English saddles are used to ride horses in English Riding disciplines throughout the world. The discipline is not limited to England or English speaking countries. This style of saddle used in all of the Olympic and FEI equestrian disciplines, except for the newly-approved FEI events of equestrian vaulting and reining.
Most designs were specifically developed for jumping or moving quickly across rugged country with fences. Unlike the western saddle, there is no saddle horn or other elements that stick up above the main tree of the saddle. During the 18th century, most riders in Europe used high-pommel and cantle saddles, with a wooden frame for classical dressage. This saddle was based on a model used for bull fighting, cattle work, long-distance travel, and mounted combat, as its high pommel and cantle helped to provide the rider with support. This saddle is still used today, most notably by the Spanish Riding School, and also in Iberia and eastern Europe. In England, Fox Hunting grew in popularity (as the usual quarry of deer had dwindled following the English Civil War, when they were hunted for food). This required a new type of riding, as horse and rider now had to tackle fences, hedges, ditches, and banks straight on if they wished to keep up with the hounds and witness the kill. The old saddle was cumbersome while hunting. Its cantle would get in the way of the riders as they tried to lean back over the fence (a French practice that was common until Caprilli developed the "forward seat", and the high pommel created pain as the rider went over jumps. The resulting saddle developed for fox hunting had a very low pommel and cantle with a flat seat, and no padding under the leg, therefore providing the rider with little, if any, support. The stirrup bars were protruding, and placed more forward than modern saddles, which made it nearly impossible for the rider to keep his legs underneath his body. However, the usual practice was to ride with longer stirrups, and the feet pushed out in front, so this was not a problem. The English hunting saddle is the predecessor of all English-type jumping saddles. As the sports of show jumping and eventing became more popular, saddle shape changed. Caprilli, Santini and Toptani developed the "forward seat," in which the rider uses shorter stirrups. Which keeps legs under the rider in a two point position, with his seat bones hovering above the saddle. The shorter stirrup required a more forward flap, to match the greater knee angle of the rider. Protruding stirrup bars were uncomfortable in this new position, so they were recessed. The twist (just behind the pommel) of the saddle was also made narrower. Additionally, padding was placed under the knee rolls, for extra security. The term English saddle encompasses several types, including those used for show jumping, hunt seat, dressage, saddle seat, horse racing and polo. To non-horsemen, the major distinguishing feature of an English saddle is its lack of a horn. ding stirrup bars were uncomfortable in this new position, so they were recessed. The twist (just behind the pommel) of the saddle was also made narrower. Additionally, padding was placed under the knee rolls, for extra security.