The Society of Master Saddlers replies:
First of all think about the purpose of the saddle, if you are going to be showing or competing at a high level, leather may be the look you decide to go for with judges favoring a traditional look.
Leather saddles have the potential to last a lifetime if they are well looked after and are made from good, top quality leather. However regular maintenance is a must as sweat, rain and poor storage conditions will destroy the leather if it is not regularly cleaned and dressed.
A leather saddle can offer a feel second to none and moulds very well between the rider and the horse especially if a natural wool flocking is used. The suppleness of well-cared for leather means they tend to have more flexibility in them as well as good ‘stickability’ providing grip and security.
Synthetic saddles used to be seen as a very short term solution and they wouldn’t last as long as a well-cared for leather saddle, but they have developed extensively since. Nowadays it can be very hard to distinguish a synthetic saddle from a leather one and although they do last a lot longer these days their life span doesn’t quite match the longevity of leather.
Other advantages to buying a synthetic saddle are their durability, light weight, easy to maintain and their reasonable price. You can buy a brand new synthetic saddle for nearly the same price you would pay for a good quality second hand leather saddle.
In addition, synthetic saddles tend to be very versatile and will often be able to accommodate hard to fit horses with adjustable gullets.
Whichever you decide on, we recommend that you use a Society of Master Saddlers’ Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter to come out and fit your saddle and if any adjustments need to be made this can also be done to either types of saddle.
Remember if a rider feels good in the saddle they will ride better, and if the horse feels comfortable he will perform better. Whether you feel more comfortable in a leather saddle or synthetic one, it is very much your own personal choice.
To find your local Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter and for more information visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk or contact The Society of Master Saddlers on 01449 711642.