When you’re selecting an English saddle, knowing what goes into it will help you get the most out of it.
There’s more to an English saddle than meets the eye. As a descendant of the Hungarian saddle, the English saddle evolved to meet the needs of a British society that turned to fox hunting in the mid-17th century after a civil war had ravaged the deer population. To follow the hounds and witness the kill, riders had to negotiate a good deal of jumping.
The saddles of the period were neither comfortable nor practical in that context. They featured protruding horns in the front, rearward seats in the middle, and high cantles in the back. So the Hungarian saddle underwent several fundamental modifications over the ensuing centuries, and eventually the horn disappeared, the seat tilted forward, and the cantle dropped.
A Departure from the Western Saddle
This evolution has steadily continued, and now English saddles fall into various categories, each with particular features to suit specific uses. Despite this specialization, there are three obvious and shared characteristics that distinguish English saddles from western saddles.
The most striking of these is the absence of a horn or other embellishment on the English saddle’s pommel (tip of the head at the front), which creates a pared-down contour. Secondly, underneath the English saddle are panels stuffed with wool, foam, or even air that serve as built-in padding for comfort and safety. Thirdly, because the hunt seat or forward seat generally slants forward at a 45 degree angle, the stirrups hang farther forward than on a western saddle.
From Fox Hunts to Olympic Events
The English saddle is the saddle used by riders for all equestrian events at the Olympic Games. That’s because it is the product of generations of engineering designed to make the saddle perform like a champ in a variety of activities. Specialization of the individual parts has given every rider the chance to find a saddle that is best suited for a particular purpose.
Click on any of the following parts to learn about its location, purpose, and design:
- Saddle Tree
- Stirrup Bars
- Knee Rolls & Thigh Rolls
- Saddle Flaps
- Sweat Flaps
- Girth Buckle Guards
- Stirrup Leathers