Choosing the right English saddle is crucial: the wrong saddle can hurt your horse and ruin your riding experience. Saddles must fit your horse properly, as the wrong saddle can cause pain, and discomfort and start bad habits and attitudes with your horse. Not only that but choosing the right English saddle will enhance your riding performance by helping you achieve the correct seat for your discipline, as well as provide comfort in the saddle.

Understanding the English Saddle

English Saddle

The English saddle is one of the oldest saddle types, with its roots beginning in the 18th century. The first saddles, made for classical dressage, were made with a high pommel and cantle and built on a wooden frame. These types of saddles are still in use today in the Spanish Riding School. Then, foxhunting, a favorite pastime in England, changed the design of the English saddle. To accommodate the racing and jumping nature of the sport, the saddle was designed with a flat seat, low pommel, cantle, and no padding under the leg. Stirrup bars were set forward and protruded, which became an issue as show jumping and eventing became more popular. At that time, the saddle was redesigned again, with a more forward flap, recessed stirrup bars, narrowed waist, and padding under the flap.

Today, there are four main types of English saddles used. They are the Close Contact, All-Purpose, Dressage, and Cutback and Saddleseat saddles. Below we get in-depth into these popular types of saddles.

Close Contact Saddles

Close Contact saddles are exactly what they advertise: they are designed to make the rider feel closer to the horse. Less flocking is added to the panel between you and your horse, allowing your leg more contact. The forward cut flap helps you get out of the saddle and into the jump position. These saddles are commonly used in jumper, hunter/jumper, and eventing disciplines.

All-Purpose Saddles

All-Purpose saddles are a hybrid of a close contact (jumping) saddle and a dressage saddle. It has more padding for a deeper seat, but not so much that you cannot jump in it. These saddles are perfect for riders who do not concentrate on one discipline, new riders, and children. They can be used for flatwork, pole work, low-level jumping, hacking, riding club activities, and dressage.

Dressage Saddles

Dressage saddles position the rider over the horse's center of gravity. They have straight flaps and a very deep seat, with a high cantle and pommel. Most dressage saddles have knee rolls and/or leg blocks to help the rider maintain leg position. Dressage demands long legs and a deep seat to perfect dressage movements, so these saddles are perfectly designed for this discipline.

Cutback and Saddle Seat Saddles

Cutback and Saddle Seat saddles position the rider slightly behind the horse’s center of gravity, an appropriate position when riding a gaited horse. These are perfect for the Saddleseat discipline, a discipline known for gaited horses. These saddles have a flat seat, cut-back pommel, and straight flaps. Most cut-back flat-seat saddles are currently made without knee rolls.

English Saddle

Factors to Consider When Choosing an English Saddle

You probably did a ton of research before buying your horse; choosing an English saddle is no different. Doing your research will help you weed through all of the choices on the market and lead you to the right saddle for you and your horse. It’s always good to be an informed buyer!

The key factors for consideration when choosing an English Saddle are as follows: fit and comfort, discipline and purpose, materials and construction, budget, and reviews and recommendations.

  1. Fit and Comfort
    The number one thing you need to pick the right saddle is to make sure the saddle fits and is comfortable for you and your horse. The wrong saddle can lead to a sour horse and encourage bad habits. For you, the wrong saddle can lead to the wrong positions, causing you to become frustrated with your discipline at best or injury at worst. Before considering buying, have your horse measured by a professional saddle fitter. These professionals know exactly where to measure and can give you guidance on what size you may need. These fitters can also give you an idea about the tree width, panel shape, and gullet clearance that would work best with your horse (and are key to a proper fit!). It can also be beneficial to try different saddles before buying one. Trying different types allows you to check your balance, leg contact, and position in the saddle.

  2. Riding Discipline and Purpose
    Riding discipline and fit go hand in hand. Each type of saddle fits differently, too. For example, a bulky dressage saddle will not allow you to get into the right jumping position if you are jumping, and if you plan on showing, most disciplines have rules around having the appropriate tack. If you show up to a higher-level dressage test in a close-contact saddle, that bell will start ringing before you start the test. If you have a discipline in mind, make sure you look up the tack requirements for each sport.

  3. Materials and Construction
    Any number of materials, from plastic to wood in saddle trees, different types of foam in the inner construction, and fabric and leather on the outer frame, are used to construct a saddle. But most people put saddles into two categories: synthetic and leather. Synthetic saddles, made of specialty nylon, vinyl, or both, are lightweight, low maintenance, and virtually weatherproof. Leather saddles break in for the rider’s seat, can offer an enhanced grip, have a great resale value, and develop an attractive patina with age. Both are durable (leather especially needs proper maintenance to remain durable). When choosing a saddle, consider how the saddle is made, who makes the fabric on the saddle (this is more for the synthetic saddles), and the brand.

  4. Budget
    Ah, the B word. We hate it, but we have to consider it. Your budget will be the deciding factor on any saddle you buy. While you don’t want to buy the cheapest saddle on the market, if you are simply riding for fun, you aren’t going to need the latest and greatest saddle either. Pick a saddle that aligns with where you are on your riding journey. Also, think about your overall riding budget: whatever saddle you pick shouldn’t take away from other line items such as other tack, lessons, or even your horse. On average, saddles cost around $500, so look for something around that area.

  5. Reviews and Recommendations
    Once you have a general idea about what type of saddle you want, be sure to check out reviews and recommendations. Remember the saddle fitter from earlier? Ask for their recommendations for your horse. Your trainer is a great resource too. See a saddle you like on a fellow rider’s horse? Ask them why they chose their saddle. Research brands as well, and take in the good, bad, and ugly. Write down pros and cons: lists are always helpful when researching! Go into the store and look at the saddles on display. Feel them, ask questions of the staff too. Schneiders staff are horse people, too, so we will understand your needs and can lead you to some great suggestions! Visit our store or call our customer service line for more information!

Learn How to Fit and Measure for an English Saddle

The 15 Best English Saddles at Schneiders

English Saddles

Armed with all the knowledge you need, it’s time to shop! Schneiders is known for its large selection of saddles, so you’ve come to the right place. If you need it, we have it! Here are some of the very best English Saddles we have in stock.

The 7 Best Close Contact Saddles

    M. Toulouse Brittany Saddle

  1. M. Toulouse Brittany Platinum Close Contact English Saddle
  2. The M. Toulouse Brittany Platinum Close Contact English Saddle is a French-style saddle with soft leather and double leather flaps that already feels broken in. It has a Genesis™ adjustable tree, removable front and rear blocks, and foam panels. This saddle will fit you like a glove!

    Pinnacle Adjustable Saddle

  3. Pinnacle Adjustable Gullet Close Contact Saddle
  4. Beautifully handcrafted from the finest grain leather, the Pinnacle Adjustable Gullet Saddle comes ready to ride in on the first use. The supple leather helps reduce break-in time compared to most saddles. This saddle features a regular saddle flap with velcro knee blocks. The adjustable gullet plates allow you to fit this saddle to various horses without purchasing a new saddle.

    Pinnacle Kirkby Saddle

  5. Pinnacle Kirkby Close Contact Saddle
  6. The Pinnacle Kirkby Close Contact Saddle creates a closer feel to your horse, while the padded French Calf knee rolls provide excellent knee and leg security. Beautifully handcrafted from fine full-grain leather, you can easily customize your flaps with movable knee blocks.

    Collegiate Graduate Saddle

  7. Collegiate Graduate Close Contact Saddle
  8. The Collegiate Graduate Close Contact Saddle is designed to properly fit both horse and rider for better performance and comfort. The high-quality, naturally tanned Argentinian cow leather seat and buffalo leather flaps add to the quality feel of the saddle. It also has a semi-deep seat with a narrow twist, square cantle, and a simple & quick changeable gullet system.

    Bates Caprilli Saddle

  9. Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle
  10. This Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle is the perfect saddle for the performance-driven hunter/jumper. The saddle has Heritage leather on the skirt and saddle flaps, and double-lined leather on the seat and knee inserts, making this saddle comfortable for you and your horse. For added comfort, the saddle has CAIR panels to distribute weight evenly across the back, rear Flexible and ergonomic stirrup bars, and short triple girth points.

    Arena Jump Saddle

  11. Arena Jump Saddle
  12. The Arena Jump Saddle is made of European leather and offers balance and support for riding on the flat or over fences. The Easy Change Gullet Fit System offers flexibility to fit a variety of horses, and the Comfort Seat Technology supports the rider and allows movement with the horse while feeling secure in the saddle. Protective cushioning with the CAIR system supports you and your horse.

    Passierblu Motion Saddle

  13. PASSIERBLU® Motion Close Contact English Saddle
  14. The PASSIERBLU® Motion Close Contact English Saddle is part of the youthful PASSIERBLU® collection. It has a super comfy flat seat and square cantle, and the width of the gullet plate can be adjusted to different horses. The non-slip Selloil leather has blue stitching with blue patent trim for a gorgeous look. This saddle also has small saddle flaps with large knee blocks and small calf blocks, and freedom foam panels ensure optimal fit on your horse's back, making this saddle premium in comfort and fit for you and your horse.

The 3 Best All-Purpose Saddles

    HDR Advantage All Purpose Saddle

  1. HDR Advantage All Purpose Saddle
  2. The HDR Advantage All Purpose Saddle is a popular saddle, perfect for cross country, trail riding, jumping, schooling or work on the flat. It is built on a laminated beechwood tree, and the all-purpose style deep seat provides proper security and balance. A perfect choice for a versatile rider and horse.

    Wintec 2000 All Purpose Saddle

  3. Wintec 2000 All Purpose English Saddle
  4. This saddle allows for the rider's leg to find a natural groove easily, and their contact and communication will become effortless. Wintec has created super-soft panels which mold in and around your horse's muscles, hugging their unique conformation. The saddle combines luxury suede with convenient Equileather, making it ideal for multi-discipline riders, including jumping, hunting, and pleasure.

    Arena All Purpose Saddle

  5. Arena All Purpose Saddle
  6. The well-balanced Arena All Purpose Saddle, made from quality European leather, is supportive and comfortable for you and your horse, no matter what discipline you ride. This saddle has protective CAIR system cushioning, and an Easy-Change Gullet System to use on various horses, and the ElastiFlex Tree is lightweight and durable, providing lateral flexion to increase your horse's comfort.

The 5 Best Dressage Saddles

    Passier Optimum Dressage Saddle

  1. Passier® Optimum Dressage Saddle
  2. The Passier® Optimum Dressage Saddle is the top choice for professional dressage riders. Designed to keep riders in the perfect riding position, this saddle has a seat, knee inserts, and panels made of non-slip Selloil leather, and the width of the gullet plate can be adjusted to suit different horses. It also has a deep seat with a narrow twist and thigh supports to keep the rider’s legs in position.

    Bates Dressage Saddle

  3. Bates Dressage Saddle
  4. The Bates Dressage Saddle is a dressage saddle that offers a traditional appearance with the adjustable fit Bates is known for. The Easy Change Fit Solution allows for the perfect fit, while the CAIR panels help distribute weight evenly across the back. Adjustable Y-Girthing, molded knee inserts, and adjustable ergonomic stirrup bars round out this saddle’s features. This saddle is made to encourage the optimal dressage position.

    Arena Dressage Saddle

  5. Arena Dressage Saddle
  6. The Arena Dressage Saddle provides a close contact feel for achieving desired movements in rhythmic unison, with the ability to fit various horses from the Easy Change Gullet System. Made from European leather, this saddle has a deep seat, long billets, and moveable knee blocks for a personalized fit. This saddle will help you obtain the optimal dressage position while providing the ultimate comfort for your horse.

    Kincade Leather Dressage Saddle

  7. Kincade Leather Dressage Saddle
  8. For the beginning Dressage rider, Kincade offers a traditionally styled, durable saddle at an affordable price. Classically styled, the Kincade Leather Dressage Saddle Features a deep, supportive seat and airflow-padded flaps. Large knee blocks for support and flocked panels encourage newer Dressage riders to keep the position, so they can concentrate on learning the building blocks of the discipline. These saddles are lightweight, comfortable, and low maintenance.

    HDR Parisian Monoflap Dressage Saddle

  9. HDR Parisian Monoflap Dressage Saddle
  10. The Henri de Rivel Parisian Monoflap Dressage Saddle provides the ultimate seat for dressage riders. An IGP (interchangeable gullet) system makes it easy to fit multiple horses for busy show or training barns and decreases the number of unused saddles sitting in the tack room. The mono flap design allows for a clear feel of the horse's back, and large, padded knee blocks and deep seat allow for the rider to keep a correct position easily and comfortably. This saddle is the perfect all-around Dressage saddle.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the average cost of an English Saddle?

The average e price of an English saddle varies. A good, entry-level saddle can cost around $250, but prices can go as high as $8,000, like for a top-of-the-line Passier.

How do you measure an English Saddle?

You can measure an English Saddle by using a tape measure, measuring the length from the center of the nail head (the metal piece below the pommel and just above the D-ring) to the top of the cantel (the rear part of the saddle that provides support to the rider's back). For more detailed instructions and proper measuring, check out our blog: Learn How to Fit and Measure for an English Saddle.

Can you trail ride in an English saddle?

You can absolutely trail ride in an English Saddle! An all-purpose saddle is a perfect choice for the trails. While you could ride the trails in a close contact or dressage saddle, especially if you are cooling out your horse after a lesson by hacking on a trail, it’s better to use the all-purpose saddle for regular trail riding.

How to clean an English saddle?

Depending on your saddle material, cleaning an English Saddle is easy. Synthetic saddles can be cleaned with soap and water, but leather saddles need specific leather cleaners. For detailed instructions, check out our blog: Learn How to Clean an English Saddle.

English saddles have come a long way from their start in the 18th century to now. For any rider who wants to focus on English disciplines, saddleries have made it their mission to create and sell saddles that fit many different types of horses and riders. While that is a wonderful thing, it can be daunting when trying to purchase your first saddle! But armed with the right knowledge and research, finding the right saddle for you and your horse can turn from daunting into a pleasurable shopping trip. Enjoy the journey…and the ride in your new saddle!