Knowing the parts of a horse saddle is important knowledge for horseback riders.
Why? Because learning the parts of both English and Western saddles helps us care for equipment and communicate better!
Saddles are the essential piece of equipment between horse and rider, so knowing the parts of a saddle is as important as knowing your own anatomy! For example, being able to tell your riding instructor that your saddle’s twist feels narrow or that you feel like the cantle is uncomfortable helps communicate important information!
Knowing the parts of a saddle can help us: 🛍️ Buy saddles more confidently. 🔧 Repair instead of replacing equipment as it breaks in and wears out. 🗣️ Communicate with riding instructors, trainers, and coaches about our felt experience in the saddle. 🤝 and connect meaningfully with other riders, trainers, and saddle fitters about the way our saddle fits and our horse.
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Wait, why should I trust you?
I learned about saddle parts and saddle anatomy long before I was a serious rider. As a horseless horse-crazy kid, I studied horse knowledge religiously. It wasn’t until years later that I’d begin my riding career and eventually open a tack store– where I fit, repaired, & sold new and used saddles to riders for over a decade.
In this article, I’ve illustrated and described the parts of a saddle. In addition to simple descriptions of parts, you’ll also get my expert opinion on the function each part serves, where exactly you can find it in a saddle, and how to clean and maintain that particular part of a saddle. BONUS: You’ll also find some interesting stats on used horse saddle prices at the end of this article- where I crunched data from 1,000+ used saddle ads to figure out just how much particular saddle parts are worth. 🐴📚🤠
Diagram of an English Saddle Labeled with Part Names:
Parts of an English Saddle
Purpose: The seat is where the rider’s cheeks rest during riding. It shouldn’t be too cushioned, but instead provide even support for the rider.
Location: The saddle’s seat is located on the top of the saddle.
Cleaning: To care for the saddle seat, regularly wipe it clean with a damp cloth to remove dirt and sweat. Use leather conditioner to keep it supple and comfortable.
Purpose: Saddle flaps lie on each side of the saddle and protect the rider’s legs while offering minimal interference between horse and rider.
Location: Flaps are positioned on each side of the saddle, under the rider’s thigh when mounted.
Cleaning: Clean saddle flaps as needed with a damp cloth to remove dirt and sweat.
Purpose: Stirrup leathers provide support for the stirrups and rider’s feet.
Location: They hang from the saddle bars and hold the stirrups in place.
Cleaning: Wipe stirrup leathers clean after each ride to remove sweat and dirt. Periodically check for wear and tear, replacing them if necessary.
Purpose: Stirrup bars are metal brackets attached directly to a saddle’s tree. They hold stirrup leathers in place. 1
Location: Stirrup bars are located at the top of an english saddle’s flaps, they can be found by lihfting a saddle’s skirt.
Cleaning: Cleaning stirrup bars usually isn’t necessary, but if they become grimy they can be cleaned with metal polish.
Purpose: Metal or plastic English Stirrup irons prevent fatigue and air in balance. When adjusted correctly, they help maintain proper leg position.
Location: They are where the rider’s feet rest during riding. When a saddle is in storage, the irons may be dangling but are more likely “run up” the stirrup leather and stored against the saddle’s flaps. Saddles for sale usually do not include stirrups.
Cleaning: Clean stirrups regularly to remove dirt and check for rust or failing metal. Metal polish can quickly get them gleaming- something judges love in the show ring!
Purpose: Billets are used to attach the girth to the saddle, ensuring the saddle stays securely in place.
Location: They are found on the sides of the saddle, under the flap.
Cleaning: Check billets for wear and tear regularly- they are often the first part of a saddle to wear out. They are easily fixed by a saddle repair shop.
Purpose: Knee rolls provide comfort for the rider’s knees, and support a proper riding position. Saddles for some disciplines, like jumping, have more pronounced knee rolls, like the saddle pictured above.
Location: Knee rolls are located at the front of the saddle’s flaps, just under and in front of a rider’s knees, when mounted.
Cleaning: Clean and condition knee rolls as needed with a gentle leather soap and leather conditioner.
Purpose: The pommel offers forward support for the rider, helping maintain balance and stability. Opposite the cantle- which provides support in the back, the pommel helps a rider sit back in the right place on the seat.
Location: The pommel is at the front of the saddle, you can recognize it as the hump of leather curving slightly upward at the top/front of a saddle.
Cleaning: Wipe the pommel clean and check for any loose stitching or damage.
Purpose: The cantle, located at the back of the saddle’s seat, helps support to the rider’s lower back and helps maintain balance. The gentle rise of the cantle is the part of the saddle that helps keep a rider seated when a horse lurches forward unexpectedly.
Location: It is situated opposite the pommel, at the top, rear, center of the saddle. The pommel should never be higher than the cantle, when the saddle is on a horse’s back. 2
Cleaning: Regularly inspect the cantle for any loose stitching and keep clean .
Saddle Tree (not visible):
Purpose: The saddle tree is the internal structure that gives a saddle its shape. It’s not visible, but it’s the most important part of a saddle- similar to a human skeleton or an automobile’s frame.
Location: It is hidden beneath the saddle’s leather between the seat and the saddle panels.
Cleaning: Cleaning the saddle tree is not required, but monitor for movement, cracking, or creaking.
Purpose: Saddle panels are the stuffed panels on the underside of a horse saddle. This part of the saddle is for the horse’s comfort- soft, even stuffing protects a horse from the hard and rigid internal tree.
Location: Saddle panels are located on the underside of an English saddle, running under the seat from cantle to pommel.
Purpose: The twist is a critical part of an English saddle located just below the pommel, determining how the saddle feels at the groin. The twist is an ambiguous area of the saddle, but a twist that fits your body is essential to preventing saddle sores.
Location: The twist is positioned roughly where the pommel and seat meet.
Cleaning: Maintain the twist by keeping it clean and free from dirt or debris. Clean with typical saddle cleaning.
Saddle Part Worksheets:
For many riding instructors, beginner rider coaches, pony club leaders, and summer camp directors, learning the parts of a horse saddle is a fun activity for bad weather days. Print and use these free worksheets to help your riders- young and old – study and memories the parts of a saddle.
Download A Free Worksheet / Diagram Pack
This 4 page worksheet pack includes 2 blank worksheets and two printable labeled diagrams showing the parts of english and western saddles.
Diagram of a Western Saddle Labeled with Part Names:
Parts of a Western Saddle
- Location: The saddle horn is positioned at the front of a western saddle, a post-like appendage sticking up in the front, center.
- Purpose: The saddle horn is traditionally used for roping cattle, but modern western riders use the saddle horse as an aid for mounting and balancing themselves if their horse moves unexpectedly..
- Cleaning: Use a damp cloth to remove dirt from the saddle horn and check for any sharp edges that might cause injury (the materials under the leather of a saddle horn can be hard and sharp).
- Location: The pommel is situated at the front of the saddle, curving upward in an obvious swell from the saddle’s midpoint.
- Purpose: The pommel gives support and aids balance for the rider during Western riding disciplines. Large swells help riders keep their leg long and stretched down the barrel of the horse instead of tucked up in a less stable position.
- Cleaning: Keep the pommel clean and well-conditioned to prevent cracking. Clean as you would other leather parts of a saddle.
- Location: The cantle is located at the rear of the saddle, opposite the pommel.
- Purpose: Situated at the back of the saddle, the cantle curves upward and supports the rider. A deep cantle with a big swell upward can help a rider keep their seat, however it must be properly fit to be comfortable.
- Cleaning: Regularly inspect the cantle for any loose stitching.
- 💡 When tack stores talk about “saddle size” they’re referencing the distance from the pommel to the cantle.
- Location: The seat is the top central part of the saddle where the rider sits.
- Purpose: The seat serves the purpose of supporting the sider. It’s where most of a rider’s body weight is distributed on the saddle, so it should be supportive and contoured to fit the rider’s body.
- Cleaning: Clean the seat with saddle soap and condition it as needed to maintain its quality, promoting rider comfort. If suede, avoid moisture or leather cleaner and clean with a stiff brush instead.
- Location: Latigos are typically found on both sides of the saddle, near the saddle’s bottom.
- Purpose: Latigos are leather straps found on both sides of the saddle, under the fender. Latigo are the western equivalent of billet straps- this heavy leather strap is used to secure the cinch to the horse, holding the saddle in place.
- Cleaning: Inspect regularly to check for cracking or brittleness. Do not overoil. Discard and replace immediately if cracking appears in the leather- as this could cause the leather to tear or break while you are riding.
- Location: Jockeys extend down from each side of the seat and look like small flaps.
- Purpose: Jockeys cover the junction point where the western saddle’s fenders attach to the tree.
- Cleaning: Keep jockeys clean and conditioned to maintain flexibility.
Western Saddle Skirt:
- Location: The skirt is positioned under the jockeys, behind the seat, and below the horn. It gives a western saddle a distinctive square shape.
- Purpose: Similar to an English saddle’s flaps, the skirt lies under the jockeys and extends down the side of the horse, protecting the rider’s legs from irritation. The skirt is larger on a western saddle, traditionally, because it serves to protect a horse’s back from saddle bags, scabbards, and other attachments carried by cowboys.
- Cleaning: Regularly inspect the skirt for any wear or damage, and keep it clean to maintain its protective function.
- Location: Western saddle stirrups hang from the sides of the saddle, below the jockeys, at the end of the fenders.
- Purpose: Stirrups support the rider’s feet during riding. Adjusted correctly, they add stability and prevent fatigue.
- Cleaning: Stirrups can be cleaned with leather soap during typical saddle cleaning.
- Location: Stirrup fenders are attached to the saddle’s sides and hold the stirrups.
- Purpose: Stirrup fenders are wide leather pieces that hold the stirrups, protecting the rider’s legs and ensuring comfort.
- Cleaning: Check stirrup fenders for any wear and keep them clean to maintain rider comfort and safety.
- Location: Stirrup hobbles are located at the bottom of the fender.
- Purpose: The stirrup hobble is a strap that secures western fenders, stirrups, and stirrup leathers together and prevents stirrups from disconnecting while riding. 3
- Cleaning: Inspect stirrup hobbles for any signs of wear, and replace them when stretching, cracking, or delamination occurs. This part can be easily replaced.
Conchos and Saddle Strings:
- Location: Conchos and saddle strings are sometimes found at the rear and front of the saddle, behind the cantle or in front of/below the pommel.
- Purpose: Conchos are decorative, but sometimes these decorative pieces are anchors for long, thin leather straps. These straps are used to tie gear to the saddle.
- Cleaning: Polish metal conchos for a head-turning appearance. If you use your saddle strings to attach or carry things, inspect them regularly and oil them as needed.
Cinch (Equivalent to Girth in English Saddles):
- Location: The cinch is placed under the horse’s belly and secured to the saddle on either side, using the latigo.
- Purpose: Arguably the most important western saddle part, the cinch keeps the saddle on the horse!
- Cleaning: Regularly check the cinch for proper tightness (you’ll need an expert horseperson’s coaching while you learn to gauge appropriate tightness) and keep it clean. Dirty girths can cause saddle sores for horses. 4
Back Cinch Strap:
- Location: The back cinch strap is optional for many modern Western saddles and is typically attached to the saddle’s rear.
- Purpose: The back cinch strap stabilizes the saddle and, depending on how it is adjusted, can relieve pressure from the horse’s withers, enhancing the horse’s comfort. Generally, western pleasure saddles are not used with a back cinch, but working ranch saddles are.
- Cleaning: Clean and maintain according to the instructions for regular cinches.
English and Western Saddles: When They Call the Same Thing Something Different:
|English Saddle Part Name||Equivalent Western Saddle Part|
|Saddle Tree||Saddle Tree|
|Pommel||Pommel or Swell|
|Stirrup Leathers||Stirrup Leathers|
|Billets||Cinch Straps / Latigo|
|Panels/Padding||Fleece or Pad|
|Knee Rolls||Stirrup Fenders|
|Stirrup Bars||Stirrup Bars|
|Saddle Skirt||Saddle Skirt|
Why knowing the parts of your saddle matters
Knowing the parts of a saddle can help riders, whether they are beginners or seasoned equestrians. Understanding these saddle parts makes care for equipment easier- and riding more fun!
Here’s why it’s worth studying the names of horse saddle parts:
- Communication: Clear communication is key between riders, trainers, and professionals in the equestrian world. When riders are knowledgeable about saddle parts, they can share their needs, concerns, or questions more precisely. This helps make sure that everyone is on the same page when discussing saddle fit, adjustments, or comfort issues.
- Cheaper, more Efficient Repairs: Over time, saddle parts can wear out or become damaged. Knowing the specific names and functions of saddle components makes it easier to discuss repairs or replacements with saddle makers or repair professionals. It also makes it a little harder for a shady leather repair shop to take advantage of you! Riders who know their saddle and its parts well can request or purchase the necessary replacement parts with confidence, for DIY simple repairs.
- Better Riding Experience: Riders who understand saddle anatomy can make more informed choices when selecting a new saddle. They can match their unique body’s needs with the appropriate saddle type, seat depth, pommel style, and other features. Any time we have the information to advocate for ourselves and our bodies, we’re likely to find a more comfortable and enjoyable riding experience, whether they are into Western, English, dressage, or jumping disciplines.
- Safety Awareness: Riders who are familiar with saddle parts can spot potential issues early on, such as loose billets or damaged tree, which can lead to accidents. This education on tack and equipment can help prevent injuries to both horse and rider.
How to learn and remember the parts of a saddle
For new riders – and even expereinced riders with learning difficulties – it can be hard to memorize the parts of a saddle. My actionable approach to learning and memorizing the parts of a saddle involves the following steps:
- Begin by physically examining a saddle and labeling each part while touching it and saying its name aloud. Utilize visual aids like diagrams to review.
- Next, create flashcards with the names of saddle parts on one side and their functions on the other.
- Regularly review these flashcards until you can confidently identify each part.
- Practice and use your knowledge by consistently practicing tacking up a horse and caring for your saddle.
By incorporating these practical steps into your riding routine, you’ll become proficient in recognizing and naming saddle parts.
Repairing and replacing saddle parts
Saddle parts can often be repaired or replaced if they wear out or become damaged over time. The extent of repair or replacement depends on the specific part and the level of damage. Some parts, such as stirrups, girths, or billets, can be relatively easy and cheap to replace. Many saddlers and tack shops offer replacement parts for common wear and tear items.
However, when it comes to more critical saddle components like the tree or English saddle panels, the entire saddle may need replacement, depending on the extent of the damage.
Regular inspections, careful care and storage of saddles, and timely replacement of slightly worn parts go a long way to keeping saddles in good shape and securing the rider’s and the horse’s comfort and well-being.
How much horse saddles cost:
Facts about used horse saddle pricing:
|Average used saddle price:||$1,617.89|
|Average used saddle price: (Excluding Top & Bottom 1%)||$1,487.38|
|Used Saddles priced under $1,000||42.45%|
|Used Saddles priced under $500||10%|
|Average price of new horse saddle||$2000-$5000|
The cost of saddles can vary significantly depending on several factors. Factors influences a horse saddle price include the type of saddle, its quality, brand, and any additional features or customizations. In general, Western saddles tend to be more expensive than English saddles due to their larger size and intricate designs. LEather saddles are always more expensive than synthetic versions.
For Western saddles, you can find budget-friendly used options starting at around $200 to $300, but high-quality Western saddles can range from $1,000 to $5,000 or even more.
On the other hand, English saddles have a broader price range. Entry-level used English saddles might start at approximately $200 to $500, while mid-range saddles can cost between $800 and $2,000. High-end or custom-made English saddles from high-end brands (did you know Gucci makes horse saddles?!) have price tags that can surpass $5,000.
Regardless of your budget, investing in a well-made saddle that fits both the rider and the horse comfortably is the most important aspect of a safe and enjoyable riding experience. Check out our articles on buying a horse saddle or selling a used horse saddle for more help navigating the process.
In conclusion, having a good grasp of the different parts of a horse saddle is crucial for riders. It simplifies communication with experts and trainers, allows for better saddle fit assessment, and helps identify and address issues promptly.
When you know the parts of a saddle, choosing the right saddle for your style becomes easier, ensuring a more comfortable ride. Most importantly, this knowledge fosters safety by enabling riders to spot potential problems early on.
Research sources used for this article:
- Harman, J. (2018). The Horse’s Pain-Free Back and Saddle-Fit Book: Ensure Soundness and Comfort with Back Analysis and Correct Use of Saddles and Pads. (n.p.): Trafalgar Square Books.
- Reeve, M. C., Biggs, S. (2021). Original Horse Bible, 2nd Edition: The Definitive Source for All Things Horse. United States: Fox Chapel Publishing.
- Parker, R. (2018). Equine Science. United States: Cengage Learning.
- McFarland, C. The Horseman’s Guide to Tack and Equipment: Form, Fit and Function. (n.p.): Western Horseman. pg 70.,