Best Horse Saddles

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
191 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best horse saddles

A saddle is arguably the most important (and expensive!) riding accessory you’ll need to purchase. The seat size and saddle width play a crucial role in how comfortable the saddle will be for both horse and rider, while your choice of a Western, English, or hybrid saddle will determine whether or not you can compete in barrel racing, endurance riding, or dressage.

You’ll also want to consider key features like gender suitability, tree type, weight, and materials. While leather has long been considered the gold standard for saddle materials, new leather alternatives offer compelling benefits that may sway even elite riders. Your personal preferences, budget, and riding style will all play a role in your choice of saddle.

Our buying guide outlines the key factors that set different saddles apart. We also include helpful tips for maintaining and using your saddle and answer some commonly asked questions about horse saddles. Don’t forget to check out our top picks for the best horse saddles when you’re ready to buy.

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Wider stirrups with treads provide more stability on trail rides.

Key considerations

Saddle types

Choosing between a Western saddle, an English saddle, or a hybrid saddle is no easy decision. You’ll find numerous varieties within each broader category, not to mention the fact that most people use a saddle to ride in several settings, for example, barrel racing and trail riding.

Identify your top priority in riding as well as your secondary riding preferences to find a saddle that offers the best of all worlds. That said, if you are a competitive rider or want to highly specialized, you may decide to purchase more than one saddle to best meet your needs.

  • Western: Western saddles are working saddles meant to provide maximum comfort for horse and rider with maximum utility (lots of places to hang ropes and carry supplies). The seat of a Western saddle is deeper, for more stability at higher speeds. Western saddles are often used for trail riding, roping, Western pleasure events, and barrel racing.
  • English: English saddles are simpler and lighter. They’re commonly used for dressage and eventing since it’s easier for the rider to feel the horse’s movements underneath the saddle. English saddles keep the rider more upright, with the legs very close to the horse for subtle cues.
  • Hybrid or all-purpose: Hybrid saddles offer the best of both worlds for many riders, with the deeper seat and comfort of a Western saddle combined with the lightness and close fit of an English saddle. Beginner riders, riders who enjoy a diverse array of riding styles, and endurance riders commonly prefer hybrid types.

Gullet and tree size

The gullet is the tunnel that runs the length of the saddle and sits atop the highest part of the horse’s back. Gullet width is a crucially important factor in determining how well a saddle fits a horse. If the gullet is too narrow, it can pinch and dig into the muscles on either side of the horse’s spine. If the gullet is too wide, it can press down on the spine. Both scenarios are uncomfortable for the horse and can lead to training problems and even health issues over time.

You’ll find eight standard gullet sizes. Smaller gullets made for small quarter horses start at 5.75 inches wide, while the largest gullets measure 8 inches for draft horses. If you aren’t sure which gullet size your horse needs or whether your steed’s back is considered narrow, in between, or wide, consult a trainer for guidance.

Tree size determines how snugly the sides of the saddle sit against a horse’s flanks. The treewidth is determined by the amount of space between the two sides of the saddle at the bottom of the tree points. Typical tree sizes are narrow, medium, wide, and extra-wide.

When the saddle is placed on a horse, you should be able to fit two to four fingers between the horse’s withers and the gullet of the saddle. The tree of the saddle should taper and hug the horse’s sides closely.

Seat size

Seat size differs by saddle type. For Western disciplines, youth saddles start at 12 inches, while adult saddles vary from 14 to 17 inches. Keep in mind that size isn’t particularly straightforward, since the depth, slope, and fork width all influence how secure and comfortable a particular saddle will feel. You should have about four inches between the saddle fork and the front of your body, while your rear should rest comfortably against the back of the saddle.

English saddle sizes run larger. In general, your saddle size will be about two inches larger in an English saddle than a Western saddle. Like Western saddles, English saddles are measured in inches and range from 14 to 19 inches. To measure for an English saddle, sit upright in a chair with your knees at a 90-degree angle and measure from your knees to the back of your buttocks.

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Did You Know?
A poorly fitting saddle is a top cause of horse behavioral issues. Watch your horse carefully for signs of discomfort after purchasing a new saddle.
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Features

Material

Leather saddles are still considered the gold standard. If properly cared for, leather lasts a long time, is extremely durable, and looks great. However, leather is heavy and requires more effort to clean and maintain.

Synthetic leather and plastic saddle materials have come a long way. You’ll now find a number of high-end synthetic saddles that are lightweight, easy to maintain and clean, and built to last.

Tree type

Saddles are usually constructed out of a T-shaped plastic or wooden tree – essentially the skeleton of the saddle that forms the basic shape. Padding and leather are placed over the tree to make the saddle. Saddles are available with three basic tree types:

  • Fixed tree: Fixed-tree saddles can’t be adjusted and are best suited for one horse. If you won’t be using your saddle for more than one horse and just want to find the perfect fit, a fixed-tree saddle may be the right choice.
  • Adjustable tree: Some saddles feature adjustable trees made from fiberglass or plastic that can be manipulated with a wrench to fit different horses. The majority of saddles with adjustable tree types are English saddles.
  • Treeless: There’s a lot of controversy about treeless saddles. Some are little more than bareback pads that do little to distribute weight and take pressure off the horse’s spine, while others are marvels of engineering and can allow the horse’s muscles to move more naturally and fluidly. If you opt for a treeless saddle, be sure you’re choosing a properly engineered option that will distribute weight without pressing on the horse’s spine.

Men’s vs. women’s saddles

Men’s seat bones are much closer together than women’s seat bones, which means that if you’re serious about riding you should take your body structure into account when choosing a saddle. Women who ride in a saddle built for men may notice that their hips and back hurt after riding since it’s difficult to maintain a proper sitting position.

Weight

Leather Western saddles are generally the heaviest, followed by synthetic Western saddles. The lightest saddles are synthetic English saddles. Saddle weight can make a difference in how much wear a horse’s joints sustain, particularly during long rides. Endurance saddles are commonly made to be as light as possible. Lighter saddles are also easier to carry.

Not sure what saddle type you prefer? Take lessons from a horse trainer or stable and ask to try out different saddle types to learn which one feels most natural and comfortable.

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Horse saddle prices

Inexpensive

Budget saddles start at around $200. These entry-level saddles are typically constructed from synthetic materials, but you’ll find some leather options. The majority of budget saddles are English (since they’re simpler and require fewer materials), but you’ll find a few Western and all-purpose options as well. Keep a careful eye on construction. A saddle that seems like a steal but doesn’t last very long isn’t a good investment. Inexpensive saddles tend to have limited gullet sizes and fixed trees, so if you have a hard-to-fit horse you may need to tier up.

Mid-range

From $300 to $500, you’ll find English, Western, and all-purpose saddles with higher-quality craftsmanship, more options for customization and fit, and better durability. Keep an eye on the quality of any hardware or ornamentation. Some customers complain of stirrups that come loose or straps that slip. In this price tier, you can find a number of high-quality smaller saddles meant for youth riders. The majority of riders looking for a basic, quality saddle should be able to find a solid option in this price range.

High-end

For upward of $500, you can expect the highest quality craftsmanship, a wide variety of seat and gullet sizes, excellent craftsmanship in ornamentation and metal buckles, and saddles crafted specifically for different disciplines like jumping or barrel racing. Whether the material is leather or synthetic, it should be supple and soft. Pricey saddles put the comfort of both horse and rider at a premium and commonly offer styles suited specifically for men and women. If you specialize in high-level equestrian sports, it’s worth it to pay more for a saddle that’s made just for your discipline.

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Did You Know?
A properly fitted saddle shouldn’t tip forward or backward when you tighten the girth.
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Tips

  • The horn of a Western saddle isn’t meant to be a handle for riders. It’s intended to hold ropes while driving cattle.
  • Avoid using a saddle pad to compensate for a poor saddle fit. Over time, a poorly fitting saddle will take a toll on your horse, so verify a proper fit before you add a pad.
  • Aging horses need special considerations for saddle fit since their shape can change as the withers and spine become more pronounced or the horse loses or gains weight. Evaluate saddle fit more often for an aging horse.
  • For a good test of saddle fit, try trotting in the saddle without stirrups. If you can maintain your center of balance well without pitching forward or sliding around, it’s a positive sign you have a proper fit.
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Look for cues like pinned ears, a swishing tail, or sensitivity to touch when you’re saddling up. This may indicate fit problems.

FAQ

Q. What is the best way to clean my saddle?

A. Your saddle will inevitably get wet and dirty no matter how you ride. But sweat and dirt can damage your saddle and shorten its lifespan. Always allow your saddle to air dry after each use. When cleaning a leather saddle, use a very small amount of water to create a lather from saddle paste or saddle bar soap. Then use a sponge to clean the saddle. Keep the leather supple with a leather treatment every couple of months. If you have a synthetic saddle, you can use water and saddle soap or mild detergent.

Q. How should I store my saddle?

A. Always store your saddle in a cool, dry place away from the sun. Heat and moisture can cause leather to crack or stretch and can fade or weaken synthetic materials over time. Some horse owners use a saddle stand to help the saddle keep its shape and a cloth to keep dust off.

Q. What kind of saddle pad is best?

A. A quality saddle pad will protect your horse and your saddle. Choose the proper size for your horse and seek out a pad with extra padding for horses with extra-high withers. Cotton and fleece saddle pads are popular choices since they wick away moisture from your horse’s skin and the saddle. They are also easy to care for.

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