English Saddle Parts Definitions and Functions

Have you ever wondered what to call a part of your Horse’s saddle or what function it serves? This article will provide you with easy to understand highlights of the parts of an English Saddle from the pommel to the cantle and everything in between sorted alphabetically. The bullet points below each item provides a high level summary pertaining to that item.

Bars

  • The part of the saddle tree that run horizontally along the horse’s back

Billets

  • Straps used to attach the Girth (also called Girth Straps)
  • Attached to the saddle tree webbing under the saddle flaps
  • There are generally three billet straps per saddle allowing for backups in the event of wear and tear.
  • Each strap has multiple holes to allow for tightening of the Girth
  • Billet straps can be long or short
  • Long straps attach to the girth below the saddle flap and decrease the bulk under the rider’s leg.

Cantle

  • The raised back section of the saddle seat that connects the bars of the saddle tree
  • Provides security for the rider

Channel

  • The gap between the panels on the underside of the saddle

D-rings

  • “D shaped” metal rings that are attached with panel hide to the saddle tree toward the front of the saddle
  • D-rings enable the rider to attach additional equipment to the saddle
  • D-rings should not be used to attach breastplates as they tend to be weak

Gullet

  • The open area between the panels that runs from the pommel to the cantle on the underside of the saddle
  • Ensures there will be no pressure from the saddle or rider on the horse’s spine

Iron

  • The stainless steel part of a stirrup where the rider’s foot rests

Panels

  • Each saddle has two panels.
  • The panels are attached to the saddle tree and run horizontal along both side of the horse’s spine.
  • Panels provide cushioning for the horse’s back and allow the weight of the rider to be more evenly distributed.
  • Panels are usually filled with wool, foam flocking or are sealed air pockets.

Pommel

  • The raised portion in the front of the saddle that provides clearance for the horse’s wither – also known as the head

Saddle Flap

  • The large section of leather on both sides of the saddle
  • The size and angle of the flaps are determined by the intended use of the saddle and the rider’s leg position (i.e. The flaps of a jumper saddle are more forward-cut than a dressage saddle to allow for shorter stirrups)

Seat

  • The lowest part of the top of the saddle where the rider sits

Skirt

  • The small pieces of leather near the front on both sides of the saddle that goes over the stirrup bar
  • Prevents the rider’s leg from rubbing on the buckle of the leather strap that connects the stirrups

Staples

  • Metal rings that are attached securely to the saddle tree toward the front of the saddle.
  • Staples are much stronger than D-rings and are used to attach items to the saddle such as breastplates

Stirrups

  • Stirrups are where a rider places their feet while riding
  • The stirrups are attached to the saddle with leather stirrup straps
  • The stirrups provides the rider with more security and control while riding

Stirrup Bar

  • Stirrup bars are attached to the tree of the saddle under the saddle skirt.
  • The stirrup straps connect to the stirrup bars

Stirrup Leather Keeper

  • A loop (similar to a belt loop) or slot that is added to the saddle flap to hold the end of the leather stirrup strap to keep it secured.

Sweat Flap

  • Large flaps on the underside of the saddle that fits between the horse and the billets
  • Prevents the horse from being pinched by the buckles and girth
  • Protects the outer part of the saddle from the sweat of the horse

Tree

  • The frame of the saddle
  • Traditional saddle trees are made of quality wood
  • Modern day trees may be made of wood or synthetic materials such as polyurethane or fiberglass
  • Some saddle trees are made with spring steel that runs from front to back between the bars. The spring steel provides the tree additional flexibility and is appropriately named a “spring tree”

Twist

  • The narrow part between the welts on the front of the seat

The design and materials of saddles vary greatly. A properly fitted, quality saddle is essential to ensure a happy healthy horse and your satisfaction. Enjoy the ride!

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