How to Choose the Right Saddle for You

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How to Choose the Right Saddle for You

No one can say for a certainty who invented the saddle or when it made its first appearance. Some speculate that it came from the Chinese more than a couple of centuries ago. Others claim this riding tool has been in use by the Siberians for about 3000 years. Every equestrian, however, will agree on one thing- the appropriate saddle is an invaluable tool. A variety of saddles can be purchased at online marketplaces like eBay.

How to Determine Which Saddle is the Right One

To determine which saddle is the proper one, the rider must first educate himself about the different types of saddles and their uses. There are two general categories with which a novice should become familiar. They are the English and the Western saddles. Contact with the horse's back is not as close with Western saddles as it is with English saddles. Western saddles are also comparatively heavier than English saddles. The foundation for the English saddle is either a synthetic tree or a laminated tree of wood with steel as reinforcement. The wooden ones are covered with simple leather. The synthetic saddles are generally sheathed with either a fabric covering or a leather-look. Stuffing for the majority English saddles is either a mixture of acrylic and wool fibres or foam. Within both categories - English and Western - there are numerous variations, each designed for a specific type of rider and use. The pricing is as varied as the types of riders and the saddles' purposes.

General Purpose Saddle

The general purpose saddle, a lower-priced riding apparatus, is at times referred to as an all-purpose, or beginner's saddle. It is so called because it is commonly used by amateur riders and beginners in lower-level competition. Several features of the general purpose saddle include the deep seat and forward flap with leg padding. A more expensive version is the "evening saddle". A large number of riders report that they discern little difference in design between the regular general purpose saddle and the evening saddle. Manufacturers, however, maintain that the higher quality material and more detailed craftsmanship in the evening saddle provide a level of comfort that makes the extra expense worth the rider's while.

Modern Jumping Saddle

Federico Capriole, an early 20th century Italian cavalry officer, is credited for the original features of the Jumping saddle. However, the Spanish nobleman Count Illias Toptani is responsible for further modifications and the saddle's evolution; hence the name, the modern jumping saddle. The jumping saddle permits the rider to shorten the stirrups and lift his knees higher. This design also allows the rider to lean forward and adjust his weight to give the horse more jumping capability. Riders who desire better contact with the horse prefer the characteristic short flaps and flatter seat. These features-the deeper seat, narrower saddle waist, and larger knee rolls under forward cut flaps and panels- give the rider a greater sense of security, especially in dressage and hurdle competitions.

Hunt Seat Saddles

This is a type of forward seating saddle also commonly associated with equestrian competition. It was popularised in Europe by riders who enjoyed fox-hunting in the English countryside. The saddle is shaped so as to push the rider back in the saddle and his feet forward in the stirrups during jumps. Leaning backwards instead of forward allows for a safer landing. The low cantle and pommel design also contributes to a more comfortable jump.

This variety of saddles is also commonly used for a variation of the hunt seat riding, called saddle seat riding. Both are classified as English riding styles. Hunt style riding is more forward seating and requires the knees to be more relaxed, with the calf resting on the horse. The pelvis is slanted forward and the rider's back is slightly curved. The hands are positioned low, near the horse's withers. The hunt style is popular with many different breeds and jumpers favour it when competing.

On the other hand, saddle seat saddles are flatter, and the rider sits up straight. The knees are kept flat on the saddle. However, the lower leg stays away from the horse's sides when the rider is not using it to cue the horse. Generally, in saddle seat classes judges are looking mainly at the horse and they require no jumping. Saddlebreds and gaited horses are often ridden using this style.

Dressage Saddles

Dressage saddles are English styled. They heighten the straight-legged and erect posture of advanced riders who engage in flat-work competitions. Their deeper U-shape affords better balance for the rider. Dressage saddles have a lighter weight, straight flaps and thinner material to provide closer leg contact. This is essential when the riding competition requires precision moves. They are designed with a long and straight saddle flap, reflecting the leg of the dressage rider. To reduce the amount of straps and buckles underneath the rider's legs, Dressage saddles use shorter girth and have longer girth straps than other types of English saddles. A white pad is normally used underneath the saddle.

Western Saddles

The saddles are for ranch hands whose jobs require that they spend hours on horseback. They are designed for comfort and stability while the riders engage in manoeuvres that require sharp turns. The saddle material is generally of brown leather. Some of the more intricate designs include imaginative Western patterns. The rider uses one hand to balance himself with the distinctive horn at the front of the saddle. He uses the other hand to hold the reins.

There are about ten different types of Western Saddles, each crafted to fit the specialised duties associated with Western riding. Western saddles are distinguished by their square shape with the two bulges in the back and in the front. Synthetic fibre cushions the leather that is underneath the saddle on the back of the horse. Oftentimes Western saddles feature a horn that is 2 to 4 inches. This horn protrudes from the pommel. The swell, or pommel comes in the undercut swell fork, swell fork, and A fork. The front of the saddle is given its basic shape by the pommel. The rider's weight is distributed over the horse's back by the saddle tree. Sheathed in leather under the pommel and seat is the saddle tree part of the saddle. It is also the part that provides comfort for the rider.
 

Other Saddle Types

Descriptions

Racing Saddles
 

The racing saddles are used by jockeys whose mounts race at high speeds and sometimes jump fences. The saddles, understandably, are small and lightweight. They are characterised by their single girth strap and very short stirrups. Compared to other saddles, the seat is flatter. This design allows the rider to maintain a crouching position in the stirrups.

There are several variations of the racing saddle. The kind a jockey selects is determined by the type of competition in which he is involved. For instance, for flat racing the saddle of choice is one with smaller flaps. For the steeplechase, the rider normally selects a saddle with larger flaps to insure more security for the lower legs as he hurdles fences.

Australian Stock Saddle
 

Latigo is another name for this special strap. This is an internationally used saddle. It is said to have been adapted from the general purpose English saddle for Australian stock handlers. Its popularity is strongest among those who spend long hours on horseback, such as cattle ranchers, trail riders, endurance riders and those involved in polo crosse.

Commensurately, the Australian Stock saddle has comfort features for riders who spend long periods of time on horseback. Some of the more prominent features are a deeper seat, a higher pommel, a horn, extra knee padding, webbing and padding under the saddle, and an over girth.

Kids' Saddle
 

These very lightweight saddles are used for children on small ponies. The saddle's smaller shape allows the child to be more balanced in the seat. Some kids' saddles have a handle at the front for balance. They are made from artificial materials with small bits of leather or plastic. They are designed for a wide range of ponies and are often less expensive than larger saddles.

Care should be taken in selecting a kids' saddle. Child safety is always a concern and cheaper, inferior versions have been known to fail in their construction when put under stress.

Know Your eBay Saddle Seller

An excellent way to find a good quality saddle is to shop eBay Stores. Be sure to communicate with the eBay Community to exchange ideas and get excellent advice. Before you purchase a saddle, research the eBay seller to ensure that your transaction is secure and positive. Here are some important questions to consider before you choose the right saddle for you.

* How many negative versus positive responses does the seller have?

* What do eBay buyers say about their saddles in the feedback?

* How many saddle sales has the eBay seller completed?

* Is there a money-back guarantee provided by the seller for their saddle?

* What are the seller's terms and conditions?

Finding the Right Saddle on eBay

Whether you spend time on horseback for work or play, whether a beginner or veteran, you can find the right saddle at the right price on eBay. Simply type into the search box the kind of saddle you wish to view, and look over the listings of used and new saddles from which you can make a selection that will fit your needs and budget.

Conclusion

Very few sports require the collaboration between man and animal as does horseback riding. A talented and spirited thoroughbred needs the guidance of a skilful horseman to realise its fullest potential. Likewise, the most disciplined and competent rider falters in his attempt at success without the willing cooperation of a well-trained mount. Invaluable to both of them is the appropriate saddle. It is an absolute necessity as it contributes to the function, the comfort, and safety of both the horse and its rider. The consumer must consider a wide selection of saddles in order to find the right saddle. A variety of saddles can be purchased at online marketplaces like eBay.

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