I have a dressage saddle and a western type saddle that promotes a balanced seat.
My question- is the theory that a western saddle is more secure a fallacy? I really can't find anything on my western saddle that would prevent me from becoming unseated, (forget the horn). Although my western has a very deep seat, it's wide, where my dressage saddle feels more like a "glove".
Most western saddles I have ridden in allow for less movement of the seat as the horse moves. I physically can't move my body enough to move with my mom's horse's canter in her western saddle so do a half seat in it. (I like to anyway since we're working on balance, but that's a different story.) Where even a dressage saddle can allow some movement and slide along the seat, a western saddle typically wants to hold you in place - makes sense, since the movement is typically smaller.
I think the stirrups are actually a huge part of it, though. Thin leathers vs. stirrups off thick fenders which hold your feet still. If a saddle doesn't fit right, that's actually a negative. I finally got my mom on her horse in my dressage saddle the other day so she could use her legs like she's supposed to, and her horse was wonderful for her in it.
My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.
Originally Posted by katarine
If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed
I actually feel more secure when there's less stuff there -- I don't even like dressage saddles that have really big external knee rolls and one of those cup-your-butt seats. I feel trapped, rather than secure. I prefer and feel safest in a more close-contact type feel, or as close as I can get to that in a dressage saddle. From my limited experience in a western saddle, it feels more in the claustrophobic category to me, though part of that is lack of familiarity.
like anything it depends. there are lots of different styles of western saddles intended for lots of different things.
I personally feel most secure in a balanced, simple, no frills dressage saddle. I like riding with a longer leg straight under me, like I'm standing, I can sink into my heels and feel very much like a plumb bob. Minimal thigh blocks means I can hike up my irons a hole or three, and if my mount wants to bronc around a bit I can just stand up in the irons and hover above his back. For me personally, the feeling of balance gives me the most security.
However, my semi-custom western saddle fits me like a glove too. Its a roping saddle, extremely low profile as its designed to get out of quickly. I agree there is something about the long thick fenders and heavy bell stirrups that can make your leg almost feel locked down in place. Its harder to go fetal I find. But what I think is the most secure is the wide seat. Western saddles usually are really butt-hugging with a great big rolled cant board that wraps around your arse. Not a little tiny rounded cantle.
Thats a main reason I love Lauriche saddles so much, his seats are very wide, which means I can have a nice secure feeling seat without all the depth and fluff to keep me there.
One of my most spectacular flying dismounts was out of an extremely deep seated dressage saddle. I was congratulating my horse, had the reins dropped on his neck, something spooked him from behind, he bolted and I slipped up over and down the other side of the cantle like a ski slope.
Western saddles also often have suede or roughout seats (though I've owned slick seats). Do not underestimate the stickability of suede! Its like wearing full seats. And if you wear full seats on suede its almost literally like wearing velcro. (My treeless dressage saddle has a suede seat, and when I rode it for the first time wearing full seats, I was like 'oh golly! if this saddle slips, I'm going right with it under the belly of my horse!' No way I was coming unstuck.)
My other western saddle, a cutting saddle, is designed to trap a rider in the saddle for high speed maneuvers. It has a really high cant board, and enormous buckaroo rolls on the pommel. And a nightlatch. That saddle is designed to be near impossible to come out of.
As much as I prefer a simple well balanced dressage saddle, I have to admit, 90% of my wildest riding has been in western saddles, and 90% of my unintentional dismounts have been in english saddles.
I've never ridden one, but I bet I'd love an australian saddle.
I did ride an alta escuela saddle in portugal once, and besides being a heavenly dream of cush and sheepskin, it was extremely secure feeling without feeling thick.
eta: lol, to your question, no I don't think its a fallacy that western saddles are more secure than english saddles... BUT it doesn't mean that western saddles are ALWAYS more secure than english saddles or the most secure saddles made. I think there are a lot of factors that need to be considered.
Of all the saddles I've ridden, for pure stick-ability the most secure saddle I've ever ridden is my treeless dressage saddle. Between the suede and the fact that it conforms to me and wraps around me like a leather marshmallow, if the saddle itself didn't slip you would have to pick the horse up, turn him upside down and shake him for me to fall out of it.
I don't like western saddles because I can't really get my legs around the horse. I'm all for draping my leg when I'm riding dressage, but when crap hits the fan out on the trail you bet I'm holding on with some serious leg power, lol!!!!!!!!
Personal experience says yes they are more secure.
1. Had a horse trip and fall rotational, I was stuck so we somersaulted together. Saddle dislocated both hips. Equitation saddle
2. Youngster for still unknown reason, had a bucking fit in parking lot of show couldn't get right leg back over to emergency dismount-tore tendon in that ankle and left hand, trying to get off. Reining saddle
I was on a "trail" ride in very posh setting with very nicely groomed gravel roads for a good part of the course. A bicylist came up silently behind us and spooked my horse. I was in my western trail saddle (vs. my Albion Original Comfort dressage saddle) and as he dropped his butt to get ready to bolt I could feel myself firmly held in place by the pommel and cantle, more so than I ever felt in the dressage saddle. Fortunately he calmed down and we enjoyed the rest of the ride. The bicyclist didn't bother to apologize.