Not Your Average Carry-On: Traveling With Your Saddle

Photo by Lauren Mauldin

The life of a show rider is often one of nomadism: We’re on the road a lot, but we don’t travel light.

Exhibit A: our saddles. While most items can be stuffed into a bag, this essential piece of equipment constitutes far more precious cargo. Unfortunately, saddles are neither small nor of traditional shape, making for a creative haul. But the failure to ensure their safe and undamaged arrival at your destination can result in damage to the all-important tree, while ultimately can harm your horse’s back.

We’ve collected some tips and tricks for effectively traveling with what might be—at least, in the eyes of the non-equestrians you will encounter in your travels—the world’s most unique travel companion.

Your [Most] Personal Item

Most airlines allow you to board with up to two personal items. Make your saddle one of them. And while your saddle most likely won’t fit under the seat in front of you, with creative packing, it can fit in a standard-size overhead bin (Smaller planes will complicate this). Take your stirrups off and pack them in your checked luggage, and make sure your saddle is enclosed within a padded cover or duffel bag. Add a saddle pad for some extra cushion.

Pro Tip: Wrap your saddle with a strap for easy transport throughout the airport.

Plan Ahead

If you know you’ll be traveling in a small-sized plane or particularly long distance, sometimes it might be appropriate to ship your saddle separately from the airplane. Wrap it protectively, pack the box with cushion and FedEx it to your destination (marked as fragile, of course). Be sure to purchase insurance and get a tracking number.

Special Treatment

For those wanting to go the extra mile (and improve their social distancing at the same time), purchasing an extra seat for your saddle will accomplish both!

Your Day-to-Day

Your saddle should always travel with support—that means, even in your car. Save wear and tear on your saddle with a portable saddle rack. There are many creative options at various price points designed specifically for car use online, which offer direct purchasing as well as DIY ideas. Some racks are built into the back seat, while others are standalone and designed for the trunk. Etsy is a particularly great source of inspiration.