Don’t mean to but in on Bsms but I grew up riding in an Australian saddle and personally I think they are pretty ordinary; admittedly the way they set you up is no good for my riding style, so that's a big part of it. But in general there are three kinds. 1) traditional style, which from his photos I think Bsms has, these are hair lined, and as long as they are relined when they need it they are not too bad on a horses back, 2) the counter lined traditional ones, they are more like a western saddle underneath and I have hardly ever seen a good off the shelf one Id buy. 3) “half breed” saddles, that are like a cross between a western saddle and an Australian stock saddle; these ones are all the rage here these days and you can get good ones and bad ones. Like most things, you have to pay for quality and a good one can run to about 3 to 4 thousand these days from some saddlers. If you like to ride with your heels under you, they may not be your best option.
Since ground mounting can be a challenge with some treeless saddles, the following way of mounting has proven to be very helpful remedying this issue in most situations. I recommend mounting from a mounting block, fence, boulder, or just higher ground whenever possible when using ANY saddle, treed or treeless, to minimize pull on your horse’s back and to avoid twisting your saddle. Even treeless saddles can be pulled into asymmetry by repeated ground mounting, especially when mounting from the same side, over time.
The following is excerpted by permission from ‘The Joy of Icelandics’ by Christine Schwartz. This is a great book in general and the information can be applied to all gaited horses, not just Icelandics.
Believe it of not, once you get the hang of mounting the Icelandic way you can actually do it without a girth. When doing it correctly you are always in balance making the maneuver much easier for yourself and the horse.
Stand beside your horse facing front, your inside hip touching the saddle flap. To make things less confusing, we will mount from the left. Hold your reins as if you were already riding, which means the right rein in the right hand, the left rein in the left hand with light contact to the horse’s mouth. Now place your right hand with the rein onto the saddle, just below the manufacturer’s button where the suede leather of the knee roll begins; or hold the off side stirrup leather, whichever is more comfortable. Your left hand guides your left foot into the stirrups and then, again still holding the rein, grab a hold of the horse’s mane about 1/3 up the horse’s neck. As your push yourself up off the ground with your right leg you are also transferring your weight into your right hand and with a little practice you will notice the saddle does not slip. Gently lift your right leg over the horse’s croup and slowly lower yourself into the saddle. To dismount just reverse the order, or lift both feet out of the stirrups and swing off. When riding a nervous or young horse or one that I don’t know, I will always step off and I am careful to take my right foot SLOWLY out of the stirrup, ensuring it does not bump against the horse’s side.
Practice mounting and dismounting from both sides and you will notice that on some horses it is easier to mount from the left. Strange? Not really. Most horses (like humans) are not built perfectly symmetrical and one side is lower than the other. It is easier to mount from the horse’s higher side, since we have a tendency to pull the saddle towards the lower side.
1 - It fits my horse. My Arabian mare has a pretty short back. My western Circle Y Arabian saddle is 26.5" long, and sits far enough back that it puts pressure on her loins. Not a lot, and she will tolerate it, but she moves much more willingly at speed if the saddle is shorter. I would LIKE to use a western saddle, but finding one that would fit her is tough. And the folks who make Aussie-style saddles will custom fit the saddle for your horse.
Notice I said "Australian style". The real, made in Australia saddles start at about $3000. I paid $750 for mine. After 2 years of use, it is better than when I bought it.
2 - I have the option of using a Wintec pad under the saddle. I normally do not...switched to using a folded wool pony pad under the front. But all my horses ride well with a Wintec pad. In fact, with our mustang pony, we use one under our Abetta western saddle. The original Abetta saddle is short enough (22-23 inches long) and I've thought about buying one for Mia.
3 - When the horse hits the fan, I want all the help I can get. I really like riding in my Bates english saddle, but Mia is still a work in progress. The stereotypes of an Arabian mare? She's an advertisement for them. We're currently working on going solo into the desert. She is vastly better than she once was. A year ago, going solo on a lead line for 100 yards was all she could do without melting down. We're now going 1-1.5 miles out, then returning. So progress.
But she still jumps sideways. She hasn't done any big bolts, but she has 'bolted' for 30-50 yards, without warning. She sometimes does the "OMG Crouch" from a trot.
And everywhere I ride, there are large rocks and cactus. Even with a helmet, if I come off, the injury would probably be big. Breaking my back would be possible, and being tossed into a cholla cactus possible:
I find the Australian style saddle the most secure I've ridden in. When your horse spins around, the poleys (mickey mouse ears) in the front slam into your thighs and spin your hips around. It is a lot easier to stay in the saddle if your hips stay aligned with the saddle! If the horse bolts, you can support your thighs with the poleys and put your hands down low and PULL. I'm 180 lbs, and I CAN out muscle her if I need to.
A little while ago, I had her canter in front of Trooper. The sound of Trooper cantering behind her set her off, and we galloped down the dirt path. That was ok for a while, but there is a 90 deg bend at the end, with cactus beyond. She wasn't interested in my input, so I braced and used a pulley stop. She stopped.
A better rider might look down on wanting help from the saddle. I'm not a better rider, and I'm 54, and rocks hurt and cactus would hurt so I want help!
4 - Forward seat. I like riding with a long leg. I don't jump. But my horses move better with a forward seat than a traditional seat. I like the western style of riding, but my horse moves faster, farther and happier with a forward seat. I can't handle a 3 hour ride in a forward seat, but it is OK to compromise for long rides.
I switch to a forward seat for speed even in a western saddle, but I tend to fight the saddle.
In my never ending quest for the perfect saddle & tack, I'm tempted by this saddle:
It is made by the same folks who made mine, but it is smaller and lighter with shorter flaps. It is a mono-flap design...don't know if I would like or dislike that part:
As always though, there is no perfect tack or saddle. But there are saddles that meet a person or horse's needs better than others. The Australian-style saddle does a lot of good things for me & my horse.
Note - they don't really put your heels under you, which is fine by me. I prefer my heels to be at my belt buckle, which is what the British cavalry called for in the 1800s. The picture is about 3 years old, but I tend to have my legs like this - notice the western stirrups :
It gives me the option of easily shifting forward:
It's odd I guess, or it seems odd to me, but they were never called poleys till those saddles started to gain some traction in the US. They are knee pads, poley refers to the fact that most of them don’t have a horn, and are, thus, poley saddles, the way cattle that have been de-horned or without horns are poley. And if you really want to rig it up Australian style change where you have the buckle on the stirrup leather to the other side of the stirrup and down just above where the leather goes through the stirrup.