I was just wondering if anyone could give me some info on western saddles. Around the area I live no one rides western or has western saddles so I was wondering if someone could tell me about them a little. I was thinking about just doing some basic pleasure trails with my horse once I break her in and was thinking it might be more secure or comfy in a western saddle instead of a dressage saddle.
So I was wondering what they are like? Are they good for just riding around, are they reasonably secure for spooking or something?
Also, how do they fit? I know how english saddles work, I have wintec with cair panels and adjustable gullets so that works out really well for me with fitting but how do the westerns fit? I guess you can't change gullets or anything, so could I get one that would fit my mare who's got a reasonably fine back, that isn't flat, but not overly prominant?
As for the cheap ones, are they okay? I'm not going to do much in it or compete or anything, so would a cheapish one be okay?
Thanks for any info
Andi, I switched from English to Western about 20 years ago and would never go back. The saddles are much more secure and comfortable especially for long rides (assuming, of course, that you get the right saddle for the job). A barrel saddle can get uncomfortable for a very long ride although there are people who use them for that. The best overall saddle for everyday riding would be a "ranch", a "trail", or a "roping" saddle.
Here is a method that I use to measure a horse for a saddle if I can't take the horse with me:
Got to the hardware store and get about 4’ of 12 or 14 gauge house wire (the kind electricians use to wire a house) and cut it in half.
Take 2’ and shape it over your horse’s withers. Take the other 2’ and shape it over the center of his back.
Carefully take the wires and trace them on a heavy piece of cardboard (or poster board if you have it). Cut out the cardboard shapes and take them to the saddle shop to fit against some saddles.
Keep in mind that QH bars in one saddle may not be the same in another brand. There are no standards for saddle trees so each manufacturer has his own idea what dimensions make the designations.
As for you, your bum should not be squished against the cantle, it should have a little room at the top and there should be about 4" of space between your tummy and the swell.
Dumas likes this website and I find it very informative as well: The best online tools, articles, and links about Western Saddle Fitting for horse and rider.
Good luck and enjoy some REAL riding!
I started learning to ride in English where as my sister did western. I continued riding English and only used a western when I went on trails (because the horse I was on was known to spook on trails). I continued English up until probably 3-4 months ago when I got extremely frightened of cantering because my horse would trip and I'd get flung forward. One time when he tripped, I fell off...the next I was hanging on to his neck...lost my reins..and I was totally panicked. So I started to ride in the ONLY western saddle that would fit my horse at the stables...a synthetic Blue Ribbon western saddle (not sure if that's the real brand name of it...it's Blue something I know that). I rode in that for probably 2 months and got my confidence built up so I could canter...but I would only do it if I had the saddle horn to hold on to (yeah I was a big chicken).
But then someone bought the western saddle that I used, so I was forced to go back to English since none of the other western saddles fit him. Well I learned to canter in the English over again, but I never felt comfortable in an English since I rode for a long time in a western.
I went out and bought an expensive western trail saddle that fit my horse and I am so glad that I didn't get an English (I am looking for one now, but I needed a western to build my confidence).
Personally I LOVE western saddles and recommend it. They are great for just riding around and I find them really secure if a horse spooks or takes off....but don't think that you can't be thrown if your in a western saddle.
iride had a great suggestion for seeing if a saddle fits. Also most places will let you get a trail week for the saddle to see if it fits. What I did was I'd borrow the saddles, then ride in them. Get my horse up to a sweat and look for any dry spots where the saddle was. If there was any by the withers it would mean that it's too small, then I was able to tell which would be too big (from seeing ones that would rest too low on his withers) and ones that are too small (that would pinch his withers).
The cheap ones are okay, but I find they rip easier...or the tree breaks. I got an expensive $800-$1300 western trail saddle because I wanted something that would be comfortable in ALL day long, that I could possibly show in...and would last for 20-30 years if not more.
If you plan on riding in a western for a llllong time, then I'd suggest investing into a better made brand.
Cheap saddles are NOT the way to go. Most are Asian made on fiberglass trees with nasty leather. You're better off going synthetic or used. I always by used myself and have one synthetic that I like (an Abetta).
Most horses fit in QH or Semi-QH bars. Larger flat/wide horses will generally take Full QH bars. A western saddle should fit like an English saddle, behind the shoulder blades with even contact all the way back, and about 2-3 fingers of space between the withers and the underside of the pommel.
For your size, you'll need to go down 1.5-2" less than your English size. If you ride a 17" English, you'll likely need a 15-15.5" Western.
Curious, why not an australian stock saddle?
I was raised riding western so an english saddle feels like a postage stamp to me. LOL Western saddles are great at making you feel secure. The fenders are not as free swinging as english leathers so your legs don't have to be as fit.
You don't have to spend a ton on a western saddle to get a decent one, but you don't want a super cheap ones either. I prefer to buy used as the leathers are broke in and the stiffness has been limbered up usually. And you can get a better saddle for less that way. Often you can try them out where new ones have to stay in pristene condition so not so easy to do.
I LOVE my Aussie, especially after last weekend's unexpected 5 hour trail ride. No sore butt, no sore knees. The ones with the serge panels (like English saddles flocking) vs the fleece bottoms can fit a wider variety of horses. But if your horse has a fairly normal back you should be able to find a Western. You might be interested in Abettas bc they have pretty good reviews, you can get them w/out a horn, and I think (maybe someone can verify this) you can always put English leathers on them if you don't like the Western fenders.
I would definitely go used if you go for leather, as someone said. Breaking a new one in can be uncomfortable, and you'll be able to get a better saddle for a decent price. Someone also said that they fit behind the shoulders. I think the tree of the saddle has to be behind the shoulders, but the leather itself may not necessarily sit back that far. As long as the shoulder is free to move under that leather it's ok.
Check for bridging, which is when only the front and back rest on the horse. Slide your hand up under the bars alongside and check for contact along the length of the saddle. And when you ride in it, check for excessive pressure/pinching by putting your hand under the back of the saddle, and under the shoulders. And your horse's sweat marks will be the real test. With a Western you also have to be more careful that the back skirt isn't rubbing your horse's back/loins.
Also try www.horsetackreview to see which brands are questionable.
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