There is a wide range of horse riding equipment to cater for every discipline of horsemanship, from dressage, show jumping or eventing, to endurance riding and hacking. Your choice of equipment will most likely depend on the type of riding you intend doing, and whether you will be riding English or Western style.
Choosing a Saddle
Your choice of saddle will more than likely be determined by your type of riding style. There are dressage saddles for dressage, whilst saddles for jumping or eventing have a deeper seat, and more padding around the knee area to prevent the rider from falling forward whilst sailing over a jump. General purpose saddles are not so specialized in design, and accommodate those who partake in multiple disciplines of riding. Endurance riders often prefer a stockman saddle, whilst the bulkier western saddle is ideal for trail rides, both of which offer more comfort for long distance riding, and are the natural choice for stockmen working on cattle ranches..
It is important that your saddle fits both you and your horse. You will be more comfortable during your ride if you fit into the seat of your saddle snugly, but not too tight. However, the saddle also needs to fit the horse in order to prevent causing it any discomfort, which may effect it’s attitude whilst you are riding.
Saddles come in a variety of materials from all leather and suede to lightweight synthetic materials, and ultimately your choice will depend largely on personal preference and taste. Whilst leather saddles come in ornately crafted designs, synthetic versions are very practical for the fairer sex, especially if using a bulkier western or stockman saddle that has to be carried a fair distance to saddle up your mount.
Choosing a Bridle
Your choice of bridle will also be determined by the equestrian discipline that you will be riding in. As with saddles, there are specialized bridles for use in dressage, and yet others for show jumping. However if you are not a specialized rider, and like to go trail riding, do a bit of dressage, and maybe jump the odd course , then a general purpose bridle may be more suitable. There are also bridles for leading a horse in-hand, show bridles, and even bitless bridles which control the horse by applying pressure on the nose and poll rather than the mouth.
Choosing a Bit
One of the most important decisions to make when it comes to riding equipment, is what bit to use, or whether to use a bit at all (you may prefer to opt for a bitless bridle mentioned above). The bit is an important tool for communicating your intent to your horse, and should be chosen very carefully. The range of bits can be very confusing and range from the simple snaffle to more complicated bits that fit into the horses mouth, as well as hackamores.
Your choice of bit will ultimately depend on your equestrian discipline, your level of riding, the shape of your horse’s mouth, and how your horse was trained.
Featured Image By smerikal from Helsinki, Finland (Frontier saddlery) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons