The pommel on an English saddle lacks the trappings found on its western saddle counterpart, but it is every bit as important to the comfort and safety of man and beast. As the front end (or saddlebow) of an English saddle, the pommel is an extension of the tree that keeps a low profile, sporting neither horn nor embellishment.
Despite this overall trimness, the pommel on an English saddle should still be a bit higher than the seat. Thanks to this rise in the pommel, the saddle can clear the horse’s withers and keep its weight off that sensitive area. The horse can then enjoy free movement of the shoulders.
The pommel’s uplift protects the rider as well. It offers a more secure seat and prevents the rider from falling forward if the horse suddenly stops short. Bu like almost everything else on an English saddle, the pommel must strike the right balance between extremes.
If the pommel on your saddle is too high, you will feel as though you are riding uphill even when you are on level ground. This sensation usually reflects a seat that is too narrow or too far forward. If the pommel is too low, you can blame it on a saddle that is too wide or a horse that has not developed enough muscle mass (in which case extra padding for the front is necessary until your horse earns the right to be called “buff”).
The pommel on an English saddle may indeed be a bit nondescript, especially if you’re used to the decorated horns of western saddles. In terms of your comfort and safety, however, it’s something that deserves your attention when selecting a saddle.
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