View Full Version : Spinoff - Synthetic or Leather trail saddle

Jul. 13, 2011, 05:44 AM
I was reading "Max the Trail Horse" and the author mentioned getting a synthetic saddle for the trail so that if it gets wet it wouldn't be a big deal.

Indeed we are both looking at the same saddle manufacturer -Down Under Kimberly.

I was looking at the horn-free version.

Here's the leather http://www.amazon.com/Kimberley-Economy-Outback-No-Horn/dp/B003XNDD6Y/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2QX42KJE6R67V&colid=2WCGYYP4D2FDU

Here's the synthetic http://www.amazon.com/Down-Under-Kimberley-Synthetic-Australian/dp/B003N0UCQQ/ref=lh_ni_t

Are their any advantages or disadvantages of going synthetic over leather? I hadn't even thought about the getting-wet thing.


Jul. 13, 2011, 04:47 PM
As far as I know. . .cows are pretty waterproof. :lol:

I've ridden in some synthetic saddles, but I have to say I'd rather ride on leather. Yeah, it requires more maintenance, but my Tucker has been rained on again and again. . .not to mention taken swimming a number of times, and it's held up beautifully.

If anything, I think that as long as you keep up with cleaning and maintenance, a leather saddle ages more nicely than the synthetic ones I've seen.

Fun Size
Jul. 13, 2011, 11:53 PM
Thanks @JollyBadger! I think sometimes I think my leather saddle is more fragile than it actually is :D

I was just worried about what would happen if horse, saddle + all happened to go for an unscheduled swim on one of our creek crossings. Sounds like as long as I clean + condition it would be ok?

Lisa Preston
Jul. 14, 2011, 01:57 AM
Leather wants more care and it's heavier, but it smells nice, sounds nice, looks nice. I use synthetic because tack care is one of those areas in life where I am really lazy. (I used to climb quite a bit, just as leather boots gave way to double plastic. The difference in weight saving was extraordinary and they required no maintenance, so it made me forever lean toward synthetic for my gear of any sort.) That said, I use a full sheepskin on my saddle and definitely won't use synthetic fleece. The real sheepskin is much more comfortable aand holds up much better. (Ride in running shorts and you'll not go without sheepskin covers on your saddle.)

Jul. 14, 2011, 07:33 AM
I've always preferred the synthetic tack- the fact that you can just hose it off after it gets covered with mud, or ride in the pouring rain without a second thought, or decide to not clean it for years with no adverse effects or leave it for a few months in a humid tack room without it getting eaten up by mold are such advantages. As for riding in it, I've never really noticed much difference in the feel of leather vs. synthetic as long as the saddle fits you and the horse well.

Jul. 14, 2011, 09:02 AM
I had the same concerns as all of the posters above, so I went with both. :lol:

I like the feel of sitting in/on LEATHER.......but am also very lazy about cleaning, conditioning, etc.

So, I got one of those 1/2 & 1/2 saddles. The stirrups, fenders and skirts are cordura, but the jockeys, seat, cantle and horn are leather. It's way lighter than an all leather saddle (I was also very concerned about weight - it's about 20 lbs.) but I sill get the leather feel where it counts.

The only drawback to the cordura fenders that I've found so far, is that I can't soak them and turn them like I did my leather saddles in the past. However, since it's just cordura, they really don't fight you to turn while your feet are in the stirrups, so I guess I can live with that. Just makes getting your foot back in the stirrup a bit of a fight if you lose one, or when getting on I have to bend over and put my foot in. :sigh:

Jul. 14, 2011, 09:35 AM
Paula...I just received the same Kimberley synthetic as in your post. I LOVE it, and was quite surprised with the quality. It is so lightweight, fits my horse and is super comfortable. I highly recommend that saddle...cheaper at Stateline Tack.

tabula rashah
Jul. 14, 2011, 09:58 AM
Paula...I just received the same Kimberley synthetic as in your post. I LOVE it, and was quite surprised with the quality. It is so lightweight, fits my horse and is super comfortable. I highly recommend that saddle...cheaper at Stateline Tack.

How does it put you seat and leg position-wise? More like an English or a Western saddle? I am looking for an inexpensive synthetic extra saddle and quite like the look of this one.

Jul. 14, 2011, 10:49 AM
What an excellent discussion. I did go with the leather though, but I can see the appeal of the synthetic, and you can't beat the price. I'll let you know if I am able to keep up with maintenance. These are actually my first saddles at all (I bought an Aussie, and a dressage saddle). Right up to now all the thought that went into saddle choice was going into the school barn and taking tack off the wall LOL!


Jul. 14, 2011, 10:53 AM
Hate to be a voice of discontent, but I had the same saddle in black from Down Under Saddlery, and sold it after trying it twice. Didn't like it at all, didn't feel like the psuedo-suede areas would stand up to jeans rubbing over it for very long, didn't like the nylon stirrup leathers, and it put me in a strange position for an aussie....and that's after sitting in aussies I simply melted in. I guess it would be alright for tootling around, but I did not trust it for the very hills and sometimes energetic rides I find myself in.

In the positives column, I ordered directly from Down Under and they custom shaped the panels for my TB mare. Fit her like a glove.

This was mine:


To add background, I have a Wintec 2000 AP I really love and my older mare's saddle is a hybrid leather and cordura Big Horn roper. Its not the materials in general I am not sold on, but rather the way they were used to make this saddle.

Jul. 14, 2011, 11:13 AM
I am not crazy about the nylon billets, bought covers for the stirrup "leathers' and am getting a seat saver. I am a western rider, and other than the longer stirrup length, my legs feel under me as in a western saddle.

Jul. 14, 2011, 11:48 AM
Thanks @JollyBadger! I think sometimes I think my leather saddle is more fragile than it actually is :D

I was just worried about what would happen if horse, saddle + all happened to go for an unscheduled swim on one of our creek crossings. Sounds like as long as I clean + condition it would be ok?

I've taken a couple of unscheduled swims with my saddle - more like swims that were simply unavoidable because they were the only way to continue on the trail. Not to mention that I often ride in the rain, or get caught in downpours halfway through my ride. Just condition the leather a bit to keep it from over-drying and it's fine.

I have to admit, I really love the "aged" look of my leather saddle. The fenders have twisted and "set" themselves so that my stirrups are at a comfortable angle for me. Only thing I'd change at this point is the stirrups themselves - they are the leather-wrapped kind with the lacing, and getting a bit worn down so I may need to replace them soon.

Mtn trails
Jul. 14, 2011, 02:05 PM
I love my heavy leather saddle :) Yup, leather will not be hurt by water at all, in fact, I do hose it down if it gets particularly muddy. I just let it dry thoroughly then condition the heck out of it and it stays soft and pliable.

Jul. 14, 2011, 03:30 PM
The only reason I have synthetic saddles is that I am horribly lazy where tack cleaning is concerned, and in the past have abused/neglected perfectly good leather saddles nearly to death. I do very much prefer the feel of well-worn leather, not to mention lack of squeak.

Jul. 21, 2011, 04:31 PM
Got my leather Aussie saddle yesterday and it was quite beautiful. I ordered an 18 Medium tree and it fit my perch/stb beautifully. One thing - the stirrup leathers seem to take up alot of room (I say seem because I haven't ridden it it yet - it was just too hot today to put clothes on a horse). Is it as bulky feeling as it seems?


Jul. 21, 2011, 05:09 PM
I had a leather and synthetic Aussie's from Down Under. I loved both of them. I got the synthetic because I liked to get my anhydrotic horse in the lake and he liked it too! I just didn't want to get my good leather saddle wet!

I no longer have that horse and sold the saddles because they didn't fit my new horse...but I can certainly tell you I loved both of them. I did get the woolie leg coverings and suede pads for the stirrups. Both of my Aussie's had metal stirrups. They were great. Loved them and hope you enjoy yours!

Jul. 21, 2011, 11:40 PM
I also have one of the 1/2 and 1/2 leather/cordura saddles. Have been very happy with it.

Jul. 22, 2011, 12:47 AM
Leather only for me. I like the ritual of giving all my tack a thorough cleaning a couple times a year (take it all apart, check for wear spots) and, for me, it goes with good horsemanship. Leather, rawhide, metal... those things are all natural and feel good to me and like they go with a horse. Plastic, notsomuch. It makes me think of dead dinosaur ooze.

If my leather tack gets wet, I just make sure to give it a good conditioning. The only thing that doesn't go out in the rain is rawhide.

Jul. 22, 2011, 10:58 AM
I prefer synthetic for trail saddles, mostly for the weight. I tend to put a lot of miles on my horses and often at fairly fast speeds so anything I can do to minimize the weight they carry is a good thing. It doesn't matter too much to me for my English saddles but the weight difference is significant in western saddles.

The only other thing is that a lot of newer English saddles are made from pretty fine, soft leather that doesn't hold up so well to drenching or to riding through brush. I try to keep my newer dressage saddles off the trail because I have noticed significant wear after being exposed to some trail conditions. My older ones are made of heavier leather and I don't mind taking them out, I just clean them after if they get scratched by thorns or drenched or whatever.

Aug. 25, 2011, 08:42 PM
Well, as much as I love the DownUnder Saddlery synthetic Aussie w/horn, my horse isn't happy. It doesnt fit him well. It is a 19" seat and a medium tree. I have the fleece stirrup leather covers on it. Officially for sale.Have pics to email.

Aug. 25, 2011, 09:09 PM
The weight of my old Tucker saddle made me decide to sell it and buy a Wintec AP synthetic saddle. I added a real fleece seatcover, and bucking strap, and it is actually all around more comfortable than the Tucker. When needed, I take the fleece off and just shake it clean, remove the leather bucking strap, hose the saddle and prop it on the fence to dry. Easy keeper.

Aug. 26, 2011, 01:35 AM
I like my leather saddles. I trail ride in and beat the living daylights out of my leather Stubben. I just make sure to let it dry out and then condition it when I soak it.

Dec. 8, 2011, 11:02 PM
Synthetic saddle is lighter than their leather counterparts. Synthetic saddles are less weight for the horse to carry. They are easy to clean and durable. Leather saddles have to clean with glycerin soap and oil them several times a year. Leather saddles have a longer lifespan. Synthetic saddles are less expensive. Leather saddles last longer, but the initial investment is more than synthetics.

wool saddle pads (http://www.saddleonline.com/Western-accessories-Saddle-Blanket/c49_10/p3726/Cutting-Reining-Western-Wool-Show-Blanket-Pad/product_info.html)