Different Types of Western Saddles? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 02-12-2020, 05:25 PM Thread Starter
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Different Types of Western Saddles?

To be honest I've been having a hard time finding what makes different types of western saddles suitable for different types of riding/disciplines. Most everything I know and can find is surface level knowledge and not that helpful for someone who wants to know more in depth. I suppose my confusion is over the many different categories I see on different sites that for the life of me I can't see what makes them different, in fact many of them seem to be so similar in name and style it's a head scratcher for me why they aren't in the same categories in the first place.


Roping saddles, calf roping saddles, association ranch saddles, wade saddles, lady wade, cowboy, barrel, ranch cutter, ranch cutter barrel, trail, reining, training, show...what is the difference between a cowboy and a ranch saddle? Aren't they essentially the same thing? Am I missing something or is it just different names for some of the same things that saddle makers do to make people think there's more options than there actually are? I've never been able to get an explanation on the sites for what makes the different models different (lady wade? what makes it lady?).



In general I don't see as many discussions about what makes western saddle types different from each other than I've heard about what makes English saddles different...except for perhaps trail riders who are very concerned with a light weight saddle. And most anything I try to find is more about saddle fit than anything on what makes an x saddle different from a y.
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post #2 of 20 Old 02-12-2020, 05:31 PM
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Theres are pages that could be typed to explain.
What are looking for?

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post #3 of 20 Old 02-12-2020, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by COWCHICK77 View Post
Theres are pages that could be typed to explain.
What are looking for?

I'm not actually looking for anything in particular, as I'm not actively shopping for one right now. I just want to understand the differences between them. As in, what makes an x type of saddle good for the discipline it's supposed to be used for as opposed to other saddles and so on.
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post #4 of 20 Old 02-12-2020, 06:27 PM
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Even though they look similar on the surface, most of your differences are going to be in the tree of the saddle. An Association tree is vastly different than a Wade tree, even though they may be used for the same thing-- and to make it even more confusing, there is no 'standard' when it comes to western saddle trees, so a Modified Association from one maker may differ from the Modified Association from another. Then there's the fact that a lot of the differences in the tree are in the swells, not necessarily the bars... there are books on this topic.

Some basics:

A roping saddle is usually made with a heavy, strong tree that is rawhide wrapped, and depending on what style of roping you're doing, plus personal preference, the horn and swells can vary. Roping trees are heavy duty, made to take the jerk of a 1000-pound animal running the other direction, and are meant to be ridden with tight front and rear rigging. Most are full-double-rigged meaning the front D is directly under the swells. Riding full-double-rigged without a snug rear cinch can quickly sore your horse. A saddle on a full-double-rigged roping tree is usually made for arena roping, and it tends to keep the rider's weight tipped forward to get up and over the swells to rope when coming out of the box at speed. The leathers and stirrups tend to be heavy and stiff, and set a bit farther back than in, say, a trail saddle. Roping saddles are heavy. 35 - 45 lbs fully rigged is pretty normal.

A roping tree/ranch saddle made for ranch work is often 7/8 or 3/4 rigged. These also can have dropped-plate rigging. These are usually made to ride all day and be comfortable for man and horse. You still want the rear cinch flat against the belly, but it doesn't have to be as tight as if you're riding full-double rigging. Ranch saddles/roping saddles have numerous trees--Toots Mansfield, Wade, Lady Wade (lighter than the traditional Wade) and Modified Association are pretty common in ranch/roping saddles like this. There's also personal preference. My favorite saddles is a custom on a modified TM tree with 3/4 dropped plate rigging. It's strong enough to rope with, yet comfortable enough to ride all day. If the rider has smaller horses or rides a lot of colts, rounded or single skirts may be preferred. A rider on a big horse can handle double skirting without issue. Most ranch saddles will have saddle strings and/or a few rings here or there to tie on bedrolls, slickers, etc. The tree and style you choose for a big, high-withered ranch horse may be very different than what you'd choose for a 14 hh cow-bred horse with low withers. Style also plays a role. Some riders will only ride a Wade saddle and use tack in the style of the Great Basin. Some mix and match. Some is regional style. Some just use what works for them.

A barrel saddles is often on a lighter tree since it doesn't have to be as strong for roping. The swells and cantle are more upright to hold the rider in place during the quick turns and fast acceleration coming out of a barrel. The horn is tall enough for the rider to hold securely. Because weight = time, many barrel saddles have smaller skirts or rounded skirts. Barrel saddles hold in you in place. Some people like that. Others hate it for general riding.

Cutting saddles have a wide, flat seat to give the rider room to move and twist. A horn that's tall and narrow lets the rider grip to stay in place during the lightning fast turns/stops of a cutting horse. The tree is made to fit down and around the horse to prevent the saddle shifting.

A reining saddle will look similar to a cutting saddle, but the horn is usually shorter and swept more forward than you'll see in a cutting saddle or a roping saddle. It's not meant for roping, but is very comfortable for general riding.

Trail saddles usually have a lighter tree than a ranch/roping saddle, with a secure, comfortable seat and saddle strings to tie on saddlebags, jackets, etc.

Different show saddles are made to place the rider in the position for that type of riding. A show reining saddle is different than the show saddle for a western pleasure horse, for instance.

There's plenty of room for personal preference, and some small differences in the saddle can make a big difference to the rider and/or horse.
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post #5 of 20 Old 02-12-2020, 06:31 PM
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Gotcha. My Reader's Digest version...

Team roping saddles tend to tip you forward and you're meant to balance on the forks of the saddle.
Honestly I find most of them horrible to ride in any length of time or to start colts in.

Association saddles refer to the tree they are built on. Generally a swelled fork ranch saddle. I like them.

Wade also refers to the tree. Slick fork and most come with a wood post horn. Forks sit lower to the wither, less leverage on the saddle roping. A clinician selling favorite.

Lady wade is a light weight version of the above.

Cowboy saddles could mean anything especially depending on the region.

Barrel saddles seem to be high in the front and back to hold a position in speed like running barrels. Although I used to start colts in an old Circle Y barrel saddle.
Not a fan. Prefer to ride a short seated cutter.

Ranch cutters are a cutter with a dally horn.

I find reiners and training saddles very similar. Trainers are not as flashy and have plenty of D rings for gadgets. Legs are allowed to swing wherever and easily put out in front for stops are riding behind the horse when starting colts.

Show saddles depends on the discipline.

Never rode a trail saddle. So no clue.

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post #6 of 20 Old 02-12-2020, 09:29 PM
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In terms of wade/lady wade and menís v womenís saddles in general, my saddle maker friend told me that the dip in the seat between the cantle and the fork tends to be further back in the seat for a womenís saddle, so closer to the cantle. He said it was because womenís pelvis is a different shape and their thighs tend to be rounder (in cross section) while a manís tend to be more oval shaped. Donít know if that has anything to do with wade/lady wade but thatís what he told me for menís/womenís saddles anyway.
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post #7 of 20 Old 02-12-2020, 09:35 PM
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"Barrel saddles seem to be high in the front and back to hold a position in speed like running barrels"

Don't a lot of barrel racers levitate a foot above the saddle with their legs stuck out either side of them anyway???
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post #8 of 20 Old 02-12-2020, 11:36 PM
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Yeah, but the starfishing only happens on the straightaway coming home. When they're tearing around barrels they sit down in the saddle to stay in place.

-- Kai
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post #9 of 20 Old 02-13-2020, 09:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnrewPL View Post
"Barrel saddles seem to be high in the front and back to hold a position in speed like running barrels"

Don't a lot of barrel racers levitate a foot above the saddle with their legs stuck out either side of them anyway???
Haha! @AnrewPL you should pop in more often to be a smarty pants! Long time no see.

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post #10 of 20 Old 02-13-2020, 10:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnrewPL View Post
"Barrel saddles seem to be high in the front and back to hold a position in speed like running barrels"

Don't a lot of barrel racers levitate a foot above the saddle with their legs stuck out either side of them anyway???

Hahah! I like to trail ride in a barrel saddle.. because sometimes my HORSES decide to levitate and/or teleport off the trail for no good reason (But will stand statue still for a wild hog busting out of the brush).


I like that split second transmission of information through a barrel saddle (that I don't get in a roping saddle) - That ITSALLGOINGTOCRAPINAHALFSECOND feel, the deep seat, and my immediate, adrenaline fueled panic-grabbing at the cheyenne roll or the horn has saved my butt many times.

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us."
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