, but also jump for lower-level eventing. The design does not allow for specialization in either discipline. This type of saddle would be appropriate for your Quarter Horse if you are riding recreationally or trail riding.
- Dressage: These saddles have a deeper seat and allow for a longer leg position. They are designed to allow the rider a centrally balanced seat. This type of saddle is appropriate if you are going to ride or show your Quarter Horse in Dressage. Please note, while Dressage is an official AQHA class, it is generally not offered at Quarter Horse shows. Riders show under USEF/USDF judges.
English Saddle Sizing
Saddles are sized using different components—the gullet/tree, seat size, and flap length.
Fit for the Horse
Gullet: Also known as saddle width or tree size, sizes are narrow, medium, wide, and extra-wide. The average size horse generally needs a medium gullet size, but thicker Quarter Horses may need a wide tree.
Horses with narrow backs, such as Thoroughbreds, might require a narrow width.
(My old paint pony, who could look at a feed bucket and gain weight, required a wide tree.)
When fitting the saddle to your horse, pay close attention to both the gullet and the tree. You want enough clearance in the gullet to give the horse room for movement in the spine and withers; the saddle should not directly touch the vertebrae.
Some saddles, like Bates, offer “easy-change gullet replacement” so you can more easily customize the saddle’s fit to your horse.
It’s important to note that saddle manufacturers don’t all use the same angles between makes and models.
For example, just because a “wide” tree from one manufacturer fits your horse, doesn’t mean that same horse will require a “wide” tree from a different brand.
Fit for the Rider
Seat: Size is measured in inches from the pommel of the saddle to the middle of the cantle.
The seat size corresponds to the rider’s upper thigh. The easiest way to measure your thigh length is to sit in a chair and use a tape measure from the end of your knee to the backside…well, of your backside.
|Rider Thigh Measurement||Corresponding Seat Size|
|> 16.5″||15″ saddle|
|16.5″ – 18.5″||16″ saddle|
|18.5″ – 20″||16.5″ saddle|
|20″ – 21.5″||17″ saddle|
|21.5″ – 23″||17.5″ saddle|
|< 23″||18″ saddle|
When you are sitting in the saddle, you should be able to fit 2-4 fingers in front of you and behind you.
A rider with a longer leg might need a longer flap. Generally, only two sizes are offered; regular and long.
Once you have an idea of what size you need, you should fit the specific saddle to you and your horse. Don’t assume it will fit based on measurements alone! If you have questions, enlist the help of a professional saddle fitter or your trainer.
Learn why Quarter Horses also made our list of the 3 Calmest Horse Breeds.
5 Best English Saddles for Quarter Horses
The best saddle is going to be the one that fits you and your horse. There is no one “best” saddle.
That being said, you should buy the highest quality saddle you can afford.
(Don’t be afraid to consider a used saddle—it might mean you can afford a higher-quality saddle that will fit you and your horse better. A well-made, well cared for English saddle could easily last 15-20 years, so it is worth spending the extra money.)
Most Quarter Horse shows offer hunter under saddle and hunt seat equitation, while some offer jumping classes, like hunter hack, working hunter, or equitation over fences.
The purpose of the flat classes is to prepare horses and riders for over-fences classes—even if you never want to jump, the goal is to look like you could.
For this reason, you want a saddle that looks like a jumping saddle.
When shopping, try a “Close Contact” saddle. All Purpose saddles are just that—made to cross between jumping and dressage. For Quarter Horse classes, you want to look like a jumper, not a dressage rider, so All Purpose saddles generally aren’t ideal.
A close contact saddle will enable you to get into a two-point (or jumping) position and maintain a better leg for that hunter/jumper look.
|5 Best English Saddles for Quarter Horses|
|Price Point||Quality||Known For|
|Antares||$$$$||***||Top-of-the-line jumping saddle with semi-deep seat; designed for a more advanced rider, made for performance.|
|Bates (State Line Tack)||$$||**||Focused on saddle performance and comfort for you and your horse, these are highly adjustable saddles to optimize fit for the horse.|
|Collegiate (State Line Tack)||$||*||Combines modern materials and traditional technique to provide authentic quality and craftsmanship at an exceptional price.|
|Pessoa (State Line Tack)||$$$||***||Known for feel & balance, Pessoas are a great choice for competitive riders both on the flat and over fences.|
|Toulouse (Amazon)||$$||*||M. Toulouse saddles focus on tradition and elegance combined with technology–quality at a price you can afford.|
Saddles to Avoid
These are perfect for dressage…and that’s it. If you plan to ride or show dressage, get a dressage saddle. If you don’t, then avoid them.
Dressage saddles are not allowed in the show pen per the AQHA rulebook.
Black Leather or Synthetic Saddles
Per the rulebook, you could hypothetically show in a black and/or synthetic saddle.
However, this is very not traditional, and the hunter world is all about tradition. A brown, leather saddle is the way to go.
Different Parts of an English Saddle Infographic
You’re welcome to use this infographic on your own website *as long as you link back to horse-rookie.local.*
Feel free to share on Pinterest, as well by hovering over it and clicking the Pinterest icon. #knowledgeishorsepower
Happy Saddle Shopping!
Selecting the right English saddle for you and your Quarter Horse is no easy task—there are so many different options available. You’ll likely need to try several options.
Remember, sitting on a saddle in a tack shop isn’t going to be the same experience as riding in it at home. Try to do a test-ride before you buy, or ensure you can return a saddle that doesn’t work.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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- 5 Best English Equitation Saddles for Show Ring Success
- 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
- Horse Riding Equipment List: What You Need & What You Don’t
- Plain English Please: Types of English Horse Bits Explained
- 5 Weird Reining Tips That Actually Work