Types of Western Saddles

Western saddle – Uses and Information

1. The Western Pleasure/Trail Saddle

Used for everyday riding. Probably the most comfortable saddle that may come with features such as extra padding on the seat, lots of leather strings for tying things on or light weight for easy handling. These saddles can be bought with just about any feature you desire. They can be single or double rigged, built on wood, ralhide or flex trees. The western pleasure or trail saddle is great for anyone who enjoys a nice comfortable ride. It is not however designed for western sport riding and may not stand up to the stress created by these activities

2. The Barrel Racing Saddle

The barrel racing saddle is used for recreation and competitive western games. This saddle has suede or unfinished leather to help a rider “stick” to the seat and has a lower saddle horn than most other saddles. It usually has double rigging, meaning that the saddle can be cinched at the front and the back. These saddles sometimes will also have adjustable rigging. This means the cinch can be moved in different positions to help keep the saddle stable and in place. If your planning on participating in western games, then this is the type of saddle you want. The barrel racer saddle can be used for pleasure and trail as well.

3. The Cutting/Roping Saddle

This is a tough saddle that can handle the cutting and roping of cows. These heavy duty saddles have a short re-enforced saddle horn and are double rigged. The rigging rings are often drilled and bolted directly into the saddle tree. This makes it nearly impossible for a saddle to be ripped off the horse when roping a live cow. You will want a good quality saddle if you plan on cutting or roping. Look for saddles that have conventional double rigging and extra strong horn. Rawhide, bullhide or fiberglass wrapped around a solid wood tree is considered superior by most.

4. The Reining Saddle

Reining saddles are used in special western events that require a great deal of contact between horse and rider. This type of saddle is lighter than most and has softer thinner leather on both the saddle skirts and the fenders. Riders who compete in reining events generally like a saddle with the skirt cut out, where the leg contacts the horse.

5. The Ranch Saddle

Used by real cowboys and ranchers. This saddle will often have all the features found in the cutter/roper and barrel racing saddles. Conventional double rigging, adjustable and built on very strong trees. This saddle must have good heavy leather that will stand up to rough weather and lots of usage. It is a versatile saddle that can be used for almost any kind of riding.

6. The General Purpose Saddle

This saddle may be the most popular amongst new horse owners and riders. It may be an adequate saddle to learn horseback riding on, but isn’t always the best. Generally speaking, because of the various ways these saddles are made or put together, they can sometimes contribute to poor posture, bad leg positioning or off balance seating. The fact is most general purpose saddles are made for folks who only ride occasionally or those who don’t plan on specializing in any western riding style.

7. The Show Saddle

Catching the eye of the judge in the show ring is what these saddle are made for. There are many styles and colors to choose from. The amount of decoration can directly effect the price of these fancy saddles. If your going to get a show saddle, it is important to know what metal is used and how the tooling is done, otherwise you may be paying for silver work that isn’t really sliver and will tarnish, rust or, turn green. As with most saddles you get as little or as much of what you pay for.

Tips for buying an Western saddle

Saddles built on a solid wood or synthetic trees are considered best. Quality saddles will be lined with pure sheep wool.

Saddles used for roping, cutting or ranch work should have “In Tree Rigging” as apposed to “In skirt Rigging” Click to see our guide about saddle rigging.

The leather should be fairly thick and supple. Be aware that saddles completely coated with lacquer will prevent conditioning oils to penetrate the leather. However Lacquer can prolong the life of the leather and these saddles will only require cleaning with a soft damp cloth.

The material used in the stitching should be heavy nylon that wont rot, unravel, or break for many many years.

A good quality saddle will have at least a ten year warranty and a saddle makers stamp. If it doesn’t, don’t buy it. chances are it was made in a factory by unskilled workers. These saddles are cheaply produced and won’t last more than a year or two.

Always buy a saddle that is designed for the type of riding you plan on doing.

Note where the fenders and stirrups are placed. If the fenders are to far forward or to far back it will put your legs in the wrong position. Also note how the seat is designed. A seat that is flatter at the front is often more comfortable then one that looks like it slopes downhill.