Cantle On A Saddle - English & Western Cantle Types

Cantle on English saddle

The cantle on an english saddle is the raised part on at the back of the saddle behind the seat. The cantle keeps the rider secure (together with the knee rolls) and stops him/her from slipping back onto the horse’s back. A saddle with a deep seat has a higher cantle (especially on a dressage saddle) while a flat seat saddle with a lower cantle is more common for jump saddles. Many riders confuse the cantle with the pommel on the saddle, however the pommel sits on the front of the saddle on a medium slope rather than a steep slope. The saddle seat is in between the pommel and the cantle.

cantle-english-saddle

Cantle on a western saddle

Western saddles feature a high cantle as western riding disciplines are ridden sitting down in the saddle and a higher cantle saddle will maximize rider comfort. The seat of the saddle is measured from behind swell on a western saddle to the front of the cantle. A tall rawhide cantle saddle can be used by trail riders and for everyday ranch work.

cantle-western-saddle

Saddle Cantle Types

There are two types of cantle types for western saddles - Pencil roll and cheyenne roll. The cheyenne roll is more popular as people tend to like it more for its design looks and they have more to grab onto, and if you do end up on top of the cantle it won't hurt you as much in a cheyenne roll cantle.

types of cantles

Where is the cantle on a saddle?

The cantle sits at the rear end of the top of the saddle (the highest part of the saddle). It should not be confused with the pommel or swell which sits in the front of the saddle (on top of the horse's wither). The cantle sits directly on top of the horse's back.

What is the cantle height on a saddle?

The cantle height varies depends on what type of saddle you are using. Cantles on western saddles can measure from 3" to 5" tall while they measure 2"-4.5" on english saddles. Here are the most common heights for saddles:

  • Ranch cutter - 3.5"-5"
  • Cutting saddle - 3.5"-5"
  • Roping saddles - 3.5"-5"
  • Stock saddle - 3.5"-5"
  • Dressage saddle - 2.5"-4.5"
  • Jump saddle - 2"-3"

saddle cantle types

What is the purpose of a cantle?

The cantle stops the rider from slipping back onto the horse's back when riding. It also keeps the rider more secure, and its easier to stay on a horse that is bucking or bolting in a high cantle saddle. It is therefore more popular for horse trainers to start new horses in western saddles rather than a low cantle english saddle as the western saddle horn and cantle keeps the rider more secure and the rider’s legs in the correct position. A cantle that is too high (5.5"+) can be dangerous to ride in in case you loose control over your horse and end up on top of the cantle as it can hurt the rider. More cantle slope tend to make your saddle safer (if your horse decides to buck). 

cantle-on-a-saddle

Photo: Bliss of London

What is the swell of a saddle?

The swell is the raised part in front of western saddle. It supports the horn, keeps the rider secure and holds the bars together.