The most important piece of equipment on any ride is undoubtedly the saddle.
A well-built saddle is comfortable for both horse and rider, over great distances and length of use per day and per year. A decent saddle or even a poor fitting saddle will hold out well enough for the weekend rider, but when used to the extent and in the circumstances of a long ride, such saddles will result in saddle sores, achy muscles, bad tempers, and even more serious health problems – most problematically in the horse, but also in the rider.
While a long ride can be done in any kind of good saddle, there are a few modern options available that make a saddle superior for this kind of equestrian pursuit. These two qualities are weight and adjustability.
WeightWeight is a serious consideration for a long ride. A horse can carry a lot of weight for a short time, but when traveling over miles, days, months and years, carrying too much weight can ruin a horse. The less weight carried, the better. There are now many lightweight saddles on the market, weighing as little as 12 pounds.
AdjustabilityAdjustability is an excellent quality for a long ride horse. There are several new technologies that achieve this, such as “3-D”, flex-panel, etc. Traditional saddles have a rigid frame that is not adjustable. This is fine for most horses. However, when a horse is on a long ride, he will change shape as he becomes more fit, as the feed quality changes over the route, etc.
Further, if a saddle must be shared between several horses (or worse, if a horse cannot complete the journey and a new one needs to use the saddle), adjustable saddles will prevent the long rider from having to buy a whole new saddle for the other horse.
I am fortunate to have been sponsored by an excellent saddlemaker, TW Saddlery, who craft high quality saddles that meet both of the saddle needs for a long ride.