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How to choose a saddle for your horse? Saddle compendium

Published: 2019-05-14 12:15:39 Categories: Guides Rss feed , Products Rss feed

Kampania reklamowa siodeł Prestige Italia i Renaissance

Saddle is the most important element of equestrian equipment. It allows you to comfortably mount the horse and lead him efficiently. It is the immediate connection between the horse's back and the rider. It plays the key role in proper transfer of information so you can communicate with the horse. Saddle is a necessary piece of equipment so that you can safely practice horse riding - properly fitted saddle protects the horse's back. Saddle consists of elements adjusted to the horse's and rider's anatomical shapes. That makes horse riding a pleasant, passionate experience for both the rider and the horse.

Siedzisko w siodle Prestige Italia
The rider communicates with the horse through signals that cause the horse's reaction. The rider through the use of his or her body balance in the saddle and his or her natural aids (calves, hands) influences the horse's movements. Depending on the equestrian discipline, you should pick the saddle by its structure that would precisely communicate valid information to the horse. The horse's reaction would be feedback and the performed task would be the effect of the communication. If the horse performs the tasks properly would be very much dependent on the precision of the signals he is getting from the rider. The better the saddle is fitted (its structure, type) the better the synchronization and fluency of the horse's movements. Particular elements of the saddle's construction allow you to create configurations adjusted to separate equestrian disciplines and riders' individual needs.

Types of saddles

In the first phase of fitting, you should mind the basic differentiation of the saddles based on their target use. Thus we have the following types:

  1. Jumping saddle is designed for show jumping. The jumping saddle structure allows the rider for a proper leg position - one that allows for dynamic raises during jumps. Shorter flaps allow for proper angle of bent knees, which is much bigger than in other disciplines. The seat is less deep or half-shallow, which allows the rider to half-seat or sit lightly in the saddle. A characteristic element of the jumping saddle is its square cantle. That allows the rider to follow the natural movement of the horse, and what is most important - unload the horse's back in all phases of a jump. A jumping saddle should be light and has small or big knee blocks, depending on the rider's advancement level. Saddles with big knee blocks are right for begginer or intermediate riders. Small knee blocks are preferred by riders with stable, good balance in the saddle. Jumping saddles are usually put too much to the front, even on a shoulder blade, which may cause disruption in balance and detaching of the cantle from the horse's back. It has to be behind the shoulder blade - never in front of it.Jeździec w siodle skokowym
  2. Dressage saddle has a deeper tree, big knee and thigh blocks of various shapes, lengths, and widths. The dressage rider's position might be described as opposite to the jumping rider's one - it is a straight position in the saddle. In such position, the rider has much lesser angle on bend in the knees. Construction of the saddle must provide safe balance of the center of gravity so that the rider can comfortably settle into position in the saddle. It is crucial that the dressage saddle allows the rider for a deep seat, closing his or her torso in a more static position. Size of the knee and thigh blocks is up to the rider's individual preferences. In today's horse riding, most popular are blocks that do not restrict the knee movements. The dressage saddle is moved to the back on the horse's back due to its characteristic construction. It allows for a free shoulder. There are also special pads that free the horse's shoulder blade due to which they do not block the shoulder girdle.Jeździec w siodle ujeżdżeniowym
  3. Versatile saddle is a combination of a jumping and dressage saddle. They provide lots of comfort during riding. They do not force a specific position with their shapes. They allow the rider for a free rider. You can show jump and perform dressage elements in versatile saddles. However, they do not have a special profile for these disciplines.Jeździec w siodle wszechstronnym
  4. Riding saddle allows for a light seat or standing in the stirrups for a long period of time. They are usually constructed in a minimalistic way and are light in weight. They provide the highest comfort both for the horse and rider.Jeździec w siodle rajdowym
  5. Junior saddle for ponies are designed for children and teenagers. The most important aspect of these saddles is their construction that takes into consideration the proper development of the young skeletons. Cantles are different than the ones in adult saddles - they are much more narrower so that they can fit the kids' pelvis and hip joints. While choosing a saddle you should pay attention to not disturbing the kid's natural and proper development. Junior saddles have deep and soft seats, as well as woolen panels, which provides maximal fit. What is more, kids' saddles usually have knee blocks attached with velcros, which allows them to properly place their legs - so they do not go too much to the front. Such a solution makes children feel safer. During intense phase of development, kids should use only saddles fitted to their individual sizes and needs.Dziecko w siodle pony

Saddle's construction

Saddle construction

  1. Tree is the base element of the saddle's construction. Mainly synthetic materials reinforced with fiberglass and resin are used to create a saddletree. That allows us to get a light and durable chassis for the saddle.Types of trees in Prestige Italia & Renaissance saddles
  2. Seat is over the saddle's cantle. Each has an individual shape, depth, and size. It is the place in which your pelvis should be in a comfortable state of balance. The seat is usually made of special elastic materials. The saddle's leather should be soft, durable, and non-slip.
  3. Pommel is the highest point on the front of the saddle. It embraces the front arch in the horse's withers, in good saddles it can be regulated - made wider or narrower. In adjusting the pommel, we take into consideration the aspect of difference in the anatomical shape of the horse's back. The inner point of the pommel is in a crucial place on the horse's back, right next to he most important area responsible for transmitting nerve impulses in the whole horse's body. Any pressure in this place caused by an ill-fitted saddle endangers the horse to a permanent damage to his nervous system.
  4. Cantle has a cushioning function. It evenly distributes the rider's weight on the horse's back.
  5. Panel is on the bottom of the saddle. It is filled with synthetic wool. Its shape should be properly adjusted to the arch line of the horse's back so that it causes no pressure.
  6. Flaps are where the rider's legs adhere to the horse's sides. They have a fundamental function in providing the comfort of riding. Flaps can be personalized accordingly to the equestrian discipline and the rider's thigh bone length.
  7. Knee blocks also come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They also differ with the scale of hardness. Their function is to provide stable support for the knees. In innovative saddles they can be attachable with velcro so you can shift or lose them altogether.
  8. Calf block is shaped anatomically so that it stabilizes the position of the leg. It can be attached with velcro, which makes it easy to use it.
  9. Billets are 2 or 3 leather straps that are an element of the saddle for girth attachment. Since they attach the girth to the horse's back, it is best when they are made of a single thick strip of leather on both sides of the saddle. They cannot stretch or tear even when subject to significant overloading.
  10. Skirt is a small piece of leather in the upper part of the saddle, which covers a metal zipper. Due to its proper thickness, it separates the leg from a metal grapple and provides maximal comfort.

Saddle fitting

Proper fitting of the saddle is a real challenge. Saddle fitter has to keep in mind the rider's weight, height, and the horse's riding skills, as well as the horse's back anatomical shape. We should note here that symmetry does not occur in nature. The left and right side of the body - both the rider's and horse's are not mirror reflections of one another. There is a possibility to balance such asymmetry, which is why there is a range of parameters that allow a saddle fitter to navigate through the process of saddle fitting. In order for the saddle to be as fitted as possible both to the rider and the horse, you should mind the following:

Seat size

First, you should settle what would be the proper seat size according to the general rider's weight parameters "from-to" while maintaining the standard height. Seat sizes are given in inches.

Seat size to rider's weight

Seat size [inch]

Rider's weight [kg]

15" – 15 3/4"

Up to 40 kg

16" – 16,5"

41 to 51 kg

17" – 17,5"

56 to 79 kg


80 to 120 kg

Seat size to rider's growth

Seat size [inch]

Rider's height [m]

15" to 16"

1,45 m to 1,65 m

16,5" to 17,5"

1,65m to 1,75 m

17" to 18"

1,75 m to 1,90 m

Seat size is a parameter that is directly related to the width of the rider's hips and pelvis. You should choose it accordingly to your individual body characteristics. There are no universal rules in this case. An individual build requires non-standard sizes. For example, for a rider of 179 cm and 49 kg, it is recommended to choose a seat size 16 and longer tabs. However, you should pay attention to your individual preferences, i.e. there is a group of riders preferring bigger or smaller saddles that are recommended for them - they have some sizes already tried. It is necessary to test different sizes of saddles instead of choosing the recommended sizes only. The length of the saddle, however, should not reach behind the horse's last immobile rib.

Withers bar

Withers bar size
Then, it is recommended to fit the withers bar, so the distance between the left and right edge of the pommel - the spot at the level of the horse's shoulder girdle. The withers bar can be regulated on the basis of precise measurements of the horse's withers, but not only - you also need to pay attention to the horse's back individual anatomy. The opening on the front of the saddle is called the withers bar. Each producer has their own scale of measurements. In the chart below, we present values for Prestige Italia and Renaissance.

Withers bar

Horse's back characteristics


is a narrow size, for horses with dominating, sticking up withers


is considered a standard size, the most popular one

36 and up

for horses without clear withers - the so-called round horses

Center of gravity - type and thickness of panels

In the next step, you should properly determine the center of gravity, namely the lowest point in the saddle seat, which coincides with the highest point of the horse's back. The rider while moving in a saddle that has properly profiled center of gravity should feel like he or she sits in the horse. The rider does not lean forwards against his/her will, nor backwards. In order to obtain that, it is necessary to interfere with the panels and the individual adjustment so that there is balance in the saddle. The center of gravity can be determined according to the proportions after precise measurements made by a qualified saddle fitter.

What else can you order individually in the saddle for the rider?

  • Flaps - depending on the equestrian discipline and individual preferences or conditioning. Personalizing flaps allow you to elongate, shorten, or widen them.
  • Blocks type and size - blocks should make it easier for the rider to comfortably position the legs or block the leg from getting ahead of the saddle. You can order them in bigger or smaller size than the standard one, or abandon them altogether. What is more, they provide mental aid for the rider - they make riders feel more safe. Due to velcro attachment - you can detach them easily at any moment.
  • Leather type - generally there are leathers with smooth and non-slip (harder) structure. The leather quality should be chosen accordingly to the intensity of the use of the saddle. The leather maintenance determines how long the saddle will serve you. Lack, excess, or improper maintenance lead to color running and shorter longevity of the saddle. Proper protection of the saddle from the horse's sweat by using high-quality saddle cloths also makes the saddles more durable.
  • Using high-quality equipment recommended by the producer and regular exchange of thereof will significantly improve the saddle's longevity. Low quality or exploited stirrup leathers may cause abrasions and damage to the saddle leather.
  • Saddle leather color - the most popular colors of the saddle leathers are black and brown (in many shades and names, e.g. tobacco, cognac). Professional riders in the jumping discipline prefer brown saddles. Brown leather is more natural, as there was less dye was used to color it. However, dressage is dominated by black, especially during competitions.

You can also personalize crucial details such as trimming, seams color, and the rider's individual plate.

Wrongly fitted saddle

The most common symptoms of an ill-fitted saddle are:

  • imbalance in the saddle,
  • excessive detachment of the cantles,
  • irregular lameness, curvatures,
  • the horse is scared and prone to bite while having the saddle put on him.

However, a wrongly fitted saddle is not the only possible cause of such symptoms. First, you should rule out the possibility of other factors influencing the quality of riding in the saddle, namely:

  • exceptionally intensive training,
  • change of diet - change of the horse's weight,
  • poor balance of the rider in the saddle and in turn overloading the horse's back,
  • overusing riding aids.

The condition necessary to realize how important it is to properly fit the saddle is the rider's will to learn about this topic. You should always keep in mind that you are dealing with a living being, and there are always some processes going on inside it, they can cause improvement, development, or regress. You should deal fast with the effects of the horse's hurting back so that you can prevent serious inflammations or muscle atrophy.

In case of any doubts, we recommend consulting a saddle fitter or a saddle retailer, who has the experience, access to the latest information and expertise. Saddle fitting should be done by a qualified saddle fitter during a scheduled visit to the stable. A saddle fitter will check the back impulses, properly measure all necessary dimensions, and collect data in order to choose the right pillow structure. Saddle fitting is fee-paying or integrated with a saddle purchase.

There are many amateur saddle fitting methods, such as e.g. the three fingers method. It is an old method that has some regard to particular groups of horses. However, it has lost its versatile relevance as a highly developed horse breeding has lead to richness in their build. Crossbreeding for the purposes of movement or jumping disciplines has caused changes in the line of the horses' backs. Thus, we cannot take universal saddle fitting methods for granted. It is necessary to take into consideration the horse's individual measurements and the characteristics of each of the horses' backs. Another reason for which the three fingers method fails as a sure measurement is that this method is prosaic and applies to the differences in the build of the riders' fingers. When an adult man will not fit two of his fingers under the cantle, a delicate woman might easily do so. It is the best proof that this method is unsuccessful.

Saddle correction pads

Mattes saddle pads

Is it worth using additional saddle pads?

There are many types of pads available on the market. Pads can also serve as a useful aid for fitting one saddle to many horses. You should choose pads made of natural materials that cushion impacts and fill unevenness. It can happen that a pad is necessary also with a properly fitted saddle, especially when the horse's back is extremely individual.

Being able to test a saddle before the purchase gives certainty of the right choice or at least a protection from making a mistake. It is worth using a professional aid of a saddle fitter, coach, or trusted saddle retailer. Choose a store that has experience in selling saddles and proper testing saddle magazine.

You should not buy a pig in a poke - special offer price-wise does not always mean a high-quality offer. It is often times that the saddles were obtained in unfair or illegal ways.

Choosing an experienced retailer, using a professional saddle fitter, proper maintenance - all that will reassure you that you have done anything in your power to provide yourself and your horse with the highest quality of riding in the saddle.

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