View Full Version : Choosing a Western saddle
8th Sep 2004, 08:14 PM
I'm after a Western saddle for Moo as she's being taught western riding at the mo, but I really have very little idea where to start with getting her equipment!!
I'm not really bothered how much it costs, I'd pay more for a really decent saddle.
Firstly, how do I chose what type I want? There seems to be roping, trail, reining, endurance etc etc will one be more suitable than another? I will only hack her in it, she can do everything else in her English saddle.
Secondly, where's the best place to get a saddle from? (I'm in the UK, guessing importing on from USA would be tempting fate fit wise although much cheaper!)
Thirdly, are they easier to fit than English saddles? I ended up getting her a "specialist" (Balance) saddle for her English one. She isn't particularly wide but not particularly narrow either, not very short backed but only 14hh. How do know what size to get, is it like English saddles where you get different size seats and am I the priority or is she? (I'm not huge and neither is she!)
Fourthly, what other stuff will I need to make it work, ie girths or cinches and pads and things?
9th Sep 2004, 12:46 AM
If your horse is average build, most saddles will fit her just fine. I would be more concerned with the saddle fitting you. There are some real nice all around type saddles, if you don't know what you are really looking for you might try something along those lines. IMO trail or reining saddles are the most comfy, but it varies by person. I would recommend getting a seat at least 15 1/2" to 16". Slightly to big for your actual size is nice with western riding cause it allows you to move in the saddle wich allows the horse to put you where he wants you. They also make 15" seats but these seam to be a good size for teenage kids not adults. You can also find bigger than a 16" if you would like. You'll most likely have to by a girth strap to go with it as most western saddles don't come with one. I like to buy the black rubbery ones, they wash off easily, and don't leave soars, though they aren't as durable as horse hair cinches. You may want a breast collar depending on how the saddle fits your horse, but mostly they are used just for show. A back cinch is give or take depending on what you are doing. Roping, and severe mountain riding are about the only times when you actually need one, though many western saddles come with them. As for where to buy in the UK, well that's not my forte. HTH.
9th Sep 2004, 01:47 PM
I too am looking for a new western saddle. I currently have a Circle Y park and trail. But need one with a bigger seat. So I have decided to spend some money and get the best I can. The problem seems to be, that there are so many out there to choose from. To top it off, you find when looking around that some of the makers have sold there names off so you really don't know what you are getting .
Billy Cook , I have heard that they are good saddles but I also heard that they were made in two different places and that one is better than the other. For instance, are the ones built in Oklahoma the good ones or the one built elsewhere I think it was Texas , but am not sure about that .
Dale Chavez , I have heard a lot of good things about his saddles and they are readily available, but the price range difference in the types of saddles he has , has me wondering which ones to look at.
The more I look the more confused I get.
I am going this weekend to a tack store and bringing home a Dale Chavez , reiner work saddle in a 16.5 to 17 " seat with full Qh bars, They are letting me try it on my horse and ride in it so I can get a start on what finding out what size seat I need and what will fit my mare. :p
9th Sep 2004, 03:48 PM
The more I look the more confused I get.
A saddle is the interface between you and your horse. It must fit both of you well, for comfort and support; and, if one party is uncomfortable, or not properly supported, there may very well be trouble. (There usually is.) Contrary to conventional wisdom, padding does not alter fit; although it may somewhat mitigate the consequences of poor fit.
Saddle fit is complex for western saddles because of the variables which constitute the size and shape of the saddle tree; specifically, the parts that interface to the horse: bar length, bar shape, twist, rocker, flare, gullet height, gullet width, etc.); which is the frame which the saddle is built upon, and must match the shape of the horse's back as reasonable as possible. Then, it must fit you as best it can: swell style, seat length, cantle size/shape/angle.
But, the most important part is the fit to the horse's back; because this cannot be changed later.
This is why a conscientious custom saddle maker will always try several trees on a horse's back, to find a good tree fit, prior to starting to build the saddle. He or she is ensuring that the frame matches the shape of the horse's back.
When purchasing a production saddle - a factory-manufactured saddle (the Dale Chavez, Circle Y, Billy Cook, etc.), the saddle is built in the factory to a limited number of average sizes and shapes; but, not to fit a specific horse. So, one is buying something built to fit an average; and the fit choices are limited to thoses averages.
The issue with "... there are so many out there to choose from..." results less from fit issues, then from the wide variety of the styles and accoutrements built on the saddle; the human side of the saddle; not, from the horse side of the saddle. (There are only four styles of bars from the horse's perspective, in addition to a few rarely seen specialty bars; although all bars have the fit variables listed above.)
As a result, if one buys a production saddle "off the shelf", it is best to try many of them on the horse, in order to find the best possible fit for your horse, and then purchase that saddle.
If one cannot try on new saddles prior to buying, then one may be able to try on borrowed saddles to check the fit; and, buy the same size/model as a fitted borrowed saddle.
You may be able to get specific saddle fit advice from the trainer that is currently training your horse. If the trainer is knowledgeable and experienced, he/she should be able to step you through the fitting of your horse; and, make appropriate recommendations. Also, there are Western Riding clubs/associations in the UK that may be happy to help you resolve the saddle fit problem. Try contacting them.
As to your questions:
First, fit the horse first, then address your wants. (You may not have a pretty saddle; but, having an effective, comfortable saddle is best.)
Second, a reputable dealer that will allow you to try out saddles for the best fit; and work with you to find that best fit.
Third, "...are they easier to fit than English saddles?" Generally no; because of all of the variables in the tree bars; and the larger size and greater weight of the saddle.
Fourth, your trainer, saddle dealer, or Western Riding clubs can show you what is needed, and what is ancillary/auxiliary. Much of the accoutrement merchandise available today is un-need. (Although nice to have; sometimes.)
Finally, I suggest that you not have a custom saddle built as your first western saddle; because, they are very expensive, and you may very well find that your first saddle is where you learn what "not to buy" next time; and what you and your horse "should have, but don't".
9th Sep 2004, 09:04 PM
Whereabouts in the UK are you Moomin? Westways Saddlery at Solihull have some good saddles and will come out to fit them for you their web site is Westways (http://www.btinternet.com/~stevepscott/)
13th Sep 2004, 03:47 PM
just to add to Janet's post - there ARE western saddles out there in UK, you just need to do a bit of research. If you let us know where you are, we may be able to suggest someone near you, or put you in contact with e.g. your local WES person.
Who's doing the training ? They should also be able to suggest who to go to.
13th Sep 2004, 07:33 PM
The lady doing the training had hers hand made in Australia. So she doens't really know anywhere to get them in the UK. She did her own training and learning in Australia - she said she always uses her Western saddle on green, unstarted or problem horses because she's got less chance of leaving the horse mid ride!!
She has advised me on what size of saddle to look for and has told me that I need one with a wooden tree.
I'm in the South of England.
14th Sep 2004, 12:08 AM
Wooden tress are traditional, and there's hundreds of years of experience building saddles upon them. Custom saddle makers in the USA, being traditionally-minded, tend to stick with wood trees; mostly out of tradition.
Also, wood trees are favored where the saddle will support hard work, such as roping cattle; where one may tie on to a 1200 lb. cow and dally to the horn.
However, new materials have come available recently, and some of the production saddle makers are building saddles on these new materials in order to keep costs low (wood trees are relatively expensive to build.)
If you don't require high-end strength and support, such as for roping, then a synthetic tree may do just as well for you. This depends upon what type of activities you expect to do with the saddle (pleasure riding, cutting, roping, barrel racing, or whatever.)
If you find a well-fitting saddle that is not on a wood tree, and otherwise meets your needs, you may wish to consider buying it; because unless you have need of the specific attributes of a wood tree, a synthetic may also meet your needs.
Just try to deal with a reputable seller who is willing to work with you to find the best saddle for you and your horse.
14th Sep 2004, 08:08 AM
gotta giggle - I thought these guys - western scene (http://www.westernsceneshop.co.uk/) were "south". They're Worksop - which is south - from me !!
try www.wes-uk.com for links and info as well e.g. to Arizona's (Kent). There's also Heathlands in Norfolk. I'm sure some of the other UK Western folk will pipe up....
14th Sep 2004, 05:07 PM
I've found the best made western saddles are the Circle Y's. They generally make a lot of show equipment, so I doubt you're looking for a silver covered saddle for trail riding. However, they do make trail saddles, some of which you can find through State Line. Generally you'll be looking for a pleasure saddle. They run from around 400-900$. Abetta and Wintec also make a pretty comfortable saddle, but I gotta say Circle Y is the best. A sixteen inch is normally the generic size. I would stay away from Roping saddles as they tend to weigh more due to the heavy duty tree and the large horn. Tex Tan's also a pretty good brand name. Make sure you check to make sure it'll fit your horse, as most western saddles are normally offered in semi-quarter horse to quarter horse bars. Some do give specific measurements though.
14th Sep 2004, 06:25 PM
Been to Arizonas and have earmarked a saddle - rang back today and by chance it does have a wooden tree! :D Very pleased - its just what I think I need! Hope it fits her...
Thanks for all your help. I've learned lots. (my next post will be "so how do you ride western then?"!!! ;)
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