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Bates Saddles

Saddle Innovations to Optimize Horse and Rider Performance

For centuries, saddle makers have designed saddles to maximize rider comfort. At Bates Australia, they have shifted the focus to the horse. The radical new features in their saddles will give your horse the freedom to help reach its maximum potential. With the CAIR® Panel System it will transform the way your horse feels the weight on its back, cushioning the saddle with air to help evenly distribute the rider’s weight, nearly eliminating pressure points and discomfort. The EASY-CHANGE™ Gullet System is another unique development which allows the gullet size in your saddle to be changed to suit your horse in a matter of minutes. So you can help to ensure your horse is always comfortable. Incorporating these innovative systems into a traditional leather saddle built on centuries of development enables Bates Australia to bring you a saddle of unparalleled performance.

Saddle Fitting Essentials


Clearance of your horse’s wither should be maintained at all times. When a saddle is placed on your horse’s back, you should be able to insert two to three fingers sideways between your horse’s wither and the pommel of the saddle. When viewed from the front, the panel of the saddle should fit snugly along the sides of your horse’s wither. Clearance should always be maintained across the width and along the length of your horse’s spine.


A properly fitting saddle will hug your horse’s back providing a close fit. With a flocked panel, the panels of the saddle should bear evenly upon the muscles on either side of your horse’s spine in order to distribute your weight evenly. With an air panel, such as the CAIR® Cushion System, this even bearing may not be evident until the rider is sitting in the saddle, as it is only when the weight bears down that the air will adjust to evenly distribute it. Panels should also be smooth and free from irregularities, which can evolve due to failure to look after your saddle or poor quality manufacture.

The CAIR® Cushion System

Fluidly working with your horse’s muscles, the revolutionary CAIR® Cushion System replaces traditional fillings in your saddle with air. The cushioning nature of air encourages your horse to soften, relax and engage. Seated closer to your horse, you simply become an extension of one another. Transcend into a new world of opportunities through the power of true connection. Empower your horse with the ultimate in comfort, and explore your true potential together with the CAIR® Cushion System.


A saddle place on your horse’s back should be balanced from the pommel through to the cantle so the deepest part of the seat is central and level. If not balanced, your weight could be bearing down on a vulnerable part of your horse’s back. You may also feel like the saddle is pushing you forward or sliding you back, making it difficult for you to achieve a balanced riding position and feel comfortable in the saddle.

Fitting Provisions

In order to check the clearance, bearing, and balance of a saddle, it is important to correctly position the saddle initially. To ensure this, gently place the saddle well forward of your horse’s wither and slide it back until it rests comfortably in a spot dictated by your horse’s conformation. Make sure this spot is behind your horse’s shoulder as to allow freedom of movement. It is best to check the fit of your saddle while a rider is mounted as the weight of a rider enables the panel of the saddle to sit into your horse’s muscle rather than on top.

Clearance, bearing and balance should be checked while your horse is standing on level ground so the balance of the saddle can be accurately viewed

Do not, under any circumstances, place a saddle onto your horse if it has a sore back. No amount of fitting will enable the saddle to be comfortable for your horse until it has had time to recover.

Bates Australia recommends you check the fit of your Bates saddle after 3 months and then every 6 months throughout your saddle’s life. This will help to ensure the saddle continues to fit correctly as the horse changes shape according to its level of fitness and work program.

Official Fit Disclaimer

The innovative systems in the Bates Australian saddles offer unsurpassed flexibility in achieving an optimal fit. However, no one saddle can claim to fit every horse. It is always recommended you seek ongoing professional advice on the fit in order to meet the unique needs of each horse/rider combination.

Caring for Your Bates Leather Saddle

Proper care is crucial to maximizing the performance of your Bates saddle. It is a natural product and its life is reliant on maintaining a certain level of moisture.

To remove dirt that could potentially scratch the surface of your saddle, clean it regularly with glycerin saddle soap and a damp cloth or sponge. Cleaning should always be followed with a rich, wax-based dressing, such as Bates Leather Balsam. Bates Australia does not recommend the use of oil on your saddle.

Prior to riding in your new saddle, it is recommended that you liberally dress your saddle with Bates Leather Balsam, allowing it to soak in overnight. The overnight process ensures maximum penetration into the leather, helping to seal in the moisture and protect your saddle. Bates Leather Cream can also be used to replenish and rejuvenate the moisture content in your saddle. A leather balsam penetrates even deeper into the leather and offers a surface barrier of protection against wear, water and sweat.

Apply your leather balsam or cream heavily in high wear areas, such as the top of the saddle flap where the stirrup leather will rub. You may apply your dressing to all areas of your saddle that are not suede, including the padded inserts and girth straps.

Treated in this manner, you will achieve the traditional, rich patina of aged worked leather and can expect years of excellent service from your saddle.

Used with permission from, 2011.

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