View Full Version : Fish out of water here. need advice about buying trail saddles

Aug. 3, 2011, 11:35 PM
Hi guys.
I'm so out of my elements when it comes to western tack so I I hoping for some advice. My daughter is taking on a cute western trail horse and when he comes, we are going to need to outfit him on a very tight budget. I know very little about western saddles so I'm trying to learn before we go shopping. Everyone I know that rides western has a conflicting opinion about what she should get and should stay away from. I should've expected that , being that they are a.) Horse people and b.) They are horse people lol.
We had my daughter measured and she needs a 16" seat. Because she had tendonitis she needs a light weight saddle to lift. They gelding she is getting is a QH so I have learned he will need full or semi QH bars, whatever those are. Since he is pretty much a table with his wide back and low withers, I am going to have him measured when he comes to our farm.
So what do I need to know about shopping for western gear before we set out ? I am asking some friends who barrel race to go with us and possibly her trainer but I don't want to look like a complete idiot when we go.
My daughter is going to be buying something used for now with her money and for Christmas I'll get her something better. So please give me advice about looking at used western trail saddles.


Aug. 4, 2011, 12:51 AM
Are you unfamiliar with just western tack or with tack in general? Is there a particular reason why the horse will need western tack when he comes to you? You said he is a western trail horse, and at first I assumed you meant your daughter plans to trail-ride him; then I started wondering if she is going to be showing him in western trail classes at shows.

If they are going to be trail riding and not showing, and you are familiar with English tack or some other nonwestern tack, could you get an English (or whatever) saddle to fit the horse? I personally prefer trail riding in an English saddle or a trail saddle (one without a horn) to riding in a western saddle (and I love western saddles. I have a 16-17 lb. synthetic Big Horn that weighs less than some of my friends' dressage saddles).

But if they are going to be just trail riding, there really is no need for you to buy something you're not familiar with. Almost any saddle can be good for trail riding. I have read several posts by COTHers saying their dressage saddles were their favorite trail saddles!

But if a western saddle is what the horse needs for whatever reason, here is my suggestion:

Go to local feed stores and tack shops and try the new and used western saddles in stock. Have your daughter sit in them to see what fits her (e.g., a 16" barrel saddle is not as roomy as a 16" pleasure or trail saddle. Barrel saddles tend to have high cantles which make mounting/dismounting less convenient for me but your daughter is presumably younger and more limber!). Pick a saddle she can easily pick up and put on the horse (western saddles are HEAVY!). Make sure she can easily adjust the stirrups and that they can be adjusted to the proper length (at 5'2" I find that on many western saddles with Blevins buckles the stirrups cannot go short enough for my legs).

Ask if they will let your daughter take the saddle home to try it for a couple of days. Make sure it is as comfortable (if not more comfortable) for the horse as for your daughter.

Google "full quarter horse bars" to read about what those terms mean. I know it has something to do with the bars of the saddle (part of the tree) made to fit horses by width, but I don't know enough to explain it fully or even to recommend any particular web site!

All that said, I would still recommend going with whatever kind of tack you already know about ... unless, as I said before, they are going to be showing in western trail classes at shows. :)

Aug. 4, 2011, 12:55 AM
Full or semi QH bars is basically gullet width/tree size. Full will be wider than semi.

As with any English saddle, quality used is going to be better than cheap new. You'll be able to tell what a quality saddle is, same way you can tell a good quality English saddle. My husband has two Silver Royal saddles that are probably 20 years old that are in good shape despite having had ZERO care, get flung around, dropped on the ground, etc. They're not terribly expensive new at $6-700. I'm also a fan of Circle Y and Billy Cook. I haven't had personal experience with any others.

I just saw the reply above mine. That's very true. Most western horses can easily be convinced to wear English tack. I will ride western on my hunter if I go with my husband because he typically pouts if I don't, but my favorite trail saddle is my old Stubben dressage saddle. And I use my Stubben close contact for endurance rides and training miles. If you're not showing western, just ride in what you've got as long as it fits the horse.

Aug. 4, 2011, 02:06 AM
Thanks for the advice. Yes, I do know English tack but not Western. My DD was taught basics English but is learning to ride western, which she prefers. She feels more comfortable riding western and since she just wants to trail ride, we are looking for trail saddles. Our tack shops do trials but I want to go armed with more knowledge than what I know now so I don't end up buying something simply because the sales girl was pushing it.

Aug. 4, 2011, 05:18 AM
On Western Saddles. I have used Wintec trails that didnt last or fit any horses well.. MY favorite is the Weaver, super light, comfortable, fits every horse from tb's to my qh track ponies ....
and my students pick the Abetta all the time, which I think is due to the deeper seat giving them a more secure feeling. Its also light but the Weaver is the lightest.... best for me, and great for my horse. Weavers also have buckles to adjust stirrups.
All the above are synthetic. We ride everyday, all weather and they hold up just fine, little or no care.

www.horse.com just had them on 1/2price sale for $150~
I also use the halter bridle, each horse with a breastcollar, the neoprene backing, www.horse.com has western girth in all colors on sale for $7~
On pads --we use the foam base / easy to keep clean, wisks sweat away from the horses skin. Fleece you cant (really) clean, and it will eventually get *dirt balls* that can cause rubs.

For serious distance riding, the weaver is fine but nothing compares to my tucker! My friend has a used ortho-flex she loves
however, both those saddles are costly, but worth every! penny.

Aug. 4, 2011, 07:10 AM
Dakota barrel saddle is a good choice. Weight is less than twenty pounds, stirrups will move a bit more front and back than a pleasure saddle and has a deep seat. I have lots of saddles but my two barrel saddles are my favorite for trail riding.

A new Dakota brand is about $500 - 600, used maybe $300. Mine is fifteen years old and has held up well with almost daily riding.

wylde sage
Aug. 4, 2011, 03:11 PM
Used Big Horn cordura/leather saddle with full QH bars...check out ebay. I've had all the other synthetics and like this one the best for fit and longevity.

Aug. 4, 2011, 03:19 PM
I LOVE trail riding in my abetta endurance saddle. It is identical to a western one, just without the horn. I have ridden in a big horn cordura also, but it is just too narrow of a seat for me to be comfortable in it even though other people love them. If you do end up needing a full quarter horse bars, send me PM as I have an Abetta endurance saddle that an old boarder at the barn left behind and told us that we could keep it if we wanted, but it is way too wide for any of our horses.....

Aug. 4, 2011, 09:25 PM
I agree with those who posted about synthetic saddles. I have a Big Horn that I dearly love. I personally prefer it to the Abettas, but that is just the looks--having never ridden in an Abetta I can't compare them for riding. I have read that the Wintec western saddles aren't as good as the English ones, that they have very hard seats and aren't comfortable for the horse either. This is my saddle:


Lightweight, easily adjustable stirrups, one cinch.

I still recommend going to local tack shops and trying their stock. If you and your daughter narrow your choices down to 2-3, you could always come back here and ask us COTHers which of those we'd recommend! ;)

Aug. 7, 2011, 11:50 AM
I hate trail riding with a horn, so I ride in an endurance type Western saddle.

I am a stickler for quality, and there are a couple of brands out there that are also economical that I'm very pleased with personally. Dakota Saddlery makes an endurance trail model, as does Nash, which come in full QH bars. Both about 18-24 lbs, and top quality leather that lasts and lasts. Just keep them oiled and they will last for decades. Chicks Saddlery and Horse Saddleshop are good places to look, and they carry several models if you do want a horn. These saddles are economical, selling for $500-700 brand new. You can find them used but expect to only save $100-250 as they resell well.

I cannot say enough good things about the Dakota Trail Pleasure saddle (except, it has a horn). I rode in one for years and years and only sold it to buy my current hornless model.

A friend of mine rides in the leather Big Horn Endurance model, which is more expensive than the above, and I've not seen that it is any "better" than the above, except it does have a cushier seat.

Aug. 7, 2011, 10:22 PM
I LOVE trail riding in my abetta endurance saddle. It is identical to a western one, just without the horn. I have ridden in a big horn cordura also, but it is just too narrow of a seat for me to be comfortable in it even though other people love them. If you do end up needing a full quarter horse bars, send me PM as I have an Abetta endurance saddle that an old boarder at the barn left behind and told us that we could keep it if we wanted, but it is way too wide for any of our horses.....

I too love my Abetta Endurance!

It fits my mare and myself perfectly. Lightweight, easy to clean, decent price.

Stay away from the Wintecs... Crappy.

Personally, I'd stay away from a Barrel saddle also. They have taller horns that can get in the way, jab you in the stomach, shirt gets caught on it..etc. I also find Barrel Saddles too deep. If I need to bail, or get off quickly, they can be bulky for a quick dismount.

If your daughter will be trail riding, the last thing she wants to do is duck because of a tree/low branch and get jabbed in the stomach with a horn.

I love my Abetta Endurance without a horn. Very secure seat, especially being synthetic.

You can also try this site:
www.tackreview.com (http://www.tackreview.com) Just navigate until you find trail saddles.

Rowdy Corgi
Aug. 13, 2011, 01:25 PM
I personally ride in a wade tree western saddle. I switched to these several years ago after trying out someone elses. It opens up the front of the saddle more and gives your horse more room for his scapula to move. It also helps lighten the front end. Often times horses will give you trouble if their being pinched by the saddle on the shoulders. Like rushing up hills, jigging and dancing and not wanting to walk on the trail. I also suggest to new rider to learn to ride in a western saddle. Riding in an english saddle is more for an advanced rider and for trail riding a beginner would be much safer in a western type saddle.
I also like to take my horse with me to the saddle shop if possible. Place your saddle on your horse without pad or blanket and tighten it, then lift your horses front leg forward, like he would be stepping forward. While holding the leg up feel how far the scapula has rotated back and see if it is banging into the saddle. If you can not slip your hand in between the horses scapula and the saddle easily with the horses leg lifted forward, then your saddle does not fit your horse. It needs to fit the horse not just the rider.

I also like a hard seat saddle. If you ever ride in a hard seat and you sit in a padded seat you can feel the quality difference in your rear end. The hard seat saddles require much more work in smoothing out the ground seat. Most padded saddles just have padding covering up the poor craftmanship and you can feel all the lumps and bumps in the seat , once you have become used to the better quality seat. Good luck, saddles dont all fit the same horses and actually your horses saddle fit can change frequently with changes in your horses body. You should always check your saddle even if its the same one that you have been riding for a while.

Aug. 13, 2011, 10:27 PM
Originally posted by Rowdy Corgi:

Riding in an english saddle is more for an advanced rider and for trail riding a beginner would be much safer in a western type saddle.

:no: Not necessarily. English saddles are definitely not just for advanced riders, and western saddles are not necessarily safer. They have horns, they do not have quick-release stirrup leathers, they are more secure, yes--but that security can mean they are also more restrictive. Until I got older and achy and stiff I always preferred to trail-ride in an English saddle. No horn to jab you painfully (or harmfully) when you duck under a tree limb or jump a log or ditch.

My feeling is, start beginners out in English saddles and then, when they have their balance and a secure seat, let them try western or whatver if they wish.

But I do like the idea of the wade-fork saddle. I fell in love with one several years ago, wade fork and hard seat. And beautiful to boot! :yes: