The 8 Best Horse Saddles
The Equestrian Pinnacle Of Versatility
Just as the seatbelt can help to keep you relatively safe and comfortable while driving, the same can be said for the saddle when riding a horse.
When operating a motorized vehicle, chances are that your natural instinct will be to fasten your seatbelt before you start driving. Imagine the potential dangers of driving unrestrained, with the possibility of being thrown violently from the inside of that car in the event of a bad accident. Just as the seatbelt can help to keep you relatively safe and comfortable while driving, the same can be said for the saddle when riding a horse. So regardless of whether you're training the next Secretariat or looking for a leisurely pastime with your equine buddy, always keep a durable saddle in mind, as it will protect both you and your prized animal.
The equestrian saddle is a supportive structure fastened to a horse by means of a girth that straps around the animal's midsection. It has several functional parts, including a tree, the wooden base on which the saddle is constructed; the seat, upon which a rider sits; a pommel, the front and slightly-raised portion of the accessory; the cantle, also known as the saddle's rear section; the stirrups, into which a riders feet are placed for stability while riding; leather fenders, which connect the stirrups to the tree; a D-shaped ring, to which additional accessories may be attached; underside padding, designed to absorb impacts while riding; and a horn, an additional knob-like appendage attached to the pommel.
Saddles generally fall into one of two major categories, including English-style and stock saddles. English saddles encompass a variety of specialized types, including those used for jumping, dressage, polo, endurance, and racing purposes, among others. One of the most common and well-known types of stock saddle is the American western saddle, which is used on working horses at cattle ranches and represents saddles you'd associate with all those old cowboy movies and rodeos on television. Like their English counterparts, western saddles are categorized according to their intended use. For example, the heavyweight roping saddle is equipped with a thick horn and low cantle for working with cattle and ensuring quick dismounts. By contrast, the barrel-racing saddle is lightweight with a high cantle, ensuring rider stability, while also allowing the horse to perform fast sprints and tight turns.
Common construction materials for most western saddles include any combination of leather, fiberglass, fleece for the seats, and sturdy woods for the tree component.
Don't Saddle For Less Than The Best
Think about the types of activities you plan to perform with your horse and chances are, there's a perfect saddle for the job.They are fashioned for virtually any horseback activity you could imagine.
An ill-fitting saddle could otherwise cause the formation of body sores on both you and your equine friend.
Once you've determined the specific application for your intended saddle, a proper fit will make all the difference for you and the horse. Make sure to keep an eye on the animal's behavior, as that is often a good indicator of how the equipment is perceived and whether the horse feels confident enough to wear it while supporting your weight at the same time. Comfort and safety should be among the most important considerations to make before anything else, which means the equipment should be looked over both on and off the animal.
A horse's anatomy should also be taken into account in order to avoid potential injuries, regardless of whether you'll be racing or taking leisurely strolls along a trail. The animal's neck, back, and shoulders give the rise to the shape of its withers, which is ultimately where the saddle should fall into position. An ill-fitting saddle could otherwise cause the formation of body sores on both you and your equine friend. A horse should also have evenly-distributed pressure across its back, which can be accomplished by choosing a saddle with sturdy, gripped stirrups to help balance your weight.
A Brief History Of The Horse Saddle
There is evidence to suggest that humans began domesticating and riding horses as early as 4000 B.C.E., though the animals appeared in Paleolithic cave art as far back as 30000 B.C.E. At that time, horses were mainly used as a source of wild meat, as opposed to a method of travel.
Embellishments to these saddles even included sewn patterns, leather work, gold accents, and wood or horn cravings for ornamentation.
The first known saddle equipment took the form of cloth pads that were strapped around a horse with a girth and used by the Assyrian cavalry as early as the year 700 B.C.E. These rudimentary saddles were status symbols and used to show off a person's wealth. Embellishments to these saddles even included sewn patterns, leather work, gold accents, and wood or horn cravings for ornamentation.
The nomadic Scythian people were the first culture to develop the saddle frame, which consisted of two parallel leather cushions and dates back to around 400 B.C.E. By 200 B.C.E., saddles of Asian design were constructed atop wooden frames and appeared during the Han dynasty. These solid trees were considered a monumental development in the evolution of the saddle, as they served to keep a rider above a horse's back, while evenly distributing the rider's weight across both sides of the animal's spine, preventing harmful pressure points on the horse's back. The solid tree also made possible the invention of the stirrup in India by the 2nd century B.C.E., which was widespread in its usage in China by 470 C.E., thanks to its application in warfare.
Saddle improvements continued through the Middle Ages during which higher cantles, pommels, and more durable wooden trees were developed, allowing them to resemble the modern western saddle. These were later modified for use in roping cows and bullfighting. The western saddle, as we know it today, was developed from those saddles originally brought to America by the Spanish Conquistadors and optimized for assisting cattle ranchers and cowboys. While the horn is considered the most recent addition to the accessory in modern times, the saddle's overall style is constantly changing to suit the needs of both its rider and horse.