Guide to English Saddles

English saddles are the primary saddles used in English riding disciplines worldwide. There are many different English riding disciplines, such as show jumping, endurance riding and dressage to name a few, that require variations in saddle design to meet the needs of a particular discipline. For example, dressage saddles are designed to give the rider a closer feel with the horse which allows the rider to give better signals.

However, common to all English saddles is the fact that they are designed to give the horse greater freedom of movement since they lack the features associated with Western or Australian saddles. So what size saddle do you need?

How to Measure an English Saddle

When you begin to measure for an English saddle, remember that the different parts of a saddle - the seat size is for you, the rider, and the gullet size/saddle width/tree size is for your horse!

Seat Size

The techniques used to measure the seat of English saddles are similar to that of a Western saddle. Unlike Western saddles, English saddles do not have a large cantle, and as a result tend to measure larger. If you’ve ridden in a Western saddle and know the size of that saddle, then it should be easy to determine the size you may want to consider for an English saddle. A good rule of thumb for Western riders is that the English seat size is generally two inches larger than a Western saddle seat size. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the exact size you need, but it will be close. For instance, if you ride in a 15" western saddle, you will probably need a 17" English saddle. General seat sizes range from 14" up to 19" with 17" and 17.5" being the most common and most popular sizes.

Measuring your Saddle Seat Size

The easiest way to measure for the appropriate seat size is to measure your upper thigh.

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground so that your knees are bent at a 45-degree angle. Be sure your buttocks are touching the back of the chair.
  2. Take a measuring tape and run it along your thigh bone, measuring from the end of your knee to the backside of your buttocks.
Measuring Your Saddle Seat Size
Your Measurement Your Saddle Size
Less than 16.5" 15" saddle
Between 16.5" and 18.5" 16" saddle
Between 18.5" and 20" 16.5" saddle
Between 20" and 21.5" 17" saddle
Between 21.5" and 23" 17.5" saddle
More than 23" 18" saddle

When in doubt, it’s better to go a size larger. If your saddle is too small for you, then you will be sitting on the cantle instead of the deepest part and putting a lot of pressure on your horse’s back.

Gullet Size

A saddle with the right gullet size for your horse is equally as important as the rider’s seat size.

There are a variety of gullet sizes (also known as saddle width or tree size) to fit the width of a horse’s back. The most common sizes are narrow, medium, wide, and extra-wide.

Looking down on your horse’s back from above, you should be able to determine the size of your horse’s back. The average horse will generally need a medium gullet size while larger horses, like Warmbloods and draft horses, might require a wide or extra-wide saddle. The gullet size is also dependent on what type of breed you have. For example, Arabians and Thoroughbreds generally have narrow backs and may need a narrow width. If you are unsure of the gullet size your horse would need, please consult with your trainer or local horse professional.

Fitting an English Saddle to the Horse

When your saddle arrives, be sure it fits you and your horse properly. If a saddle does not fit the horse or rider, it must be returned unused. When fitting a saddle for your horse, use a thin sheet or towel before placing on your horse’s back.

When determining if a saddle fits your horse’s back, do not use a saddle pad for the first time. We recommend using a thin sheet or towel. Place the saddle on your horse’s back. If it fits correctly, the saddle should look level with the pommel while allowing the cantle to be one inch higher than the pommel. Attach the girth and tighten, making sure that you are able to fit at least two fingers in between the pommel and the horse’s withers. There should be enough clearance so that the saddle does not rest on the horse’s spine at any point.

If your saddle fits correctly up to this point, the above mentioned guidelines should still hold true once you sit in the saddle. Don’t assume it fits correctly by “eyeing” it; you need to physically sit in the saddle. When sitting in the saddle, you should feel balanced and centered. There should be two to four inches of clearance between yourself and the front of the pommel and the back of the cantle. If you do not have that much clearance, the saddle seat may be too small for you.

Please note that these are only guidelines. Before purchasing a saddle, please consult with your trainer or local professional.

  • Published:
  • Updated: 1/19/2023: 10:59:20 AM ET
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