Types Of Horse Saddles: Quality And Balance Are Always The Key

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 11/26/22 •  10 min read

Saddles are literally the seat for the rider.

But here is the kicker…..

A wrongly fitted saddle does more harm than good. This is because it will cause your horse’s behavioral issues and poor performance. At the same time, you will feel discomfort.

Here is the deal:

The prime responsibility of horse saddles is to provide security and comfort to the horse during horse riding (aka allows the rider to maintain balance on their horse). 

Now, look- Modern saddles come with a huge variety. Not to mention, each type offers distinctive benefits and drawbacks. That’s why having an idea about types of horse saddles is super important. The first rule- ensure it fits both the horse and the rider.

So, how many types of horse saddles are there?

Horse saddles are of 2 types: 

And the twist is – Whereas English saddles have 7 different categories and western saddles come with 4 different types. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

English saddles & it’s categories

These saddles are lightweight and offer closer contact with the back of the horse. They are made of different materials like synthetic, leather, etc.

And guess what?

The history of the English saddle is earlier than you think. During the 18th century, Europeans used saddles, usually with wooden frames.

#1. All-purpose saddle

Also known as the “General saddle”, usually have a longer flap than most of the other saddles. The coolest thing is it suits pretty well for multiple disciplines.

All-purpose saddle



#2. Dressage saddle

It comes truly handy for riding on the flat. What makes it unique from the rest of the others is the deep seat and straight flap.

Dressage saddle



#3. Jumping saddle

Widely known as “forward seat” or “close contact”, these saddles are the perfect fit for any cross-country phases of eventing or slow jumping.

Jumping saddle



#4. Side saddle

A side saddle is also a riding tern where the rider sits aside with both legs. The roots of this riding are over 100 years old and were restricted to women riders. As it needed more safety, a dedicated saddle was made for this which we know as the side saddle today.

Side saddle



#5. Racing saddle

As the name suggests, this saddle is designed for racing purposes. One girth strap and short stirrups let the rider ride over fences quite comfortably.

Racing saddle



#6. Endurance saddle

These saddles distribute the rider’s weight evenly on the horse’s back, giving the horse a comfortable feel

Endurance saddle



#7. Polo saddle

The most horse-friendly saddle is probably this saddle. The flat and long seat allows the rider to ride conveniently.

Polo saddle



Related: Are you looking for the perfect saddle? Try Wade vs Association–it’s designed to provide comfort, fit, and security while riding. Find the perfect fit for you today!

Western saddles & it’s categories

Western saddles are bulky compared to English saddles. They are an ideal option for riding long days and traveling. As the name indicates, they are used for western riding. 

What about the USA?

These are the famous “Cowboy” saddle we usually see in movies. Interestingly, the main craftsman of these saddles is actually Mexican vaqueros.

#1. Roping saddle

“Built to endure demanding use of roping cattle”- does the name make sense now? The best part is they are quite durable and long-lasting.

Roping saddle



#2. Barrel racing saddle

Features a deep seat and a high cantle, helping riders to secure along with a tail. The main purpose is to wrap up the barrel pattern in the fastest time possible.

Barrel racing saddle



#3. Ranch saddle

These are not for some fancy use for short competition, it’s truly built for long hours and performance. The rider and the horse feel comfortable and secure in its sturdy and heavy design.

Ranch saddle



#4. Trail saddles (aka pleasure saddles)

The heavily padded seat yet lightweight gives incredible comfort, allowing the rider to spend many hours.

Trail saddles



What saddle do real cowboys use?

Real cowboys use wade saddles. 

These saddles are popular among “buckaroos.” The word buckaroos are for use by those persons who ride and work cattle. Such persons are most found in the Northwest of the United States.

“Western saddle” is the other name for wade saddles. But western saddles are available in several styles. Moreover, most of the subcategories are designed for specific purposes. 

Frank Wade invented wade saddles in 1887, and the popularity of this saddle is still on the rise. You may find it in Western shows, rodeo competitions, or other rodeos all over the United States. 

These saddles create a closer connection between the horse and the rides of their slick fork, low horn, and deep seat.

What type of saddle is most comfortable for the horse?

Finding the most comfortable saddle for your horse is crucial. With discomfort and an unfitted saddle, you will fight to maintain balance. Also, your horse will feel uncomfortable.

Here are a few tips for finding the most comfortable saddle for your horse.  

Remember to check the bars. The angle of the horse’s shoulder and the bar should match. Look at the angle intently, and you will be able to know if they are similar. Ensure a perfect fit.

What type of saddle do I need? what are the four basic criteria for selecting a saddle?

Don’t think that learning the saddle type is everything to buy the best horse saddles. There are a few factors you need to consider.


Most saddles are made of leather. Top-grain leather is a good choice, undoubtedly. Also, try to get the feel of the leather. Unyielding and hard leather may crack over time. 

Synthetic is a commonly used material for horse saddles. Slowly rub the surface of the saddle to check the friction. 

Also, learn whether the saddle is UV-resistant and the finishing of the surface. 

However, leather is the best material for saddles. Leather saddles are durable and last-longing compared to all other saddle materials.

Riding type

For the dressage test, avoid choosing a western roping saddle. While buying a ranch saddle will be a good idea for jockey riding.

So, it is always best to consider your riding type before purchasing one.


Do you have to spend extended hours on the horse saddles? In such a situation, your selected saddles should offer extreme comfort.

However, even if you don’t spend several hours, select a well-padded and lightweight model. So you don’t feel discomfort when riding your horse.


The saddle is one of many things you need to buy if you compete professionally. So, for a professional, budget is a significant consideration.

Simultaneously, beginner or intermediate-level riders should also consider the budget. Remember, balance affordability with quality craftsmanship.


Choosing the correct type of saddle for your horse is significantly important. If your horse feels discomfort, you will not get the best performance from it.

Finding the correct saddle type will be easier when you know your size and horse size. 

Other important things are the material and riding type. Based on these criteria, you can choose a saddle that will last for many days. Moreover, every ride will be comfortable, and your horse will perform well.

Not sure which one to choose?

Well, go with the general-purpose saddles. These saddles are designed for almost all purposes, and your investment will be worth the price when buying factors are considered.

All right, now you know all the basics and are 1-step closer to your dream riding.

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

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