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What Are the Different Types of Western Saddles?

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My grandson asked me how I decide which saddle to use? Being that I have several western saddles, it makes sense why he would ask. My answer was simple: it depends on what you’re going to be doing with your horse.

There are many types of western saddles; some are designed for trail riding, while others are meant for roping or barrel racing. Some saddles have a deep seat, while others have a more traditional design. Each variation has its specific purpose, based on the activity or task ahead.

Saddles can be expensive, so knowing which type is best for you and your horse before making a purchase is essential. This blog post will explore the different types and their purposes.

Picture of a paint horse with a western saddle.
Texan Saddles

Types of western saddles

A western saddle is a type of horse saddle that is typically used in rodeos, horseback riding competitions, and trail riding. Western saddles are generally distinguished from other types of horse saddles by their larger size and more intricate design.

They are designed to provide a comfortable ride for both the horse and rider and are available in various styles to suit different riding needs. The most common types of western saddles include the barrel racing saddle, cutting saddle, reining saddle, roping saddle, and trail saddle.

Western saddles are often decorated with colorful stitching and feature a “horn,” which can be used for lassoing or as a hand grip. Here is a closer look at the different types of western saddles:

Ranch saddles

The ranch saddle is one of the most versatile types of western saddles that is often used for working with cattle.

It is a heavy-weight, deep-seat design that’s perfect for ranch work.

These saddles have multiple rings so you can carry items around your property with ease, and they’re made from durable materials to last.

If you need a saddle for repairing fences to moving livestock, the ranch saddle might be the best choice. 

Picture of a ranch saddle.

Features:

  • Heavyweight
  • Made for work, not comfort.
  • Deep seat.
  • Tall, thick horn.
  • Rope strap.
  • Plate rigging.

Trail/Pleasure saddles

Pleasure saddles are made more for comfort than function. You will often find larger cushions on the pleasure saddles to increase the comfort level for the human and the horse.

The stirrups on these types of saddles are usually wide to provide a more comfortable base. Double rigging can also be found on trail saddles to ensure a secure grip on the horse while traversing rugged terrain.

When looking into trail saddles, you may find that some are made from synthetic materials, which reduce the weight while minimizing cost. 

Picture of a western pleasure saddle

Features

  • It is made for comfort.
  • Easy on the rider and horse.
  • Double rigging.

Roping Saddle

The perfect roping saddle allows you to rope a cow, wrap your lasso securely around your saddle horn and dismount with ease.

You can also use these saddles when driving cattle, branding, or loading cattle into your trailers to transport – they’re usually great for most ranch work.

This kind of saddle must be able to withstand the force of a cow after you rope it and allow the rider the freedom to move while also providing integrity.

Picture of a roping saddle.

It typically has a sturdy high horn and its stirrups are positioned a bit forward to make it easier on the rider for sudden stops. Roping saddles tend to be heavier because of their durability. 

Features

  • Durable
  • Deep seat.
  • Deep and wide stirrups. 
  • Tick and tall horn.
  • Double rigging. 
  • Heavy
  • Not ideal for long hours of riding.

Barrel Racing Saddle

Similar to the previous saddles, barrel racing saddles are designed for a specific rodeo event.

Barrel racing is a rodeo event where a horse and rider must run in a set pattern around three barrels, trying to achieve the fastest possible time.

These saddles usually have a rough seat surface to increase the grip on the saddle. They fix the position of the rider in the correct way while still allowing the horse to complete its task.

Picture of a barrel racing saddle.

Since most barrel racers are women, it is often that the saddles may have intricate designs. This saddle is a good option for racing while also being convenient and safe. 

Features

  • Thin and tall horn.
  • Deep seat. 
  • Rough surface.
  • Comfortable for horse and rider. 
  • Shorter skirts.
  • High cantle
  • No flank cinch
  • Narrow stirrups

Texan Saddles make a high-quality saddle at a reasonable price point. They also have great customer service and will help you choose the right saddle. I recommend giving them a try.

Show Saddle

Show saddles are some of the best-looking western saddles. They typically feature silver trim and detailed leather tooling, which gives them an expensive look.

The skirts on these saddles tend to have low cantles and deeper cuts than typical western models which makes them easy to mount and dismount.

The seat has been carefully balanced; this means there’s not too much foam padding. Show saddles are not designed for everyday use but for competitions.

Picture of a western show saddle.

Features

  • Made for show, not function.
  • Usually heavy.
  • Short, thick horn.

Endurance Saddle

Western endurance saddles are horse saddles that are specifically designed for long-distance riding.

These saddles are usually made of high-quality leather and are equipped with a number of features that make them comfortable for both horse and rider.

Many western endurance saddles have a deep seat that keeps the rider in place. In addition, these saddles often have numerous d-rings and other attachments that allow riders to carry all the necessary gear for a long ride.

Whether you’re an experienced equestrian or just getting started, a western endurance saddle can be a great option for anyone looking to travel long distances on horseback.

Picture of a western trail saddle, which is one of many types of western saddles.

Features

  • Used for long distances.
  • Comfortable.
  • Deep seat.
Picture of a sorrel quarter horse.
Grandsons’ horse and saddle

Cutting Saddle

These types of western saddles are worn during competition-cutting events. It is a widely popular sport and seems to be growing fast. The event requires maximum maneuverability because they are always having to make sudden moves. The horn of the cutting saddles is tall and thin for easy grip while maneuvering. 

  • Tall, thin horn
  • Slim stirrups to secure your boot.
  • Low cantle.
  • Forward-hung, free-swinging fenders.

Reining saddle

These saddles are used in the rodeo event called “reining.” In this event, the rider is in complete control of the horse and is judged based on different maneuvers such as sliding stops. A well-designed reining saddle will help maximize balance and agility, along with helping transmit cues between you and your horse. A good quality, the close-contact saddle is essential for improving your scores in the reining event.

Features

  • No rear flank cinch
  • Plain look
  • Double or ⅞ rigging
  • Low cantle
  • Short swell and horn
Picture of horses

What western saddle is best for you?

The most important thing to consider when picking out the saddle is the activity you plan on doing. If you are just going to be pleasure riding, the features of a roping saddle will not suit you.

Just as you would like to pick out the best saddle for yourself, it is important to get the best saddle for your horse. If your horse is uncomfortable, it will not perform as well as it could.

They do make different-sized saddles based on your size and the size of your horse. The last thing to consider when choosing a saddle is to make sure it is made from good quality material. 

You can also find some nice saddles for sale on Amazon. I’ve heard some really good things about Acerugs and in particular their barrel saddles.

Now that you understand a little more about the different types of western saddles, it’s time to start thinking about what’s best for you. Do some research on the different brands and models available, and try out a few different saddles at your local tack shop before making your purchase.

With the right saddle, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying hours in the saddle without any pain or discomfort.

Below is a helpful YouTube describing the types of western saddles.

FAQs

What does a good Western saddle cost?

In general, a good quality western saddle will start at around $500. However, there are many different types of horse saddles, and the cost of a saddle can vary depending on the maker, materials, if it’s used, if it is custom made, and what features it has.

What size Western saddle should I ride in?

The size of your saddle should be based on both the horse and the rider. The seat size will be determined by your body type especially the length and thickness of your legs, and your overall size.

Is it easier to ride in a Western saddle?

Yes, most beginner horse riders often find that the larger Western saddle is more comfortable and provides more security than the smaller English saddle. The Western saddle has a deeper seat and a higher pommel, which helps the rider to stay in the saddle while maintaining good posture.

What does tack mean in horses?

Tack is the term used for the equipment and accessories used to ride a horse. This includes the saddle, bridle, and bit among many other things. With the proper tack and safety gear, riders can enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience on horseback.

Jehanzaib Ahmed

Sunday 12th of June 2022

Excellent story telling...