Introduction to the different modern saddles for your horse

The saddle is a much more recent invention than the bridle, and stirrups are the most recent invention of all. Elaborate versions of the bridle can be traced to the fifth century B.C., but it wasn’t until the fourth century A.D. that a saddle was built on a leather-covered wooden frame. One hundred years later the first stirrup was attached. Originally, there was only one stirrup, not because men rode sidesaddle, but because they saw its usefulness only for mounting and dismounting. They quickly discovered, however, that a stirrup helped the rider balance, and if one stirrup was good, two would be even better. The cavalry liked them because stirrups made it more difficult for an enemy to dislodge a soldier from his horse. The new invention took root, and since the fifth century A.D., all cross saddles have been designed to accommodate two stirrups, one on each side. As with bridles and bits, saddles have a long and colorful history.

1) Dressage—The dressage has the deepest seat of all modern saddles. That means the seat is considerably lower than the pommel (front) and the cande (rear). The stirrup leathers are inset a Utile further toward the cantle than they are on other saddles, positioning the riders legs well back under the hips. A dressage saddle often has very long billets, allowing the girth to buckle by the rider’s foot rather than up under the thigh. This overall design gives the rider a very secure feeling and allows excellent communication with the horse.

2) Close Contact—The close contact is also known as the forward seat or jumping saddle. The shallower seat and forward cut of the flaps allow the rider to be in balance with the horse when moving at high speed and over fences. When a horse is jumping, its balance shifts considerably farther forward than that of the dressage horse in action; hence the rider needs a saddle that allows him to shift his weight forward in time with his horse. The deep seat and straight flap of the dressage saddle would not allow the rider to move forward enough to be in balance with the movements of a jumper. Likewise, the shallow seat of the forward seat saddle would not position a rider properly for the collected movements of dressage.

3) All-Purpose—This saddle usually comes with adjustable bars, allowing the rider to move the stirrup leather forward or backward, depending on the type of riding. The seat is a cross between the deep pocket of a dressage saddle and the shallow seat of a jumping saddle. The flaps are not as straight as those on a dressage saddle, nor as forward as those on a jumping saddle. The girth, however, usually buckles under the riders thigh as it does on a jumping saddle.

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