Western Vs. English Saddles | A Primer For Beginners
If you're new to the world of horseback riding, you might be wondering what kind of saddle you should get for your horse. There are two main types of saddles on the market: English and Western. Here's a closer look at both and an explanation of their key features.
The first thing you'll notice about a Western saddle is that it has much more padding than other saddles. This extra padding is there for a reason. It provides additional comfort for the rider, especially when riding for long periods. Another feature of Western saddles is that they have longer stirrups, allowing the rider to maintain a more upright position while riding, which is necessary for proper balance and control when riding with a Western technique.
In addition to the extra padding and longer stirrups, Western saddles are easily identifiable by their pommels. The pommel has many names — horn, saddle fork, swell fork, undercut swell, A-fork, and more — depending on what part of the country you are from. However, no matter what you decide to call it, the pommel is used as a grip when roping cattle. It is also helpful when climbing up or down and removing the saddle from the horse.
Some Western saddles also have decorative silver conchos or other adornments. These accoutrements add to the aesthetic appeal of the saddle but are strictly optional.
There are three main types of English saddles: dressage, jumping, and all-purpose, each with its own purpose.
Dressage saddles are designed for dressage riding, which is a competitive discipline emphasizing controlled movements and horsemanship. Dressage saddles have a deep seat that puts the rider in a position that allows for better control of the horse.
Jumping saddles are designed for show jumping, a competitive sport where riders must jump over a series of obstacles. They have a shallower seat than dressage saddle to allow the rider to be more agile when riding over jumps.
All-purpose saddles are a versatile type of saddle that can be used for both dressage and jumping.
One key visual difference between a Western and an English saddle is that English saddles do not have a pommel. English riders need to lean forward as they jump with the horse, and the pommel would only get in the way.
If you're planning on doing any roping or other ranch-related activities while on horseback, then a Western saddle is definitely the way to go. If you plan on training for jumping and other formal equestrian activities, choose an English saddle. Whichever option you choose, be sure to take care of your saddle so that it lasts for many years to come.