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English Saddle Review

Lisa Blackstone

English Saddle Review
The History Of The
English Saddle

Aug 21, 2015

Have you ever read an English saddle review to learn how these saddles evolved into what they are today?

The history of English Saddles are quite interesting and illustrates how the term “form to function” explains it all. Read on for some great background and history on English Saddles.

Dressage Saddle Origins

Back in the 18th century, saddles in Europe were designed to accommodate the equine activities of the day, namely, bullfighting, combat and long distance riding.   Riders in these activities needed a great deal of support!

These saddles had high pommels (front) and cantles (back) that helped keep the rider in position. They were based on a wooden frame and were strong and durable.

Today, this saddle morphed into what we call the Dressage saddle.  It is still used in European countries including Austria, where the Spanish Riding School employs their use.

The World Likes To Jump!

Also,  foxhunting was growing more and more popular after the English Civil War.  Foxhunting, however, required that the horse jump obstacles in the field.  This required a different kind of saddle.

The saddle designed for bullfighting would not assist the rider over a jump at all!!!  The pommel and cantle were way too high, which got in the way of the position the rider had to take in order to jump.

Because of these usage trends, a new saddle evolved.  This saddle, designed for jumping, had a much lower pommel and cantle,  addressing the problem with the old style.  The riders rode with longer stirrups back then, unlike what we see now.  Therefore, the flap did not change so drastically until much later.

It is this foxhunting English Saddle that serves as the model from which the rest of our English saddles are derived.

As time went by and show jumping and eventing become more popular, the saddle evolved to accommodate a jumping position with greater precision.  Riders found that a shorter stirrup served their needs better than a longer stirrup.

With this change the saddle flap had to come out further than with the old style to protect the more bent  knee.  With a bent knee came a seat that was further back, with the rider leaning slightly forward.

Riders also found that padding under the knee area provided additional security in the saddle. This is the modern-day “forward seat” saddle, also called a hunt saddle or jumping saddle.

There are numerous variations that reflect the personal taste of the rider, but basically, these saddles all resemble each other a great deal.

Where Did The Flat Saddle Come From?

The Flat saddle, also called the Cut Back saddle, or Saddle Seat saddle developed from a couple of sources.  It gets the name from the flatness of the seat and the cut out area above the horses’ withers.

This was also an European saddle developed for the saddle seat rider who sits further back on high action horses.  The cut back saddle showed off the high front leg action of certain breeds, like the Saddlebred, Arabian and Morgan as you might see them on Sunday afternoon jaunts through the parks.

Since that time, this saddle was used in early American times as a plantation saddle on gaited horses, like the Tennessee Walker.  Since gaited horses were so comfortable and easy to ride with their ambling gaits, the rider did not have to post and this saddle allowed riders to sit back comfortably as they covered large areas of farmland.

For purposes of this English saddle review, the three major kinds of saddles are discussed.  But, do not think that these are all the English saddle out there!  And, just think, there are just as many english bridles to learn about!

Today we see lots of variations of English saddles, all reflecting the different styles of riding.  And, they will continue to evolve as we use our horses differently and find better materials and designs to accommodate the horse and rider.

So, keep visiting our blog and learn more and more about saddles here at our English Saddle Review.

Well… I hope that helps!

Warm Regards,

Lisa Blackstone
American Horse Association
Horse And Rider Club

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