I have a hard seat saddle and I love it. I spend 4-15 hours daily riding at all gaits and I wouldn't trade my saddle for anything. IMHO, it is more important that the saddle fits your butt than whether it's padded or not. I grew up riding padded roping saddles and I always ended the day in pain because they didn't fit me, the padding did not help at all. They were too wide and too flat so it was like sitting astride a 2x6 board all day long. Now that I've got my ranch saddle, it feels like a nice steady hug on my butt and thighs and I am comfortable in it all day.
I think it depends on the saddle. I ride in Aussie stock saddles. I have a knockoff with a hard seat and just purchased an authentic Aussie with a padded seat and spent 7 hours in saddle and was comfy as can be. So for me I prefer the padded.
Like others are saying it depends on the saddle, but if I had to favour one it would be padded, my reining/ WP saddle is padded and very comfortable. I have rode in my trainers saddle a few times it has a hard seat, it feels like my spine is going to go through my back!
I LOVE my hard-seat Aussie saddle. The seat isn't what I'd call exactly "hard" (at least not like a hard seat western is), but it's not padded like most Aussie saddles I've seen or tried.
On the other hand, my friend's Circle Y saddle with about 4" of padding on the seat (okay, I exaggerate...there's only about 2" of padding...seriously) leaves bruises on my butt bones. But then again, so has ANY western saddle I've ever ridden, whether it's hard or padded.
I have a hard western saddle and my wife has a padded one. When I first started riding, the seam on my jeans would rub my tailbone raw. I don't know if it was from the way I was riding or from the saddle. We both bought pads and I haven't had the problem since. I think it depends on what you want for comfort. Posted via Mobile Device
I ride with a hard saddle and have no problems but that's because it fits me. I do think a padded saddle will probably help break your butt in when you first start riding but once past that stage it's all about the fit.
I have 11 saddles in my tack room. Only 1 is padded and it is only picked first by a friend that rides with me sometimes. I can't stand it. Anyone want a barely broken in vintage Cook? Lol!
I live in a hard seat every day, anywhere from 4-10 hours. For me I think a hard, smooth seated saddle gives me a better feel and ability to have a better working seat myself when I ride. Posted via Mobile Device
^^^^you have a vintage Billy Cook that is barely broken in!!!! I am fully aware of what you have in your tack room with that one saddle. Then there is also someone I know who has a vintage Veach saddle.
I have been in hard Western Saddles, padded saddles, but always preferred rough-out sueded seat saddles. I was loaned a Wintec All-Purpose English Saddle by a friend and I liked it really well. Upon my returning the loaned saddle I bought used a hard-seat Dressage saddle that made me feel very insecure on my hot-headed red headed mare.