A Guide to the Most Common Types of Western Saddles
When shopping for Western saddles styles, it's important to know what type of riding you're planning to do. Western saddle styles are primarily categorized by their intended use, with additional variation in materials, construction, etc., based on the specific type of saddle. To help you get started, this article will go over some of the most common types of Western saddles so you can choose what is best for your personal style.
Common Western Saddle Styles
There are many different types of saddles for Western-style riding. When choosing between the types of Western saddles, you'll first decide based on the saddle's purpose, then focus on the material, color and style.
A trail saddle is also known as a pleasure saddle. It is lightweight and has a padded seat for added comfort for both you and your horse.
Other types of horse saddles that are appropriate for trail riding include:
- Endurance saddles
- Flexible tree saddles
Barrel Racing Saddle
Barrel racing saddles are small, lightweight saddles that are designed to keep the rider in the seat while allowing for maximum maneuverability during fast turns and sprints.
Some key features of a barrel saddle include:
- Deep seat, wide swells and higher cantle - to keep the rider in place.
- Tall, thin horn - for a better grip during turns.
- Higher fork - offers more security while riding.
- Rough-out seat - provides added grip
- Free-swinging fenders - so the rider can position their legs and stay balanced and centered.
A cutting saddle is similar to a barrel racing saddle in that it's engineered to keep the rider balanced and out of the horse's way. Cutting saddles are used when training, reining or penning.
- Tall, thin horn
- Slim stirrups
- High, wide swells
- Long flat seats
- Rough-out jockeys
- Free-swinging fenders
- Low forward hung cantles
- Double riggings
Roping saddles are made for chasing and roping cattle, so strength and freedom of movement are imperative. The horn is used for dallying cattle, so it must be tall, strong and well-anchored to stand up to the rigors of roping. Because it must be heavy-duty, a roping saddle is much heavier than a trail saddle and most other types of Western saddles. Similar to a barrel racing saddle, roping saddles have roughout or suede seats that help to keep the rider from sliding. Other common roping saddle features are low, rounded forks, full double riggings and rope straps. They also include roper stirrups that hang more forward than on pleasure saddles for better bracing.
A show saddle is a highly embellished type of saddle designed to look good in the show ring. They are works of art and usually have ornate tooling patterns and sterling silver trim to stand out and get noticed. Show saddles are not meant for long rides or arena events, so they have short horns and forks. Deep skirts provide more real estate for bling. The deeply padded seat is typically suede to help the rider's position.