6 Best English Saddles for Hard-to-Fit OTTBs 

6 Best English Saddles for Hard-to-Fit OTTBs 

Are you ready for a smart saddle?

If you’ve ever tried to find a saddle that fits a Thoroughbred saddle (especially a Thoroughbred off-track, OTTB), you know how quickly saddle discussions go from OTTB to ‘Oh no’.

While there is no single article on the internet that can properly fit a saddle for you or your horse, this list of English saddles and some quick tips should help find the right foot, uncover some misnomers, and help you and your horse find comfort in Saddle!

Finding a saddle that works for you and your OTTB partner is no easy feat. Not only are Thoroughbreds often pre-fabricated with features like high shoulders and broad shoulders at the same time, many are sensitive or have issues with weight keeping which makes adjustability, comfort and versatility first of mind when looking for the right saddle . Our list addresses issues like rider height, adjustability, weight, overall design, and durability.

saddlecategoryprice rangeFeature guides
Arena High Wither AP Saddle مع HARTThe most ingeniousAverage Wide channel, two colors available, combination of natural and faux leather design
HDR Synergy Close ContactBest for tall ridersmiddleVariety of flap lengths available, Lifetime Tree Warranty, Adjustable Earring
HDR Vegan X All-PurposeMost bang for your buckLow Looks just like real leather, 3 types of seats are available (dressing, all-purpose, and jumping), and hose for cleaning
Wintec 500 . seriesmost durableLow Water Resistant, Long Lasting, Highly Adjustable, 3 Seats (Dress, AP, Leap)
Bareback Uniform Collective IntegrityThe safest seatmiddle Single-fold design for optimal feel, surface of the knees and thighs with additional wear protectors in areas of high friction
Saddle taming college rostMost modified saddle fitLow Y-girthing system, close contact without price, comfortably placed knee blocks

Saddle Fitting 101: How to Fit a Saddle Properly (For Horse and Human!)

Schleese Saddlery has a great 9 part video compilation of at-home saddle fitting tips which I have found very useful when evaluating the right saddle for my horses and can be found here.

Tips 6-9 may be a little trickier for the untrained eye, so seek help from a professional if you’re not sure.

  1. With your horse standing straight and on level ground, place the saddle on your horse’s bare back and assess balance – the seat should be parallel to the ground
  2. Are there 2-3 fingers to clear for young people?
  3. Is the canal wide enough from front to back relative to the horse’s spine? The canal should be about 4 toes to hand wide for a medium sized horse, and probably wider if you have a large bone thoroughbred horse!
  4. Panel Contact – Do the saddle panels sit in contact with the horses again without disc or gap
  5. Pallet placement – Are the rails hanging perpendicular to the floor? If the horse is leaning forward or backward, the horse may feel unsteady or uncomfortable once on board.
  6. Is the length of the saddle suitable for the horse’s back? A saddle that reaches the horse’s waist or taps into the shoulder with the weight is too tall! (Although this is usually less of an issue with Thoroughbreds, in my experience)
  7. Is the saddle straight or leaning to one side? Sometimes this can be due to a muscular or harmonic imbalance – seek a professional saddle fitter or vet if you are unsure!
  8. Saddle tree angle – usually calculated with a scale, you want the angle of the tree to match the angle of the horses shoulder to avoid pinching
  9. Saddle Tree Width – Can a horse’s shoulder move freely up and back without getting into the saddle?

Once you make a proper assessment of the horse, you will be able to better assess the suitability of the rider. You’ll need about a hand’s distance between the nail on the front of the saddle and your thigh, as well as a hand behind your butt and the back of the saddle.

While installed in the new seat, you’ll want to feel stable, comfortable, and able to hang your legs in a vertical line from the hip to the heel without feeling like you’re falling backwards or forwards.

My best advice is to not get hung up on seat size and go with what fits your body best and makes you feel comfortable and balanced while riding. Tall riders may need to consider saddle options with longer or more forward flaps, while more junior riders may want to consider a saddle with a narrower wrap or shorter flaps.


The best English saddles for OTTBs

Arena High Wither AP Saddle مع HART

Using “High Wither” in the title is somewhat of a misnomer here – but that doesn’t take this saddle off our list! The main difference between this saddle and the Arena AP Saddle with Hart is that this saddle simply comes with a pre-installed narrow loop plate instead of the mid plate.

Regardless, this saddle is still on our list because it boasts plenty of adjustable features for horses and rider, has the best of both worlds with synthetic and real leather components and provides a comfortable and well-centered rider experience.

This model also has wider plates to distribute weight evenly across the barrel and includes the CAIR system. You’ll be able to handle fitting issues alongside a professional saddle fitter, and if you already have a Wintec or Bates saddle, you’ll be able to interchange the esophageal plates between them.


  • Easy-to-change, commonly used esophageal system and compatible with Wintec and Bates saddles
  • Genuine looking leather and faux leather in high wear areas for easy cleaning
  • comfortable
  • easy care
  • Movable knee blocks to adjust your posture
  • CAIR . system


  • The tree width is no different from the standard Arena AP saddle escape as it comes with a pre-installed “narrow” green throat instead of the standard “medium” black esophagus
  • Not all professional saddle technicians are familiar with making modifications to CAIR system saddles
  • higher end of the price range

Check it out at State Line Tack

HDR Synergy Close Contact

For a saddle that lasts and fits base jumping or event organization, this Henri De Rivel close contact jumping saddle is a great choice. The all-leather design has a padded calfskin block to hold your leg over the jumps, an IGP-mounted throat system and a front cap; The tallest riders, this might be the saddle for you!

Reviewers even said this esophageal changing system is easier to use than the easy change system found in Wintec, Arena, and Bates saddles.

I’ve had HDR in my room for the past 12 years and it has aged beautifully, the foam panels hold up well and are just as comfortable as the first day I sat in.


  • IGP Gullet System – Medium Panel Installed
  • Durable high density foam panels
  • All leather design
  • sporty look
  • forward flap
  • Lifetime Warranty on Injection Molded Polymer Tree


  • The panels cannot be modified as you would with the flow of wool, corrective pads are suggested
  • Horses that tend to have a weaker headline may struggle to fit these saddles, specifically the gaps between the boards and the horse’s back.
  • short tickets
  • Knee blocks cannot be adjusted

HDR Vegan X All-Purpose Price: Low < $500

When I was looking for a new everyday saddle to start my rescue, the Vegan Line X was the number one contender! If you’re looking for something animal-free, lightweight, and easy to care for – this is the harness for you.

Reviews say this saddle is comfortable, durable, and especially great as a starter or junior saddle.

This saddle and the other saddles on the Plant X line caught my eye when I was looking for a saddle because of the simple design elements HDR brings to their other saddles and my love for other HDR products. Instead of Synergy’s installed foam panels and some other HDR models, this model has a faux fleece flush that makes it easily adjustable with a variety of saddles.

Extra bonus? The low price point cannot be overlooked!


  • animal free product
  • low price point
  • flock of industrial wool
  • cut throat
  • wide channel
  • Others with horses that are hard to fathom find success here


  • Only available in one color
  • fixed tree
  • Very noisy when riding

Check it out on Amazon

Wintec 500 all-purpose

Wintec saddles have been in my room since day one at my first riding school! I love how long these saddles last and how versatile they are. I’ve used Wintecs on the tracks, in the ocean, for horse shows, lessons, and starting horses. They have withstood every step of the way.

If you’re looking for a really durable, all-around saddle I can’t recommend it enough.

One of the things that impressed me the most about the Wintec 500 reviews I read was how many Thoroughbred and OTTB owners were confident and secure in their seats and were generally pleasantly surprised by the fit and placement upon installation.

Those of you who are shopping for shark fin beware! It appears that plates that are too narrow and narrow may be prone to pinching or low wilting clearance.


  • Easy-to-clean faux leather
  • Lightweight
  • Comes in streaming versions or CAIR
  • Easy-to-change esophageal system compatible with Bates and Arena Saddles
  • The 500 Series comes in all-purpose, dressage, and vault models


  • Narrow esophageal plates may be prone to pinching in some horses
  • The lumps are thick and it can be difficult to tighten the circumference tightly
  • Smaller 16″ and under are pony sizes – beware young adults, stick to 16.5″+
  • The faux leather is not very grippy

Check it out on Amazon

Bareback Uniform Collective Integrity

This gorgeous saddle immediately amazes me with its bold knee seat. If you’re a big fan of the safety and stability of a saddle, reviews say this saddle will be a hit.

The white stitching and the different textures used to improve your grip on the saddle are nice touches that are usually reserved for saddles in a much higher price bracket.

The esophageal changing instructions that come with these saddles seem to be confusing, so check out the video instructions online if you’re struggling.


  • Quick Change Earrings – Series Three
  • large knee blocks
  • single layer design
  • deep seat
  • All leather with white accent embroidery
  • 2-year warranty on the saddle and 10-year warranty on the tree
  • Flexible leather outside the box


  • The awkward esophageal change that requires multiple people
  • Several series of projectiles are available with this saddle maker, making finding flaps and making adjustments sometimes more complicated due to the stop
  • The broad esophageal plates tend to run small (narrow)

Check it out at State Line Tack

Saddle taming college rost

The Collegiate Lectern dressage saddle has one of my favorite modern saddle fit adjustment features on the market right now called the “Y” pallet or harness system that allows you to adjust how the fit is positioned relative to the saddle’s balance.

Not only do these tuning features help the rider stay more balanced and secure on the horse’s back, they also add comfort to the horse.

While group saddles tend not to work for most of the horses I own, they are great saddles that have made them as school saddles for riding, on the show circuit, and even through generations of dressage equestrians.


  • All skins
  • Y-girthing system
  • Wide channel of spinal movement
  • medium deep seat
  • Big lumps in the knee
  • 10 year warranty on the tree
  • 2-year warranty on the saddle
  • Compatible with Optifit Gullet System
  • flock of industrial wool


  • Color may fade over time
  • incomplete stitching
  • Traditional two-flap design (this is not a close contact monocular design)
  • Two people need to change the esophagus

Check it out at State Line Tack

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does OTTB need a height pad?

Riser pads are a type of correction pad that can add varying degrees of height to help balance a saddle that may lean too far forward or too far back but this will suit a horse otherwise.

Some OTTBs may benefit from either a rear lift pad or a front lift pad, especially if you have a shriveled, high horse that could make you feel like you’re veering out of the saddle. Pads can add bulk and create pinch points at times, so always check that your saddle isn’t adding too much pressure to your spine.

Q: What should you feed an OTTB hot?

OTTB may need special dietary modifications to help address the feelings of extreme stress that many OTTB feel in the wake of their racing career. Some changes to consider include:

  • Add a soothing supplement high in magnesium to promote muscle relaxation and
  • Treating gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers, diarrhea, and stool water syndrome 

However, we recommend that you involve your vet in any dietary modifications.

Q: Do you need a chest collar with an English saddle?

While a breast collar is not always necessary for a properly fitting English saddle, you may consider a breast collar if:

  • You are jumping or doing other high intensity work where you may be concerned about the saddle sliding from left to right
  • The new rider may be more imbalanced and can be better stabilized by the breast collar
  • If your horse is round or close to a lamb’s wither (uncommon in Thoroughbreds)
  • If you are concerned about the saddle slipping backward, especially on a horse that is higher at the wither than at the hip

Q: What is a quick change earring?

The quick change stud is a relatively new invention in the equine world that allows modifications to the saddle stud. Some saddles are usually only compatible with a certain type of esophagus and there are quite a few different types out there!

The quick-change esophagus usually has Velcro or screw-down closure openings below the throat that will open to a V-shaped metal plate inside the saddle. It provides structure and angle to the front of the saddle. A properly sized gullet does not guarantee that the saddle will fit your horse.

parting thoughts

If you’re looking for a new saddle, this can be a frustrating process, especially if the saddle you’ve been really hoping to work out doesn’t finish at all! When we work with OTTB who may still be developing or have other rapidly changing body shapes, saddle adjustability and comfort are most important to a happy, healthy husband’s mind.

Fortunately saddles around the world have been quick to improve the technology available to us, even in lower price brackets, for a safer fit and comfortable saddles that will last a very long time. When in doubt, always bring a professional. Happy fishing!


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