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New to the trails - what saddle?

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I'm considering starting up trail riding with my horse. We have some fabulous trails in the area that lead through residences and the forests. However, I primarily ride english. I'd like a trail uniform for my horse. I've really been interested in casual riding and trails. I know nothing about western trees, just that my horse takes a "medium" english saddle gullet. She has an a-frame, a somewhat angular back, high withers and a straight top-line with little rock.

Any help? Are there saddles out there that may fit more like an english saddle but give more stability? And what is this about treeless saddles? I'm skeptical - help me out.:cowboy:
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You can certainly trail ride in an English saddle; many people do. for me, a Western saddle feels much safer. I have fallen or been dumped bareback or from an English saddle many, many times, but never - not once - from a Western saddle.

Since I like the way a dressage saddle rides, I bought a Western dressage saddle from a maker who makes both English dressage saddles and Western dressage saddles. I really like it and feel that it doesn't really get in my way at all. But it is still much heavier than an English saddle would be. Other people really like Australian saddles for trail riding. Treeless I would be leery about, although I am sure plenty of people use them and love them.
 

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Never ridden in anything but my dressage saddle on trails- you should ride in whatever is comfortable for you and your horse!


The only "uniform" we have is orange stuff because hunting season seems to last forever here. We do sometimes ride bitless, but sometimes in a simple snaffle.


Endurance riders seem to have a lot of fun with colorful, matching tack sets- so this could be your excuse to get that wild colored tack set of your dreams! :wink:
 

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Well, I trail ride in my balance ride western saddle,for several reasons.
I guess,number one is, although I do ride English some, using my Stubbin, and have ridden across fields with it, I am mainly a western rider
I don;t ride endurance, but I do ride a lot in the 'warm months, out in the mountains, and like a saddle that has both a back cinch, more weight distribution, and more suitable for hanging saddle bags and pommel bags


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I'm a western girl through and through so the saddle of choice for me is always going to be my nice western colt breaking saddle. It fits Dreams reasonably well and it's wonderful to sit in. I ride pretty rough out on trails, there's a lot of vertical drops, near vertical climbs, jumping over ditches and the occasional downed tree, and having to push the odd heifer off the trail, so I wouldn't be caught dead without a western saddle.

But if you're comfortable riding English, and your saddle fits your horse well, I see no reason why you couldn't trail ride English. Plenty of people do it, and I see no reason to buy a "dedicated" trail saddle if it's going to be something you're just trying on, so to speak. If trail riding is what you're mostly going to be doing, and you're not comfortable riding English to do so, then maybe get another, but for now I wouldn't sweat it. : )

-- Kai
 

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Many people trail ride with an English saddle, so if that works for you, no need to look for a western saddle
For, me, it would not be practical to ride with an English saddle,as I carry quite abit with me,(no pit stops, like in an endurance ride, no cell phone service, and lots of up and down.
Thus, I like to use abreast collar, and also back cinch well done up. Saddle bags, that carry a hoof boot, emergency supplies, food,, bear spray
POmmel bags, that hold a camera, food snacks, bug spray, extra rawhide lacings,and flash light, for 'just in case.

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I'm never in the saddle for longer than 3 hours, through varied terrain and a variety of speeds - it's a close-contact saddle for me, a Stübben to be precise. However, my philosophy on riding is "part meditation, part work-out", so if I'd do horseback "tourism", like overnighting with hours on end in the saddle, I would look for something with more support, like an endurance saddle. Personally, I would not do Western. I think that horn is deadly, having once crashed my groin into the pommel when my horse stumbled in a gopher hole at speed, and the fenders take away any "feeling" of the horse on my legs. I did it once, because the trail outfit had Western, and I was excited to try it - maybe even add on some Western lessons, and it did not grow on me at all.
 

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I ride in a dressage/trail english saddle, very comfy, and fitted out with dee rings to which I've attached latigos. I have pommel and cantle bags. I find western saddles separate me too much from my horse and accentuate the chair seat I am always fighting to correct. I've never met a western saddle I felt okay in. Partly because I have very short legs.

I do recommend wide endurance style stirrups (e-z rides) and if you ride in a running shoe as many endurance riders do, cages on your stirrups. I'd check out some of the distance riding outfitters, such as Distance Depot, if you want to look at your options which are not western.
 

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I second what Avna said. I ride Endurance and I use my instructor's Endurance saddle (I forget the brand name), which is a cross between a Dressage saddle and something I'd consider similar to an Australian-type saddle. It has no horn, uses a Dressage girth, and is very comfortable and I feel very secure in it. It also has rings that I can attach items to as I need/want them and there is space to attach English-style trail bags as well.

Distance Depot has a LOT of great Endurance-style tack and offer fairly good prices so you could probably find something there that would stand up to more rigorous riding through trails.

I, too, have a Western saddle that I did occasionally use for trail riding but I find that I feel a bit better riding in an English-type saddle.
 

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I'm never in the saddle for longer than 3 hours, through varied terrain and a variety of speeds - it's a close-contact saddle for me, a Stübben to be precise. However, my philosophy on riding is "part meditation, part work-out", so if I'd do horseback "tourism", like overnighting with hours on end in the saddle, I would look for something with more support, like an endurance saddle. Personally, I would not do Western. I think that horn is deadly, having once crashed my groin into the pommel when my horse stumbled in a gopher hole at speed, and the fenders take away any "feeling" of the horse on my legs. I did it once, because the trail outfit had Western, and I was excited to try it - maybe even add on some Western lessons, and it did not grow on me at all.

Well, the old western saddles, and most trail riding outfits have them, versus modern type performance western saddles are like you say, way too much bulk under the legs and not enough freedom of movement.

That is not true of the newer better made performance western saddles
Mine is 30 years old=a balance ride, and I can get legs on my hrose, using it, just as well as riding in my Stubbin

Far as the horn, well lots of cowboys ride with that horn all the time, chasing cattle ect, and no problem. They also start colts with them
A saddle horn is handy, not just for hanging pommel bags, but also for dallying the lead rope of a pack horse, plus many trail riders here, just fasten the lead shank of the halter, left under their bridle to it. I used to do that also, but now prefer to carry my lead shank in my saddle bag

You won't find anyone out here trail riding in an English saddle, unless there is a n endurance ride somewhere in the foothills

I also trail ride in hiking type boots, in case I get off to walk, and I find riding in my English saddle in anything other then my high English riding boots, is not comfortable

Good thing we all hav eour preferneces, based on where we ride and how! The OP might just need to experiment

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Are there smaller-style western saddles? I know there are stock saddles. This horse is originally of a western background but her back is super short, and she's sort of small. I'd need to find something lighter weight! Can anyone fill me in on treeless?

Riding in my dressage saddle is definitely an option! It doesn't have blocks... Considering my little girl can get quite uppidy and jiggy, i'd feel better riding in something a bit more secure. I'll look into the endurance saddles. Do they fit similar to an english saddle as far as gullet width and tree shape?
 

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Hi Thecolorcoal!

George T. has a Synergist Endurance saddle that is simply the best; light, comfortable, relatively close contact, and fits both of us to a "T". (Ought to, it's a full custom job; Georgie was tough to fit.) My horse goes in either a Passier Dressage saddle, or a Crestridge Endurance saddle. The Dressage saddle is very comfortable, and as "Oily" is a retired Dressage horse, he's a lot of fun to ride in the very light, close-contact format. "Animated" would be a good word for it :) Downsides are that it's less secure than the Endurance saddle, and there is no place to tie on stuff. I have a "Stowaway" cantle bag that fits it OK, and allows you to carry water, a snack, a few necessities, and tie on a jacket. The Crestridge saddle has a more secure seat, but it's about twice the weight, and gives a noticeable sensation of sitting on a saddle as opposed to sitting on the horse. I find it more comfortable than the English saddle on longer rides.

In any event, put off worrying about it for awhile, and go have some fun: toss on your Dressage saddle and hit the trails. After a season or two you will have a far better idea of what you want for your dream trail saddle.

Steve
 

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A lot of endurance type saddles are more like an english saddle or are kind-of like a cross between an aussie or western and an english and can have more area for weight distribution. I would think any saddle, if it fits your horse well, would be plenty stable regardless of style. Why not use your english saddle if you like it and it fits the horse? There's no reason not to ride in an english saddle on the trail. I would only really be worried about stability in very hilly country, in which case, I would just add a breast collar and crupper. I ride in my all-purpose on the trail all the time and did so in my close contact as well before my horse outgrew it. I also have an aussie that I really like on the trail. The aussie is very secure, with a deep seat and rides a lot like a dressage saddle to me with a slightly more forward leg. It is much heavier than any english saddle but I otherwise like it. Whether you actually need to spend the money on another saddle probably depends on what sort of trail riding you want to do. CTR or endurance you would possibly need to get d-rings added to an english saddle to allow for more gear to be carried or get an endurance-style or western saddle. For just casual trail rides, though, I think you'd be fine in whatever saddle you already have. I personally don't like western saddles at all for long hours in the saddle. They put too much between me and the horse for my liking.

Aussie saddles are going to be lighter than the typical western saddle, but you can get synthetic saddles of about any type now that are rather lightweight. Look for saddles with round skirts. Most aussies have short, round skirts or none at all, so might be good for her if she's short backed. So far as fitting on an endurance saddle goes, that can depend on the brand. Some are closer to western, some english. You'd have to read through any manufacturer's fitting guide and whatnot to get an idea of how it would fit. That goes for seat sizing as well. I think treeless is probably more trouble than you're looking for. They will often be lighter weight but aside from maybe a treeless western aren't really going to be any more secure than a treed english saddle. They often have to be used with special pads to help create a proper spinal channel and ensure good weight bearing surface. I do know people who compete long distance in treeless saddles with no problem, but unless she's really difficult to fit in a treed saddle aside from the short back, I would stick with a treed saddle. You will have a lot fewer potential problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks steve! Good points! I'll stick with my dressage saddle for now.

InexcessiveThings,thanks for filling me on on treeless. There was a craze a few years back where treed saddles were demonized and everyone wanted treeless. I certainly didn't jump on that bandwagon, but a few of my friends ride treeless so i was very curious. I have a bates caprilli dressage saddle, and a dover circuit jump saddle I love. I may buy the knee blocks for the dressage saddle that you can velcro on!
 

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If you ride a while and find you're not liking your dressage saddle to trail ride in, you might try an Aussie. They're lighter and smaller than a western saddle, less under your leg, can be purchased with or without a horn (personally I like the hornless variety) and yet are more comfortable (to me) and more secure than an English saddle. In my opinion they're a really great trail riding saddle - I'm having one made for Dreams next year. : )

-- Kai
 

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I LOVE Aussie stock saddles! I'm look at them now!

question, off topic maybe but how do you check the fit of a western saddle?
General fit is pretty similar to other saddles. You want to make sure the angle of the bars and amount of rock in the tree match your horse's back well and that you have sufficient clearance in the gullet (I usually look for about 2-3 fingers). Just like in an english saddle, if it is too wide, it will sit on and can put pressure on the withers. If it's too narrow it will pinch them. You will need to consider the length of the skirts on a western saddle, too. You want to make sure that the skirt won't interfere with your horse's hip when the saddle is placed in the proper place just behind the scapula. It should also sit level. If it's low in the front it's probably too wide, low in the back, too narrow. I think it's also always a good idea to have someone else assess fit with your weight in the saddle to make sure it still fits well with a rider.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
@InexcessiveThings, thank you so much! This helps a lot. I suppose my concern is that unlike an english saddle where you can see the panels (ie bars) and how much rock they have, it's a little harder with a western saddle. I do have a buddy that rides primarily western, though! Perhaps she can help double check the fit!
 

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When checking for saddle fit I'll toss the saddle on without a pad, so as to better ascertain how it will fit. Place it on the horse too far forward, then push it back with a series of light shoves until the saddle resists movement. This is where the saddle will naturally sit on your horse's back. Ascertain fit from that spot without girthing or cinching the horse - InexcessiveThings had some good tips. I'll also run my hand under the bars of the saddle to make sure they're not pinching, then run your hand back toward the horse's tail to see if there are any bridging problems, and that there is even pressure all the way back. Put one hand on the horn and one on the cantle and try to rock the saddle front to back. It shouldn't rock. Before I'm done I'll put my hand in the stirrup and push down - the horse's withers should prevent the saddle from slipping to the side. If the saddle fits well, the rider can mount from the ground, ride the horse around and dismount without the saddle needing to be cinched in place. Sounds crazy but I've seen it done several times. I won't tell you to give that a shot but just for reference ... ; )

-- Kai
 
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