Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Canberra Australia
Hay, Cowchick, yeah, I have been really busy for the last couple of years, so have only lurked occasionally. Unfortunately, none of my busyness has involved horses (all university stuff). I should get back into to the forum a bit more, be a bit of a smart-a*@, make an idiot of myself and try to amuse people other than myself (and annoy the crud out of people other than my wife, dangerous business that).
Marymane, in terms of deciding which western saddle one might choose, the way I’d think of it is firstly think of the kind of riding you want to do.
It appears to me that one of the reasons for so many variations of western saddle is to do with the fact that there seems to be a ridiculous number of different competitive disciplines and each one seems to think that they need a saddle specifically designed for their discipline. What I suspect then is that whatever saddle design they come up with would be ok for that, but would it be OK if you were planning on spending 5 to 15 hours in the saddle.
To give a personal example, I used to work on cattle stations in Australia, I’d routinely spend days in the saddle. A relative of mine was a cutting horse guy, long since retired from competition. He had an old Buster Welsh cutting saddle that I had my eye on to strip apart and rebuild on the tree using the old leather as a pattern. I did a day’s work in that thing and it was the most uncomfortable days work I had since refusing to ride in Australian Stock saddles, in my opinion terrible saddles (sorry BSMS, I know you like them). It had a long flat seat, fenders seemed to be slung too far forward, really low cantle that didn’t seem to make the seat any better and a useless horn if you wanted to do anything more than hang onto the thing (which I refuse to do on basic principle, I’d rather fall off than hang onto the horn). The only thing I ended up liking about the thing was the ox bow stirrups.
The next day I worked in my wade, for me literally the most comfortable thing I have ever sat in. I have done a number of 18ish hour days in that thing, been exhausted getting of the horse, who would be exhausted too, but nether of us were sore from it. Mind you, I have also done some big days riding in my little brother’s wade, its too small for me, and that was a reasonably painful experience too, so the saddle also needs to fit you.
So, think about it this way, are you planning to spend hours in the saddle, long trail rides? Work? Or just an hour at a time? Or are you doing a competitive thing that needs specific requirements in a saddle? If one’s riding for an hour at a time, probably wouldn’t matter an enormous amount on the style of saddle, but if you want to be in it for a long time, I’d look for saddles designed for that.
“Ranch saddles” would probably be my go-to in that instance, Wade (my personal choice) Low Association (my second choice for a general work saddle) Visalia (I think are beautiful saddles from looking at them, never rode one). In the very near future I plan to start getting back into starting horses and selling them, so I’ll need something for that (I did build a charro saddle on a wade tree for that but have since changed my mind and want something else), I was thinking of maybe a Bear Trap but now I’m leaning very close to a Low Moose (as I get older the ground looks further and further away and a lot harder than it used to be from atop a horse, I want every advantage I can get if a horse lights up but I still want to actually be able to eject if need be, hard to do in a Bear Trap). But it would need to be a Low Moose with a seat and horn that are good for a day’s work too.
So generally, the range of western saddles as far as I can see is about competition, and for general riding probably the so called ranch saddles are best, the kind a cowboy might ride in for days on end would be the ones suited to most people’s riding in my opinion. They might not need to rope anything, but a seat designed for maximum comfort on long rides is really what they would want. They should all be designed for maximum comfort for the horse.