Originally Posted by phantomhorse13 View Post
I have ridden thousands of miles in my english-type saddle.
I don't think the type of saddle matters, more that it fit your horse and yourself. If either of you are uncomfortable, its not going to work.
You said you have a medical condition that can/may make mounting difficult. If you feel having a horn to grab makes it easier, but grabbing mane doesn't give you the same feeling, you can run a strap across the front of your english saddle between the D rings to use as a support while getting on. Or, even better, you can make sure whatever horse you are riding is agreeable to you mounting from a variety of things (truck bumpers, fallen logs, gates, etc) and then the horn or lack thereof shouldn't matter much at all!
Well, now that sort of depends on the type of trail riding you intend to do. If you're just going out for a couple hours at a time on well-developed trails, either will do. But if you plan on heading out for a full day, or overnight, or on poorly maintained or undeveloped trails, you have considerations other than simple saddle fit for horse and rider. While I recognize that your age and health may preclude the kind of trail rides I take, I'll not make that assumption. My dad is 78 and still goes out with me.
For a long ride, you're going to need someplace to hang certain things. I never go out on trail without a halter under the bridle and a long lead attached, which I coil around the saddle horn. I like to have a place to tie on a rain slicker and a jacket or long-sleeved shirt. You will need to hang a canteen somewhere, either on the saddle itself, or in a saddle bag. I suppose a camelback would do the trick as well, but on a long ride, that would become uncomfortable, hot, and create a sweaty spot on me. Where will you carry your hoof pick (you do take one with you, right?)?
I once took a week pack trip in an Aussie saddle with a horn (you see it in my avatar). I liked the ride, but did not like the fact that there was no back skirt or jockey on the saddle, which had my saddlebags riding on the horse's back. I occasionally like to rest myself a little by hooking a leg around the saddle horn and riding sort of side-saddle. Can't do that with a saddle that has no horn or swells. Riding English pretty much requires constant contact with the horse's mouth. I would think that would get tiresome for horse and rider after four or five hours (although not being an English rider, I may be wrong on that). Western riding is generally done with one hand on the reins, allowing a free hand for other duties, such as towing a pack horse or handling a camera or binoculars. Another important point (for me anyway) is that it is easier to stay in the saddle with a western saddle when the proverbial "fecal matter comes in contact with the motorized oscillating ventilator device."
If you are feeling uncomfortable in a western saddle, but fine in the English, try adjusting your stirrups up or down a notch and see how that affects you. Or you might try a different saddle. The problem may be that the saddle does not fit you well. Maybe the stirrups are set too far aft or forward for you. Different saddles are made differently. I can attest there is a big difference in ride comfort with a saddle that fits you well.
These are only a few of the reasons I choose a western saddle for my kind of trail riding. It works well whether I'm just going out for a short jaunt or a week-long pack trip.
Then again, I have to admit that I often have visions of myself in an English saddle, galloping through fields, jumping stone walls with coattails flying.