; Skip to Content

Australian Saddles: Are they comfortable & good for horses?

Any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks in advance – I really appreciate it!

 

I was walking around the barn, checking the horses, when I saw a guy ride by, sitting in a strange saddle. It looked really comfortable, so I had to ask him what it was. “It’s an Australian saddle,” he said. That was my first time seeing one, but since then, I’ve learned a lot about the benefits of these unique saddles.

Australian Saddles: What they are and the benefits they offer

Australian saddles provide riders with a comfortable and secure seat for long-distance or trail riding by allowing a rider’s leg to have a natural forward position. The deep seat, high pommel, and big knee rolls offer the stability needed for riding on rough and challenging terrain.

There are many different types of saddles out there, but one that is really popular with horse owners comes from down under: the Australian saddle. Knowing what benefits they offer will help you decide if this classic design would work for your needs. Keep reading to learn more about this unique saddle.

Picture of an Australian saddle with no horn.
SaddleOnline, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

What Makes An Australian Saddle A Good Choice? 

When choosing an Australian saddle or stock saddle, as they are also known, you benefit from the best qualities of two very different saddles, the western and the English saddle.

Australian stock saddles are the perfect choice for long hours of riding. It’s also an excellent option for endurance riding, cattle work, starting out young horses, or trail riding.

The saddles are designed to give you a secure and comfortable seat, which is possible because of the deep seat, big knee rolls, and high pommel.

The reason why it’s a good choice for distance riding or spending long hours in the saddle is because you have a forward seat. You sit deep into a comfy seat with your legs slightly forward, automatically placing your heels in a downward position.

This position allows your weight to be dispersed more evenly from your inner thigh to your seat, giving you a larger weight-bearing surface to take the pressure off a concentrated area.

Picture of an Australian saddle
Neicyqld, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

What’s The Difference Between An Australian Saddle And An English Saddle?

Australian saddles have some stylistic resemblances to the English saddle seat, side panels, and stirrups. Although it resembles the English saddle, the seat is much deeper with a bucket-like cantle and high pommel.

It also has a significant knee block or poleys, which protrude from the front of the saddle to give your legs a secure position. The flaps look similar in style to the dressage flaps, they are, however, a bit wider, and there are variations on this with swinging fenders rather than flaps.

The stirrup leathers tend to be wider to prevent the legs from pinching from time to time. This is also where the modified swinger fenders have helped to alleviate this issue.

Australian saddles fasten very similarly to English saddles, with a girth attached to billets under the flaps. Adding a surcingle through the skirting slots over the twist of the saddle provides extra security for rough terrain riding.

An English saddle produces a seat for performance riding with legs positioned under your seat. It intends to allow the rider to fall out of the saddle in case of a problem. Whereas the Australian saddle provides you with more of a forward leg position and deeper seat intended to keep you in the saddle no matter what.

The forward position of the leg automatically sets your heel down and provides you with an anchored seat in case the horse trips or falls on his knees.

The underside panels running along the horse’s back are longer than those of English saddles. Since the rider’s legs are forward, the seat of the rider is further back; these panels provide an extended weight-bearing surface to disperse the pressure from the rider’s weight more evenly across the horse’s back.

The extra robust D rings on the saddles provide the space to attach and carry necessary equipment and supplies on long rides.

Picture of an Australian stock saddle
ThatPeskyCommoner, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Are Australian Saddles Comfortable?

Yes absolutely! Australian saddles are the most comfortable between English and western saddles.

The leg is forward to the hip, reducing stress on the knees and ankles and allowing the seat to be more laid back. Think about sitting back on a sofa, your legs comfortably relaxed in front of you. Compare that to sitting on the sofa’s edge with your legs tucked under you, which puts strain and stress on your joints.

A forward leg allows you to sit more on your bum than on your seat bones, offering you a more significant weight-bearing area that includes the inner thighs.

Below is a YouTube video that shows how to saddle a horse with an Australian saddle.

How Should An Australian Saddle Fit?

Australian saddles should fit you and your horse as any other saddle should.

For The Rider

When measuring the saddle to fit the rider’s size, the saddle is measured from the stitching seam at the pommel to the front part of the cantle.

Take a look at the size chart comparison for easy reference.

Australian SaddleEnglish SaddleWestern Saddle
15″16″13″
16″17″14″
17″18″15″
18″19″16″

When seated in the saddle, your thigh position should follow the same angle as the poleys with a ¼” to 1″ space between them. The space you want between your leg and the poleys depends on rider preference.

For The Horse

Fitting an Australian saddle to a horse’s back follows the same principle as an English saddle. The saddle should be balanced with the lowest point of the seat centered in the saddle. The pommel should have 2 to 4 inches of clearance to the horse’s withers.

When checking the panels, running your hand under the panel from front to back along the horse’s back, you should have smooth and constant pressure to avoid pressure points hurting the horse’s back.

The back gully of the saddle should allow at least 2 to 3 fingers clearance to avoid pressure on the spine. As with any other saddle, the saddle balance is essential to ensure the rider’s position is correct once in the saddle, so the cantle should always be slightly higher than the pommel.

Another area you can check to ensure your saddle is correctly positioned on the horse’s back is the girth. The girth should be between 1 to 3 inches behind the front leg. Some horses have larger shoulder blades, and the saddle will sit slightly further back to avoid pinching.

Picture of an Australian saddle pad.

What Kind Of Pad Do You Use With Australian Saddle?

Australian saddle pads differ slightly from traditional English saddle pads. There is a reason why Australian saddles do not use shaped or full-length rectangular numnahs, even though plenty are out there for sale.

The sweat flap that makes contact with the horse’s side needs to absorb the sweat away from the horse, molding the saddle’s sweat flap to the horse’s shape.

Another reason you don’t use a full-length pad is that Australian saddles are used for long-distance riding. A full pad will increase the heat on the horse’s sides, which rises into the horse’s back.

The best saddle pads to use are rectangular-shaped pads that are just long enough to cover the felt or flocked panels of the saddle that make contact with the horse’s back. Allow a few inches past the front and back of the saddle to avoid pressure lines.

A specific pad was created for the Australian saddle called the No Pressure Equalizer pad. If you can’t get one of those, use high-density felt pads about 1″ thick or pads made from other material at least 2″ thick.

Picture of an Australian stock saddle with no horn
Neicyqld, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Do Australian Saddles Have Trees?

The saddle tree is the frame of the saddle, and it plays an important role in determining the saddle’s fit, comfort, and overall performance. There are two main types of saddle trees: English and Western.

Australian saddles typically have an English-type tree, made with wood and reinforced steel and strategically placed suspended webbing over the seat.

Today trees can be made from various materials, including wood and steel, carbon fiber, polyurethane, or fiberglass.

How Much Does An Australian Saddle Weigh?

The weight of an Australian saddle weighs depends on the manufacturer and what kind of tree and material they use. Leather versus synthetic will affect the saddle’s weight, and so will the trees depending if it is made of wood and steel, polyurethane, or fiberglass.

Australian stock saddles can generally weigh anything from 14 pounds for synthetic saddles to 26 pounds for leather saddles with wood and steel trees.

Conclusion

Australian stock saddles are a marriage of two very different riding styles: the English and Western saddle. They offer the riders a more secure and comfortable ride. They are designed for long-distance riding over rough and extreme terrains giving the rider the added benefit of big knee rolls to keep them in the saddle.

Australian saddles, not many people know or understand what the benefits of this hybrid saddle are and why some people will swear by them. Long-distance riders can vouch for how tiring and painful it can be by the trail’s end if you don’t have the correct saddle.

FAQs

How are Australian saddles different?

Australian saddles stirrups have a more forward angle it sits closer to the front of the horse than traditional Western saddles.

Do Australian saddles have horns?

Most traditional Australian saddles do not have a horn, but there are some that incorporate elements from Western styles and sport horns.

References