View Full Version : Western or english?

Dec. 3, 2009, 10:49 PM
I am a heavy rider and my mare has a short back. What have you folks found that fits the horse better that would still fit my large behind? I have thought of trying treeless but read those are not advised for heavier riders.

I grew up riding western but have ridden english in the past. While I do kind of perfer to stay western, I'm willing to get what works for the both of us the best.


Dec. 3, 2009, 11:13 PM
What about an endurance saddle?

I've got an Abetta Trinity, they come in a 17" seat.


Check out Sycamore Creek saddles. While they're aimed at Paso Finos, they can fit any horse. They have lots of style with smaller skirts. They make custom saddles at reasonable prices, and they are good quality.


Dec. 4, 2009, 07:49 AM
I agree that one of the synthetic endurance saddles might work well for you. Many top level endurance riders keep their tack weight to a minimum. the less weight your horse has to carry around for long rides the easier on them. The synthetic saddles can really cut the weight down. The Big Horn and Abetta endurance models will give good weight distribution over a wide area without excess weight and with a minimizing of "unnecessary" panels. I do suggest a good saddle pad, either one with memory foam inserts or one of the SMX Air ride pads. My neighbor has used an Air ride endurance pad in many competitions and his horses back has done really well.

Another possibility for you is the Specialized saddles but the price goes way up.

Bonnie S.

Dec. 4, 2009, 08:37 AM
Thanks for the replies. I don't know why I made it sound like I was so limited. I'm actually pretty open on what type of saddle as long as it's not too long on her back and fits my behind. I ride a 16in western.

I've even considered getting a cheapie treeless off ebay with a good pad. In another year I can afford to splurge but right now we are on a little bit of a budget.

I do like the Abettas and my other saddle is a Big Horn but a 15 in.

Eddy's Mom
Dec. 4, 2009, 11:19 AM
I personally would suggest finding a high-end, used saddle, instead of going with a cheapie. Being larger it is imperative the saddle fit is perfect, and some (please note the *some*) of the cheaper saddles have weird trees and fit.

I know a lot of heavy-weights around here use SR, Freeform (which is treeless but apparently does well for them) and Specialized. SR is really good about adjusting fit even if you buy the saddle used. There is a really nice Sharon Saare endurance saddle on Ebay right now, they are nice too. Ortho-Flex used to be real popular but not as much anymore. Some horses HATE the flex-panels.

I would stay away from real western saddles (extra weight and doesn't allow as much heat dissipation). English saddles can be tricky also because you want a large surface area to distribute weight and some of the panels can be narrow. I use the Arabian Saddle Company Rubicon as I cannot stand riding western :).

Saddle shopping usually isn't as much fun as it should be in theory!

Dec. 4, 2009, 03:33 PM
Try to stay away from the cheap Treeless saddles on Ebay...particularly the Hilasons in this case you truely get what you pay for. I have not heard one single good thing about them. I have a treeless saddle (Sensation G3 Hybrid) and am also a heavier rider, 175 lbs. There are many different types of treeless saddles...some that have SOME structure to them. There are saddles that have what is known as a "soft tree" too and saddles with removable/moveable/replaceable panels that can carry firmer foams etc. I strongly suggest that you join the treeless saddles group on Yahoo! groups. There is tons of knowledge, experience and wisdom there. You don't have to give up on the idea of treeless just yet. Here is a link to the group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/treelesssaddles/

Jan. 18, 2010, 11:57 PM
I ride English, but have friends who have experience with both. Across the board, they say that most horses prefer western, as it provides the greater weight bearing surface, which I think makes sense!

Also, if that is what you prefer and what you're used to, I think it makes sense to stick with it. Those couple extra pounds aren't going to make that much of a difference to the horse.

Just be sure you TRY whatever you buy. Just cuz it feels good on demo stand doesn't mean it will fit you or your horse.

And a 16 western isn't big by any means! And there are some saddles cut for shorter backed horses.

Find a good saddle company that can walk ya through the process and help you with choices.

And I agree with others to go with quality used instead of cheap new, unless you find a quality brand like Circle Y in a cordura.

Good luck! Saddle shopping can be a pain!

Jan. 19, 2010, 07:51 AM
In theory Western can be easier on the horse's back due to a larger weight bearing surface. In practice I don't see it working that way due to the relatively large number of poorly fitting Western saddles. Poor fit is due to design, manufacture, adjustment, placement, sizing, and padding errors. Due to the sheer size of the average Western saddle it can difficult to diagnose problems and expensive to correct them. Indeed, IME, it's far more likely to have an ill fitting Western than English saddle.

Put another way, correct fit is far more important than the shape of the saddle and the number of weight bearing square inches.

You also have to ask whether or not the amount reduced make a functional difference. I don't know that it does or it doesn't.

The endurance design is one alternative. So is the Trooper saddle, a modern rendition of the British Universal Pattern (UP) military saddle. The Whitman saddle is also a possibility. So is either the Plantation saddle or the Buena Vista saddle. I would avoid the McClellan as it is probably the most rigid of saddles (although it's also one of the lightest) and any treeless saddle (as they are the worst at effectively distributing weight).

The suggestion to look for a used, higher quality saddle is excellent. Like buying a car, let somebody else pay for that first year's depreciation!!! :cool:

The World of Saddles is not just binary!!! :)


Jan. 19, 2010, 12:07 PM
I feel your pain. I have two short-backed horses. Currently I am riding both of them mostly in Wintec english saddles. Would be riding my trotty walker in my Abetta western more but I cannot post his trot in that saddle and he takes and holds a running walk much better in the wintec. I am a heavyweight as well. I have not noticed any problems as regards dry spots or pain from either horse after trail rides of several hours duration in the wintecs. For my big butt the seat of the wintecs is comfier than the Abetta, but there's sheepskin and cashel foam technology for that issue...

Budget is an issue for me, and I dont clean leather the way leather needs to be cleaned in this climate. So a synthetic makes sense as regards weight, price, and maintenance.

The old Ortho Flexes are not so good for a shortbacked horse in my experience--a buddy had to sell her treasured Patriot because it just didnt fit her foxtrotter--he's a huge horse but that back is short, short, short. Otherwise the saddle fit him and her great (she's got a big butt, he has a wiiide back.)

The round skirt abetta's will fit a short back pretty well. I think they are a good value for the investment. Ditto the Wintecs. Plenty of choices out there but finding the right one, big pia.

Jan. 19, 2010, 02:49 PM
If you decide to switch to english, take a look at the Duett saddles. Very deep seat and comfy and secure for the rider - plus they have a wide gullet and panels for the horse's comfort.

I gave up riding western because my paint is so short-backed I could never find a western saddle to fit. I tried a good make of treeless (Trekker) but wasn't happy with it at all. The seat is tiny, which was ok by me, but the saddle just wouldn't stop rolling sideways on my chunky little horse.

I also agree with Guilherme that it is much more difficult to fit a western than an english saddle.

Although I'm not still riding the paint horse, I discovered I love hunter/jumper and I'm still riding that discipline - even though the new edition QH is plenty long enough for a western saddle.:yes:

Jan. 22, 2010, 05:42 PM
Thanks guys for the input. I still have not decided which way to go. I watch Ebay regularly and look at both. Mostly I look for Wintec english and Abetta western. It might come down to what is selling in the right size at the moment I have the money in my hand.

Mar. 19, 2010, 04:55 PM
I thought I would update. I saw a no name dressage saddle at a very good price on ebay and bought it. It is a beautiful day out so I scraped the mud off and had a quick ride. It's a little windy so she was a little spooky, and kept trying to speed up, and make a couple of quick turns. (I haven't ridden her in 5 or 6 months so not that bad really.) I never moved! I can't tell you how pleased I am with it. It fits my horse, it fits me, it keeps me in place, and it's comfortable! I never missed having a horn.

Mar. 19, 2010, 06:06 PM
I rode (and my husband did also) one horse in a Niedersuss dressage saddle for years, trail riding and even hunter pacing. It had deep comfy seat and a real secure feeling.

Western wise I've been using a Bar J Trail Lite, which is part leather part synthetic, so it's very light weight but has a real tree and a solid feeling. But affordable (around $650 new). We regularly did 6-13 miles in that. Not endurance distance, but no problem. I used a heavy shaped wool pad (shaped as in the back line is curved to follow the shape of the horse, rather than straight across) and never had a problem with heat - wool is a great padding against the skin for long distances, as it wicks. Also hunter paced in that, too (no jumps).

Mar. 20, 2010, 11:46 AM
I thought I would update. I saw a no name dressage saddle at a very good price on ebay and bought it. It is a beautiful day out so I scraped the mud off and had a quick ride. It's a little windy so she was a little spooky, and kept trying to speed up, and make a couple of quick turns. (I haven't ridden her in 5 or 6 months so not that bad really.) I never moved! I can't tell you how pleased I am with it. It fits my horse, it fits me, it keeps me in place, and it's comfortable! I never missed having a horn.

Glad to hear you found a saddle to suit you. :) It's nice to get updates too, as it helps the rest of us.

Good luck with your rides....