English saddle skirts are short and simple, unlike the long and often ornate skirts of the western saddle. Lying directly below the upper thighs of a seated rider, these mini-skirts of saddle fashion serve several important purposes. By taking a look at what’s underneath these pieces, we can understand what they do and why they need to be so skimpy.
Peeking Beneath the Skirt
An English skirt goes over the stirrup bar, a solid piece of metal that the saddle maker rivets to the U of the saddle tree. English stirrup leathers attach to this bar, with the buckle of each strap adjusted until it sits directly against it.
You will also find a D-ring under the skirt of an English saddle. Riders fasten various pieces of accessory tack to this ring, so there are usually additional items adding to the bulk already created by the stirrup leathers.
Without the skirt, all that metal and leather would rub painfully against the rider’s leg. The skirt protects that limb as well as the gear underneath it, by providing a flat surface between the two. Interference of the legs with the stirrup leathers might also cause the buckle to come loose and slide down, jeopardizing the security of a rider’s foot in the stirrup.
It’s not enough for the skirt simply to prevent accidents by protecting what’s underneath it, because a rider still needs to handle the equipment when saddling and unsaddling a horse. That’s why English skirts are more petite than western ones. Their relatively small size allows the rider easy access to the stirrup bar, stirrup leathers, and auxiliary tack.
Another function of the skirt is to safeguard important information about the saddle’s origin. If you lift up the skirt of an English saddle, you will probably find a button bearing the saddler’s emblem and a plate identifying the saddle’s manufacturer.
Despite their limited size, skirts on an English saddle contribute quite a bit to the overall safety and comfort of every outing.
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