Aussie Saddles vs. Western Saddles?
I'm hoping to get some input from people who have ridden in both Aussie Saddles and Western Saddles about which they prefer and why. My usual trail saddle (Wintec western) broke while I was riding today, and I'm not sure what I want to replace it with. I'm intrigued by Aussie saddles especially since I really prefer English riding and they seem to keep you more in an English seat. Is this correct? They seem like they'd be very comfortable and have lots of places to attach saddle bags for trail riding. How are they sized? Do they go by english or western seat and tree sizes or do they have unique sizing?
If I get another western saddle, I'd want another synthetic as it will be strictly for training and trail purposes and will get dirty, wet, etc. I'm sure it was just a fluke that my Wintec broke (I bought it used so who knows how it was treated!) but does anyone have reccomendations on good western synthetic brands? Or would a good quality used leather saddle really be better for trails?
My mare and I spent the last many years showing and are now enjoying her semi retirement on the trails so I'd love some advice from those with lots of trail experience! She's an Arab with typical Arab structure if that makes a difference in anyones opinion :) Thanks!
I have sat quite a few Aussie saddles and ridden in one once (although it was WAY too small for me). I LOVE them. When my boy finishes growing, that's what I'm going to get. You do have to be careful not to get a cheap, made in India, piece of crap, though. They'll break and become useless soooo fast! With Australian stock saddles, "you get what you pay for" is definitely true. I know people who have had the cheap ones. They HATED them. I know someone who owns one custom fit to her horse by the owner of the Australian Stock Saddle Company (top manufacturer in the US...they handmake all their saddles and the owner is from Australia...I've actually talked to him on the phone) and she would never own another saddle...ever. She hardly EVER uses her $1500 Circle Y saddle that was custom fit to her horse as well. One thing about the Aussie saddle is that the seat is built on a suspension of webbing instead of directly on the tree like a Western saddle is, so it's a lot more comfortable of a ride. The way it is built also "forces" you to ride correctly (or at least with the correct posture lol...what you do with your hands is your business).
I grew up riding In western saddles, and bought an Aussie when I started endurance riding ( western types are not reccomended). I will never go back. They are more comfy and more secure. Anyone I know that has ridden in an Aussie saddle will never ride with another type again (trail/endurance folk... Not the show crowd, to be clear) I find them a tad harder to put on the horse than a western type saddle, because of the sweat flaps.
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I've got a Circle Y Arabian saddle and a couple of DownUnder Australian style saddles (in different sizes).
A genuine Australian saddle starts at around $2500 and goes up quickly, so most are out of my price range. The ones made outside of Australia are usually made in India, with varying degrees of oversight. The DownUnder saddles can usually be bought at a discount at around $750-800 new.
Compared to a western or English saddle, they don't compare to a Bates or Circly Y - but then, they don't cost as much either. On mine, the leather was decent for that price but needed oiling (or Passier Lederbalsam, which I prefer). The stitching is coarser, but durable enough.
In design, they feel more English than western. At least, the ones with serge panels do. The fleece panels are made more like a western saddle, and I don't know how they feel. The DownUnder folk strongly recommend I go with serge panels for my Arabians. They have a wider twist but the suspension seat is nice.
I dislike the Australian girth. It puts too much bulk and buckle under your leg, and the flaps tend to wear on the underside because of it. You can convert them to a western cinch, but you probably won't have enough circumference with an Arabian to do that. I know I don't, because I've tried. Mia is 15.3 hands and 900 lbs, for reference.
I like the security. The poleys work great. You can get them with or without a horn. I've got one each, and prefer without a horn by a small margin.
One thing I dislike are the long flaps. The long double flap and the odd girthing between creates too much bulk between me & the horse.
If I had a Quarter Horse, I'd prefer a western saddle overall. I think they are about equal for comfort and security, and the western saddles are better quality for the dollar and easier for me to use leg. However, I'm finding it tough to find a good western saddle that will fit my Arabians.
If at all possible, borrow one before buying. It seems to be a love/hate thing. My youngest daughter rode one a couple of times and swore she would never get in another. I like them, but I don't like their prices.
Oh, and they are sized pretty close to English. I ride in 17.5 and 18 inch English saddles, and prefer an 18 inch Australian - although I can squeeze into the 17 inch one my oldest daughter uses.
You can find a lot of reviews listed here:
Also, to SunnyK...about the seat size...from what I can tell, Aussie saddles measure different than either Western or English. I ride a 15.5-16" Western saddle...in an Aussie saddle, I prefer a 17-18" seat. If you call the Australian Stock Saddle Company (especially if you get to talk to Colin, the owner, like I did), they'll ask your height, weight and pant size, then give you what size Aussie seat you need.
As for the Australian Stock Saddle Company...the reviews I've found online were underwhelming (Trail Saddles). If I was willing to spend $1500, I'd save up a bit more and buy a Bates Australian saddle for around $1900.
I bought a second hand Aussie from Downunder and love it. While I am sure there are high dollar saddles out there, for what I ride (just trails), it does the job, looks good doing it and the saddle is older and in great shape. The leather, once conditioned, is butter soft. The seat is deep and the poleys do help if your horse gets a little 'squirrely'. DownUnder does custom fitting and it is included in the saddle price, no matter if you buy a $150 saddle on clearance or their most expensive Syd Hill.
If you are going to look for a high dollar, top of the line Aussie, skip DownUnder and skip the Australian Stock saddle co. Do a search here for a member by the name of Wild_spot. Her threads are very informative about all the high end, made in Australia saddles.
I've been a primarily Western rider my whole life. I love my Aussie. It is very comfortable and very secure. I am always searching for a Western saddle to fit my hard to fit horse...until I find one, I will happily hack in an Aussie.
The saddles made by the Australian Stock Saddle Company are not a great representation of a good stock saddle IN Australia. They are marketed for the US market and are not as close contact or general quality as most good stock saddles.
Basically, any mass produced stock saddle is not great quality. If you want a great saddle, you look for one hand made and stamped by the saddler.
Two years ago I got one custom made for my horse and me by a lesser known saddler for $3800 - which is cheap. I'm getting a new one made by him right now - they have gone up to $4500, still cheap! The better known saddlers start at around $6000 and can have waiting lists of up to a year long.
Most stock saddles are built on a standard stock horse tree, then flocked to fit. You can get other size trees.
Sizing in real stock saddles is closer to westerns I think. I ride a 17 or 17.5 inch English and my stock is 15.5 inch. 15 inch is the normal size for skinny people lol.
The only mass produced stock saddle that I like are the bates Kimberleys. They sit you quite far off your horse but are like riding on a couch, and are adjustable. I had one before getting my saddle made.
My current saddle on an Arab (not who it was made for)
My new saddle will have slightly different colour leather, different colour felt panels, and different piping/decorations. It will be for my new mare.
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