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The saddle is one of the primary tools of the rider. There are many different models intended for different purposes.
The saddle should help the rider achieve a good position on the back of the horse, so that the rider is able to correctly apply their aids (weight, seat and legs). The saddle should also distribute the rider's weight effectively, to allow the horse to maintain its natural balance.
Saddles are constructed in a few different ways. The core of the saddle – the tree – can be made from plain wood, or wood reinforced with steel or fiberglass. The padding may consist of wool, foam rubber or air. The outer material is either leather or synthetic. There are also treeless saddles. Depending on what discipline you focus on, there are saddles made especially for each purpose.
Primarily used for jumping, but also for cross-country. The saddle will have a short and forward-cut flap to support the rider's knee. There are multiple models of the jump saddle. Some have a flat seat, others are deeper. There are models with rolls to support both the knee and the calf, and some rolls are be adjustable so that you can customise your saddle.
The flaps of the dressage saddle are long and straight, and the seat is often deeper to allow the rider to sink down properly in the saddle to influence the horse with their seat more easily. The dressage saddle may also be fitted with knee rolls to provide good support for the rider's legs.
As the name indicates, this saddle can be used for a number of different purposes. You can use it in both dressage and jumping, and it is built to suit mixed riding.
The Icelandic saddle is adapted to the anatomy of the Icelandic horse, which for example means that the seat cannot be too long, as the Icelandic horse has a relatively short back. The saddle is similar to the dressage saddle in that it has relatively long and straight flaps.
There are a few different models of the Western saddle, which are all adapted to suit the different Western disciplines, such as trail, pleasure, reining and cutting.
There are also special saddles for racing, monté trot, side saddles, academic art of riding and handicap saddles.
Girths are used to fasten the saddle. These are made in various designs and materials. In later years, more and more girths have been developed to distribute pressure as evenly as possible across the sternum. Most girths are fitted with elastics in order not to be static, but instead be able to expand along with the horse's thorax.
Stirrup leathers should preferably be made from the same material as the saddle, i.e., leather for leather, and synthetics for synthetics.
Stirrups are available in stainless steel, iron, aluminium, plastic and wood. Many stirrups are designed for optimal safety, in order to reduce the risk of your foot getting caught in the stirrup if you should fall. Certain stirrups are also customised for the different disciplines, and most commonly for jumping
Numnahs and saddlecloths refer to the pieces of fabric or leather that you place underneath the saddle, closest to the horse's back. Their main purpose is to protect the saddle from sweat and dust, but some models also help distribute the pressure of the saddle evenly. The numnah is cut after the shape of the saddle, and are available as general-purpose or dressage models. A saddlecloth is cut in a more rectangular shape, and are also available as general-purpose or dressage models.
The numnahs and saddlecloths are often available in two sizes: pony and full. If you have a saddle that is 16" or larger, you should choose the full size even if the saddle is for a pony. Icelandic saddles can be used with dressage numnahs and saddlecloths. Underneath a Western saddle you put a saddle blanket or saddle pad.