Saddles and Accessories
Broadly speaking a saddle is any seat for a human that fits onto an animal’s back. But of course, it is the equestrian saddle which is the most common. Even within the field of equestrian saddles, there are many different types, for many different purposes. The majority of riders will want an English saddle of some sort. There are further sub categories of saddle for different equestrian events, but they all fall into the English saddle classification and share the most important specifications. The other types of saddles include Western ones – the sort which cowboys use. There are also Asian saddles, sidesaddles and more, but these are not of any great importance to most riders who want to learn to ride and then compete.
Saddle Parts and AccessoriesThe various parts of a saddle will be referred to often, especially when learning to ride. The parts are important for even the most basic of steps – such as learning to mount and dismount.
The cantle is the raised point of the saddle at the rear of it, how raised will vary depending on what type of English saddle you have. This is the place where you will put your right hand to mount. The pommel is the corresponding point at the front of the saddle, the highest part. The seat is, as the name suggest, the part where the rider actually sits. This is also the lowest part of the saddle to help the rider to stay balanced and on the horse. The stirrups and stirrup leathers are the iron bars and leather straps which hang from the horse where the rider’s feet go. Finally, the girth is the leather strap which runs around the horse to keep the saddle in place.
Care of SaddleThe saddle must be cleaned regularly and carefully. If it is left to get dirty, the result can be a damaged saddle and a dangerous hazard for rider and horse. Leather saddles should be cleaned in lukewarm water with a sponge. If it is very dirty, the saddle should be washed in cold water. It should never be dried directly on or in front of a heat source as this can crack the leather. Rather, it should be left to dry naturally. If the horse is ridden daily, this should be done daily. It may seem like a chore, but is the best way to keep the saddle in good working order. On a weekly basis, the saddle should be cleaned with saddle soap. It is not enough to only clean the top of the saddle. Remember the underside as well and under the flaps and the girth. Different types of leather may have specialist care instructions, so these should always be consulted before washing it for the first time.
The girth in particular needs special attention when cleaning. If it is not cleaned well, it could lead your horse to develop girth galls – small lumps which develop into open sores. If your horse does develop girth galls, they should be treated as a minor wound. They appear because of soft skin on the horse so when they have healed, the horse’s skin needs to be hardened to prevent reoccurrence. To do this, dissolve two teaspoons of salt in a pint of warm water and apply it. Never ride a horse which has girth galls as this will make them worse. Wait until they are fully healed before riding.
Dirt can also cause cracking of the leather which can be incredibly dangerous. Therefore, when you clean your saddle, you should also be checking it for any signs of wear and tear. It should be checked all over for any signs of weakness or loose stitches.
The saddle is one of the most vital pieces of tack. Without it you cannot ride but it is also necessary for the comfort of your horse. The saddle spreads the rider’s weight over the horse’s back and makes riding a more comfortable experience for him. This is why it is so important that it is well looked after. A good saddle could last many years, but you must take the time to ensure it is well cared for.