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Want to try Western

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  • Want to try Western

    I am a dressage rider who wants to try western dressage. I have never had a western saddle. I am thinking about getting a cheap synthetic saddle package just to see if I like it before I invest in more expensive tack. A couple questions. First- I am 5'4" and about 100 lbs with short legs. I ride in a 16.5 in dressage saddle. I am thinking a 14" western seat? Second my horse currently goes in an eggbutt french link snaffle. Can I just attach that to the western bridle that comes with the set? with no canvesson do I have to add a curb strap and if so can I add it to that bit?

  • #2
    I wouldn't buy one of those sets unless it's a name brand. I suggest Wintec, but I've seen posts here recommending Abetta, too. There's cheap and then there's cheap.

    As far as saddles go, I like the Wintec western saddle. I bought one as a colt starter saddle about 10-12 years ago and it's still going strong, plus it's comfortable and fits the horse well. Western saddles typically come in semi-quarter horse bars (for the less wide horse) and full quarter horse bars (for the wide horse). Make sure you pick the appropriate width.

    Yes, you can just attach your snaffle to the western bridle. No, you don't need a curb strap. If I were you, I would just buy some western reins to put on your English bridle. Then buy a decent western bridle if you decide you want to do more western riding.
    "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
    that's even remotely true."

    Homer Simpson


    • #3
      You don't need a Western bridle yet.

      I would not buy a cheap synthetic western or English saddle. Western saddles are in general much cheaper than dressage saddles and you can get an older second hand good quality leather saddle under $500.

      It needs to fit you and the horse.


      • #4
        I would go sit in some western saddles at a tack store before purchasing. Make sure you try saddles that are going to put your seat and legs into the correct position and not a chair seat.

        Riding in a good saddle with correct fit for both you and the horse is important.
        "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White


        • #5
          Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
          You don't need a Western bridle yet.

          I would not buy a cheap synthetic western or English saddle. Western saddles are in general much cheaper than dressage saddles and you can get an older second hand good quality leather saddle under $500.

          It needs to fit you and the horse.
          maybe there but not here in western horse country...I was at Large horse supply store last week, one that has 54 listed used western saddles ... they have ONE used saddle under a thousand dollars ($895) (Teasky's in Weatherford if any one wants to check) ...I was kind of shocked ... no, make that Really Shocked not kind of


          • #6
            IIRC the Western seat size is measured between different points on the saddle then a Hunt or Dressage saddle. Be careful to sit in the actual seat.

            Also 5’4” with a long femur but overall short legs. Take a 17 or 17.5 in a Hunt seat saddle, think I took a 16 in stock saddles been it’s been a long time, might have been a 15.

            The biggest problem with cheap Western saddles is the stirrup leather doesn’t hang right where the riders leg should be, then it’s covered by all that fender material. I could never get comfortable in many of them, leg was in the wrong place and could not get the stirrup short enough so was constantly reaching for it...even with sitting much mire in the seat, trying to be on tiptoe to keep enough foot in the stirrup to keep it from flopping around sucked.

            Investigate getting youth sized fendersor finding a saddle with them. Helped the heck out of it.

            There is also the issue of various rigging options, that’s where the cinch goes. Can change your balance point as well as relationship to the horses center of gravity as it works under you. Coming out of Dressage, you are probably aware of these things and that might bug the heck out of you. In the lesser saddles, they don’t put too much thought into such things, just slap on a one size fits all set up. Better saddles are better thought out and geared towards specifics.

            You might be happier looking for a narrow twist as a short rider, I found sitting in the standard seat was like sitting on a square box, my thigh hit the widest part of the saddle and it hurt like heck, narrow twist raised my seat just enough to let my thigh drop more easily

            On the plus side, Western saddle distributes weight over a much greater area then English ones do and are a much more foregiving fit for the horse as well as allowing for much more in the way of creative padding. So that part is easier. They are heavier but IME, stay put on the average built for the jobhorse better.

            You can try a Wintec but never found them that comfortable. Fact they are lighter to get on the horse was the only advantage for me. I rode seriously and competed in pattern classes so even just for at home schooling, just never worked. Never put me in the “sweet spot”. YMMV.

            IMO searching for a good quality saddle that will help you stay in the correct position and find your way in your new discipline is the best choice.

            IIWY I’d see about trying to borrow a good, well designed saddle rather then buy a cheap multi purpose to try out WD. Give you a better shot and feeling comfortable and able to work with the horse instead of fight the saddle. Borrow a good one.

            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


            • #7
              Findeight gives very good advice, above post.

              I will add that I also ride in a 16.5 hunt seat saddle. A`14" western saddle would be too small. A 15" would be right for your size. Another thing about western saddles is the latigo cinch strap lump under your knee. I hate that, and ride in a Bob's reining saddle with a system that the latigo strap goes through three holes so is splayed out to lie flat under my leg. (Bob's Doug Millholand reining saddle, which has the Monte Foreman latigo system). Pay attention, and look for a multi-position latigo strap arrangment, when trying out saddles - on a horse or sitting on them in a store, do not just buy one from a catalog. Also you want a stirrup hung so that it does not move backward when you stand up or post, which I also hate. My western saddle rides just like my english saddle.
              Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


              • #8
                Going to echo that since you're already a rider with an opinion about saddles, rather than a beginner, that you probably won't enjoy it if you don't get the right saddle with a balance and twist and seat that fits you. Borrow, try used, ask to sit in friends' saddles even if just for 5 minutes... sit in a lot of saddles and make sure you get one that feels like 'home."

                There is a western saddle out there that will be comfortable and fun for you, and a lot that won't be.
                If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                • #9
                  Originally posted by findeight View Post

                  IMO searching for a good quality saddle that will help you stay in the correct position and find your way in your new discipline is the best choice.

                  IIWY I’d see about trying to borrow a good, well designed saddle rather then buy a cheap multi purpose to try out WD. Give you a better shot and feeling comfortable and able to work with the horse instead of fight the saddle. Borrow a good one.
                  I'll be the 5th or 6th person to warn you away from the plan of buying a cheap, synthetic western saddle. If you wouldn't do that when purchasing a dressage saddle, don't do it for any other saddle.

                  That said, you are in luck because Western saddles are far more durable than English saddles. There is no reason to buy a new, cheaply-made western saddle when you can find well-designed, well-made ones for about the same price that are used. I have some saddles that were built in 1980 or so that fit me and fit wide- or narrow horses. If you want help finding a saddle or learning about brands that are of reliable design and quality, please ask!
                  The armchair saddler
                  Politically Pro-Cat


                  • #10
                    I will chime in with the rest, please don't buy a cheap synthetic saddle. It's like riding in a cheap synthetic English saddle -- it's going to put you in the wrong place and then you're going to want to blame "western riding" for being uncomfortable.

                    There are lots of good western saddles -- you can get a brand new saddle in the $1,500-2,000 range that will last you the rest of your life -- but you can also get a good quality, older-model saddle for $500-1,000 as a starter saddle.

                    Look for a reining or cow horse saddle, as those will put the stirrups under you (as opposed to pleasure saddles - too bulky, and roping or barrel saddles that will put your legs too far forward). And while saddles vary a little (as with any saddle) you're more than likely gonna want a 15" seat. Some people like a more built up, padded seat, while others like a more flat, hard seat. If you can try some saddles, do so. Unless you have a super narrow horse, most horses do OK in full QH bars.

                    Yes you can use your same snaffle bit. Buy a headstall that has a browband and throatlatch to use with the snaffle. If you use, for example, a one-ear headstall (which is intended for a curb bit), they can just shake their head and the entire bridle will fall off. Buy an all-leather curb strap, and attach it between the bit and the reins (like this:


                    • #11
                      I switched from dressage to western and I have to say, saddle fitting is a bear even with western! There is a FB group for saddle fitting and you might browse there to see photos of what seems to fit and what doesn't. It is very common to think a too-wide saddle is too narrow as it sits down on the withers and feels like it is pinching.

                      And every dressage person that has looked at my saddle says it is tight, but it fact, it was too wide.

                      I am 5'9" 140 lbs 34" inseam. In dressage I took an 18. In western, a 15".

                      The real measure is the space between the cantle and swell, where your thigh will fit. On some western saddles, the design is for the horn to tilt forward and the cantle leans back, making the seat size measure larger than the actual place where your butt will be.

                      All that said, my western saddle fits me better than any dressage saddle I have ever had. Puts me in the best position. All this time I thought is was just me, but now I see my dressage saddle(s) contributed.

                      If you want to learn prices of some nice used saddles, try and browse the saddles-for-sale section. unfortunately, nice western saddles are not cheap, even used. FB also has "ranch saddles for sale" and other groups with nice western tack.

                      Good luck!


                      • #12
                        I just bought a saddle from a local shop, this guy has the best eye for saddle fit than practically anyone else. I hauled my shark fin TB over there and he took one look at him, went and rooted around in his tack trailer and pulled out a used Crates, a Crates that was actually made by Crates and not Fabtron. This one is probably a 1990s model, had the wrapped horn like a roper but well padded seat and a crupper ring as well as double rigging. Anyway, the reason I bought this saddle (a 16") is because my ass got too big for my other that I just sold. I loved that saddle but I saw a picture of me in it and that was that.

                        Even though this was a well used saddle, it was still over $1K but it's quality and I'll probably have it forever. It fits my horse like a glove and I feel secure even when he has his minor tizzy fits.


                        • #13
                          I use one of those hideous, cheap synthetic saddles. Abetta. I also have a $2000 leather saddle. The Abetta is more comfortable for me to ride in although it puts my feet a little further back than I like. I assume a dressage rider would like that. My DIL prefers an Abetta when she rides, but my wife and daughter prefer our used Circle Y - $450 with many years of life left in it. The "ground" of a western saddle is how they shape the seat above the tree. The tree determines how it fits the horse and the "ground" how it fits the rider. The Abetta fits my horse fine and fits me like a glove. So I like it.

                          Synthetic might not win you approval in a western dressage competition. I'll never find out. Synthetic saddles are not bad saddles. Ralide trees are worthless for roping, but they are tough and light. Synthetic provides good grip (nice when your horse decides to hop 6 feet sideways) and light weight - 17 lbs total, versus 30 lbs for my good leather saddle. If I want to, I can hose it off after a ride.

                          90% of the time, I grab my $390 new Abetta instead of my $2000 leather saddle. YMMV.