Tips for Choosing the Best Horse Saddle
Shopping for the right saddle is an equally exciting and important endeavor. Saddles can be one of the most expensive investments in equestrian riding, making it crucial to know what the right saddle to purchase is. Researching the right kind of saddle is imperative to making the best and safest purchase for you and your horse. Our tips for choosing the best horse saddle include researching the right type of saddle, saddle sizing, and material preference.
Types of Saddle
Depending on what type of riding you are doing, there are many different types of saddles to choose from to best fit your riding needs. The first tip for picking the best horse saddle is to understand what type of riding you plan on doing and the differences between various riding style saddles.
Roping saddles are extremely sturdy because these saddles are designed to withstand roping activities like wrangling cows. They are built with very strong horns and trees to provide support and adequately withstand force. Roping saddles are also designed with wide forward-positioned stirrups to provide further support and the ability to brace for sudden stops. Overall, roping saddles are designed for tough sturdy rides, making them heavier and not ideal for longer rides.
Like roping saddles, cutting saddles are particularly heavy. These saddles are designed to withstand sharp turns and stops. To keep riders balanced and sturdy on their horse, cutting saddles use a deep seat with a tall horn to aid in balancing capabilities.
Reining saddles are specifically designed for reining motions such as circles, spins, and speed. The horn is a medium size to create little interference with the reins and the saddle is low on the horse’s back to provide the rider with the ability to shift their weight forward and backward. Narrow stirrups, close contact skirts, and free-swinging fenders are all used to limit bulk and allow greater ranges of motion as well.
Barrel racing saddles utilize a deep pocket and a high cantle to keep riders balanced at top speeds. To increase overall speeds, these saddles are often short and lightweight.
Western show saddles are often very similar to cutting or roping saddles in their overall build; however, these saddles are much flashier in material build. These saddles are designed to stand out with eye-catching designs such as silver trim and tooling. Show saddles are often built with extra padding to create a comfortable ride, as well as a short saddle to create a fashionable picture for the show ring.
Trail or Pleasure Saddle
These saddles are designed for long hours of riding with optimal comfort. Pleasure saddles usually have a heavily padded seat and medium-high cantle for a comfortable ride. Pleasure saddles are also lighter in weight, have wider stirrups, and a thinner and longer horn, as these attributes are solely for balance and comfort rather than performance. While not the most ideal for performance riding, these saddles are great for a relaxing or casual ride.
The next tip for picking the best horse saddle is to determine the right size for you and your horse. A saddle that does not fit properly can be uncomfortable, create bad posture for the rider, and make training difficult for your horse. A poorly fitting saddle can also create damaging health complications for your horse.
The width of the gullet should fit just right to ensure your saddle is a good fit. Every horse has a different size and build, meaning saddles are not a one-size-fits-all piece of equipment. A gullet that is too wide on your horse’s back will apply pressure to the wither, whereas a gullet that is too narrow will pinch the horse. Tipping forward or backward is also a sign that the saddle is not the right fit, as you want the pressure of the saddle to be applied evenly. An uneven saddle will not only create discomfort for your horse, but it will also make it difficult for you to balance on the saddle. If two or three fingers can fit between the top of the wither and gullet of the saddle, this is a sign that the saddle is a good fit.
For the rider, a saddle that is too small will cause discomfort as you will bump against the pommel in every stride; however, a saddle that is too big will make it difficult to stay in a proper and comfortable position. Some tips to measure if a saddle is a good fit for you include being able to fit two or three fingers between your thigh and the fork of the saddle, being able to fit four fingers between you and the top of the cantle, and if your backside can rest at the base of the cantle rather than be pressed up against it.
The material also plays a big role in determining what kind of saddle is best for you. The material options for saddles have changed drastically over the years. Nowadays, synthetic and leather options are both widely available. Leather saddles are a more traditional saddle material that provides the promise of longevity. While quality leather saddles are the more expensive option, they are more likely to last for many years. Synthetic saddles are often lighter weight and are easier to clean. While these saddles are the more inexpensive option, they do not hold the same durability as leather saddles.
Researching the type of riding you plan on doing, as well as considering sizing and material preference are some of the best tips for choosing the best horse saddle. If you plan on being a casual rider, a pleasure saddle may be the best choice, whereas a cutting or roping saddle would be best for more active and heavy-duty riding. After deciding what type of riding style best fits your needs, the decision can be narrowed down based upon what size saddle will fit you and your horse appropriately, as well as what material benefits you best, such as a long-term investment saddle or a lightweight saddle which is easy to maintain.