Do you like to ride English or western? Do you know much about the saddle you use if you ride western? Lets’ find out a little about the gear that helps us stay upright on a horse and not on a lump on the ground.
Western saddles are used for western riding and are the saddles used on working horses on cattle ranches throughout the United States, particularly in the west. They are the “cowboy” saddles familiar to movie viewers, rodeo fans, and those who have gone on trail rides.
This saddle was designed for comfort and security for long hours on a horse or traveling over rough terrain. The western saddle is designed to be comfortable when ridden in for many hours. Its history and purpose is to be a working tool for a cowboy who spends all day, every day, on horseback.
The western saddle is different from an English saddle in that it has no padding between the tree and the external leather and fleece skirting. The weight bearing area of the saddle is large and usually covered with sheepskin, but it must be padded with a saddle blanket in order to provide a comfortable fit for the horse. Western saddles are extensively decorated—the carved leatherwork is often a true work of art—and intricately carved silver conchos and other additions are frequently added to the saddle for show purposes. More than any other style of saddle, the western saddle can be customized to be a true expression of the rider’s taste and style. A fine quality western saddle, properly maintained, is intended to last for a person’s lifetime, or even beyond.
There are many different types of western saddles available. The most popular variations include:
- Roping saddle: Heavy, sturdy saddle that usually has a thicker horn for securing a rope, low cantle, and slick fork that allows rider to dismount quickly when needed.
- Cutting saddle: Has a deep seat and wide swells, which allows the rider to sit deep and securely through sharp stops and turns.
- Reining saddle: Has a deep seat to allow the rider to sit deeply and more freely-swinging fenders for more leg movement on the rider’s part.
- Barrel racing saddle: Lightweight saddle with wide swells and high cantle which allows the rider to sit securely but also allows the horse to perform fast sprints and sharp turns.
- Endurance saddle: Lighter weight than most western saddles, often without a horn, has a tree that spreads the rider’s weight out over a large area of the horse’s back, thus reducing pounds per square inch. Often has stirrups hung slightly farther forward, to allow rider to get off the horse’s back when traveling at faster speeds. Designed for long rides at faster speeds than a trail saddle.
- Trail saddle: Designed for maximum comfort of rider as well as a good fit for the horse, features deep, padded seat, designed for long rides at slower speeds.
- Show saddle: May be based on roping, cutting, or other trees, but is characterized by additional leather tooling and silver decoration. Usually features a deep, padded seat that allows the rider to sit quietly and give the appearance of a smooth ride
- “Equitation” saddle: Show saddle with an especially deep seat to help hold a rider in place
If you have your own western saddle or have ever ridden a horse at a riding stable with a western saddle, which one of these types do you think you have used? I was amazed when I found out how many different kinds of western saddles there are. How about you?
To learn more about the western saddle, go to:
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