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What Is the Difference Between a Jumping Saddle and a Dressage Saddle?

Last updated: March 21, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

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When it comes to saddles, form and function are intertwined. Different saddles are designed to help equestrians meet the goals of various disciplines. But what about English saddles? They all look alike. Is there a difference between Jumping and dressage saddles?

A jumping saddle is designed with a shallow seat, short stirrups, and forward-pointing flaps to better position the rider for jumping obstacles. On the other hand, a dressage saddle is designed with a deep seat and flaps to accommodate long stirrups for use in dressage competitions.

Saddles have different forms, shapes, and depths, impacting the stirrup length and placement and facilitating the position that best lets riders get the job done. Dressage and jumping saddles are different; this is evident when you put a jumping saddle next to a dressage saddle. But let’s take a closer look at English saddles to learn more.

What is the Main Difference Between Jumping and Dressage Saddles?

Picture of horse saddle being adjusted for dressage or jumping.

The primary difference between jumping and dressage saddles is the depth of the seat pocket. A jumping saddle typically has a flatter seat and is designed to give riders more freedom to move around.

On the other hand, a dressage saddle has a more curved seat and is designed to help riders maintain proper position while they ride.

Jumping Saddles

These saddles are ubiquitous in all kinds of hunter show rings and jumping events.

Here are its features:

  • Shallow seat – this enables the rider to quickly get off the saddle during a jump.
  • Forward angle flap – the flap is a piece of leather under the rider’s upper leg. In jumping saddles, it is cut with a forward angle to accommodate the rider’s bent knee.
  • Built for mobility, not security – Unlike dressage saddles, the jumping saddle is built for mobility and not security. However, some serious jumping models that entail jumps over bigger fences are characterized by deeper seats for greater security.

Dressage Saddles

As the name indicates, these saddles are used in dressage events. They have the following characteristics:

  • Long, straight flaps – the dressage rider has a longer stirrup for a longer leg and more open hip, knee, and heel angles. Therefore, the dressage saddles have longer, straighter flaps.
  • Deeper seats for security – Dressage saddles have deeper seats for security. Its pommel and cantel are higher, and the seat is correspondingly deeper.
  • Padded flaps and knee rolls – the Dressage riders want their legs to be ‘quiet’. There should be no flapping and shifting. For this purpose, the dressage saddle has very little leather under the leg.
  • Long billets and short girth – These are some other characteristics of dressage saddles. The girth buckles lie in front of the rider’s legs as against underneath them. This design works well for both the horse and the rider.

Why do Dressage Saddles have Knee Blocks?

Knee rolls and thigh blocks in dressage saddles serve the following purposes depending on their sizes:

  1. They fill in the otherwise inevitable gap between the knee and the saddle. This is mainly for the benefit of the judges at competitions.
  2. They encourage the rider to keep the leg from creeping forward.
  3. By their sheer size and bulk, they prevent the rider’s leg from creeping forward.
Picture of a horse with a dressage saddle.
Dressage saddle on a horse

Can You Jump With a Dressage Saddle?

Dressage saddles are designed for a different purpose than jumping saddles. They are made to be used on horses that perform dressage, which is a form of horse riding that is meant to show the horse’s athleticism and obedience.

While some people jump in dressage saddles, it is not their intended purpose. Jumping saddles are designed to give the rider more control when jumping over obstacles, while dressage saddles are more focused on the rider sitting upright and balanced so they can cue their horse correctly.

If you want to jump with your horse, you need to use a jumping saddle. However, if you’re going to use one saddle for both disciplines, buy an all-purpose saddle.

All-purpose saddles are characterized by flaps with medium lengths with seats of moderate depths. You can use such hybrid saddles to both jump and ride dressage by simply changing the length of stirrups.

Picture of girl wearing riding breeches.

What’s the Difference Between a Show Saddle and a Dressage Saddle?

Show saddles are Western or American saddles used for showing. They are laden with silver or other decorations. Show saddles are designed to keep the rider’s weight off the horse’s front end.

This helps the horse produce a lot of movement in the forelegs. Consequently, the rider has to sit farther back on the horse with their legs farther out in the front than the dressage saddle.

Dressage is a classic English riding discipline. The saddles used for dressage have deeper seats, and riders sit in the center of the saddle for even weight dispersal.

Can You Jump in an All-Purpose Saddle?

For jumping, an all-purpose saddle is acceptable at lower levels, but you will need specialized jumping saddles as you move up the ranks.

To a newcomer dabbling in all disciplines, an all-purpose saddle may seem the logical choice for flats and jumps. However, that isn’t the case. Usually, an all-purpose saddle is suitable for just the flats or just jumps – never both. It may be too deep-seated for jumping or too forward-cut for riding the flats. 

What’s the Difference Between All-purpose and Jumping Saddles? 

An all-purpose saddle is designed to be halfway between correct dressage and correct jumping positions. It is much more suitable for the pony club as children tend to participate in different activities. All-purpose saddles are ideal for pleasure riding, schooling, and beginner competitions.

Jumping saddles are built for mobility and have a shallow seat. An all-purpose saddle can only take the place of a jumping saddle up to a certain proficiency level, beyond which the rider should switch to a jumping saddle.

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How Many Types of English Saddles are There?

There are many different types of English saddles, and riders use them while riding other English disciplines. There is no standard classification of English saddles, but below are a few of the ‘unofficial’ styles of English saddles based on their form and function:

Eventing Saddle

Eventing saddles are all-purpose saddles. They make it possible for the rider to switch from jumping to dressage without changing saddles. They have a somewhat shallower seat than most dressage saddles and a slightly flatter seat than most dressage saddles. To limit the rider’s movement in the saddle, they have soft seats and padded knee and thigh rolls.

Dressage Saddle

Dressage saddles are designed for balance and communication. They keep the rider upright with stirrups that drape long in a similar position as western equitation riding.

Dressage saddles have a deep seat, and the stirrups hang directly below the seat. Some dressage saddles are equipped with padded knee rolls to keep the rider’s legs correctly positioned.

Saddle Seat Saddle/Lane Fox Saddles

These are used in saddle seat riding – a particular form of riding designed to show gaited horses and park horses. The use of Lane Fox saddles is limited to the show rings.

They place the rider too far back for the horse’s comfort. Their design and stirrup placement make it difficult for the rider to use their legs for effective communication and balance.

Jumping Saddle

Jumping saddles support the forward riding position. This type of saddle allows the rider to sit comfortably with a strong knee and hip bend. The stirrups are short, so riders can raise themselves during a jump. To accommodate the rider’s knees, jumping saddles have flat seats and forward-cut flaps.


These are used for a special and elegant form of riding. They come in different styles – some are designed for flats and others for jumping. 

Note: When training for dressage or showjumping, it’s essential to use similar equipment that you compete with. You don’t want to train with a side saddle and compete in a dressage saddle.

Also, Check Out The Best Western Saddles.

Picture of a rider on an English riding saddle.
English riding saddle

When Was The English Saddle Invented?

The English saddle may have been invented in the 18th Century. It was based on the European saddles used for bullfighting. The English hunting saddle paved the way for all other English saddles.

As eventing and show jumping became popular, the hunting saddle changed shape and form. The forward seat saddle came on the scenes after Italian officers like Caprilli perfected it.

Picture of a jumping saddle and dressage saddle

What are Close Contact English Saddles?

These saddles do what their names indicate: they allow the riders to have close contact with their horses. Close contact saddles are also called forward seat saddles. They have rounded flaps that are shorter and more forward than dressage saddles. Their seat is flat and convex in shape.

Close contact saddle provides little to no interference, which allows the rider to cue the horse with their legs better.

Many riders use close-contact saddles for jumping. They are characterized by a shallow seat which allows the rider to lift themselves out of the saddle when going over an obstacle. Close-contact saddles are also designed to let the rider stay in a  forward position, which is essential for jumping.

Are English Saddle Sizes the Same as Western?

Western saddle sizes are 2 inches smaller than their English counterparts. Thus, if you use a 16-inch Western saddle, you’d need to choose 18-inch English saddles.

What Is the Most Comfortable English Saddle?

Close-contact saddles are the most comfortable. You also get all-purpose saddles that are pretty comfortable. Many brands make comfortable English saddles.

Here are our favorites:

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Acerugs All-Purpose Saddle

Acerugs deep padded leather seats and padded knee rolls help riders develop a secured and balanced seat. The padded panels also mean comfort for the horse. The saddle’s high cantle and lower flaps make it suitable for flatwork and offer forward flaps for those who wish to jump. Acerugs saddles are also ideal for trail riding.


All-leather saddle with soft padding is comfortable for you and your horse. This is a complete starter kit, and you get everything else you need to ride. The stitching is heavily reinforced, which makes it last longer.


If you want custom saddles, this is your brand. Hermes eliminates unnecessary thickness and pressure points to ensure closeness between you and your horse. Hermes saddles also combine stability, comfort, and an advanced center of gravity. This makes it ideal for riders who want to clear obstacles. The price is on the higher side.

Check out the YouTube video below to learn more about the differences between jumping and dressage saddles.

YouTube video

FAQs on Jumping Saddles and Dressage Saddles

Does jumping in a dressage saddle hurt the horse?

Jumping in a dressage saddle isn’t ideal for riders, but it doesn’t hurt horses. Actually, only the rider will notice discomfort.

Can you use a jump saddle pad with a dressage saddle?

Although some riders use a jumping saddle pad under a dressage saddle, I wouldn’t advise doing so because it is smaller and doesn’t properly protect your horse. However, it’s fine to use a dressage saddle pad under a jump saddle.

Can you show in an all-purpose saddle?

Different shows and events have unique rules regarding acceptable tack. Most local events allow you to show in all-purpose saddles. It is essential that the saddle fits you and your horse correctly.


English saddles come in different types. The jumping and dressage saddles are two important English saddles. The former is used in hunter show rings and jumping, while dressage saddles are used for dressage events. Jumping saddles are built for mobility and have a shallow seat.

On the other hand, the saddles used for dressage have deeper seats, and riders have to sit in the center of the saddle for even weight dispersal. But regardless of the style, it is essential you ride in the correct size saddle.

Many brands make comfortable English saddles. Some of the top ones are Antares, Hermes, and Bates. Acerugs also make comfortable and affordable English saddles. I hope this guide helps you understand different types of English saddles and also notes the differences between jumping and dressage saddles.