A Guide to Saddle Types

- Guides and Tips

SaddlesIf you’re new to the exciting world of horse riding then you’re going to need to know a bit about different types of saddles. Purpose built for different riding activities, the right type and fit of saddle helps you to sit comfortably and correctly, while your horse is able to move freely and without discomfort.


Different Riding Styles and Saddles


Most saddles are designed with three main riding styles in mind:


  • to sit deep with a long stirrup, as in dressage competitions, or
  • to sit above and forward as a horse jumps an obstacle, as in showjumping or cross country riding, or
  • a combination of the above, where riders may compete in several different riding activities.


Competition Saddles




Built with long, straight flaps and deep seats, these types of saddles help riders sit comfortably in the classic dressage position. The shape and padding of the saddle, and a long stirrup encourages the rider to keep the leg long, with knee down, while keeping a light touch on the horse at all times.




ShowjumpingDesigned with a forward-cut flap and ridden with short stirrups, this saddle type helps riders easily rise above the saddle in a forward motion as the horse navigates a course of jumping objects. Saddle features of padded knee rolls and low cut cantles and pommels help the rider keep a forward lean. Riders that don’t ‘go forward’ with the movement of the horse over jumps, can affect the horse’s balance and pace, causing faults.


General Purpose Saddles


Produced to combine components of both dressage and showjumping designs, these saddles provide great flexibility in riding style. They are a great choice for riders who participate in multiple activities such as dressage, eventing or just riding for pleasure in the countryside. Saddle flap design and other features let riders change their position for different activities by shortening or lengthening the stirrups.


Working Saddles


Riders working with sheep or cattle typically use these types of saddles.


Australian Stock Saddles


Designed with deep seats, high cantles and knee pads, these saddles help the rider sit comfortably and steadily for long periods of time, and while working in rough country.


Western Saddles


Designed with much of the same aims in mind as a stock saddle, distinctive western saddle design features include a horn (to secure a rope when lassoing stock), deep wide seats, wide flaps and much larger size than most other saddles.