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Western saddle suggestions/where to start?

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  • Western saddle suggestions/where to start?

    I'm interested in purchasing a western saddle for general riding at home. I'm an eventer and have never ridden in a western saddle in my life, so I have no clue where to start! I'm not looking to do any type of specific event like reining or barrel racing, but may be interesting in learning in the future.

    Any advice on what type of saddle might be best? Or any sites with good information to learn about the different types of western saddles, fit, etc? I do have a bit of a hindrance as I would like a saddle to also fit my petite TB pony with a very short back. A friend of mine who dabbles in some western sports suggested a barrel saddle since they are generally smaller and lighter.

    Thanks in advance!!
    "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

  • #2
    Here is a great site with many brands (including some certified used saddles) for sale: http://www.horsesaddleshop.com/

    They also have some useful information about western saddles on their site.

    Personally, I do NOT like synthetic saddles; I don't think they are comfortable, and they seem not to hold structure well and cause pressure points especially in the front.

    For leather saddles, if you want bang for your buck, get a brand name quality saddle (I dont' mean spend thousands, but don't get some western saddle that you can't verify somewhere on the saddle what brand it is, that's usually how the cheap ones are...no name anywhere).

    For a thinner TB, you're probably looking at Semi-QH bars (comparable to probably a narrow/medium tree on an english saddle). And yes, barrel saddles are shorter typically, and would fit a shorter backed horse better. You can get them in round or square skirts, and usually even the square skirts are much shorter than say an equitation saddle.

    Saddles are like women's pants...no two fit the same, even though both may be "semi-QH bars" and 15 inch seat. They all fit differently. I have tried umpteen saddles on my QH gelding, and only one fits...my Dakota show saddle! I hate it, its not comfortable, the leather is like plastic (even though it was a $1200 saddle years ago), and i feel rediculous trail riding with so much bling, but it fits, so we use it! My Dakota barrel saddle is the same bar size (both are Full QH bars) but it doesn't fit him

    If possible, try the saddle on with someone who can help with proper fit.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


    • #3
      I second the recommendation for horsesaddleshop's site. I also went from HJ to Western and have a mare with a short back (I am also petite and finding the right seat size was a challenge in addition to fitting the mare!). The information and help at that site was reallllly great...ended up purchasing a saddle from them and could not be happier.

      Definitely take your time in the fitting...it pays off!


      • #4
        If you can find an older Circle Y, those things are worth their weight in gold

        I actually prefer a roping saddle even for everyday/trail riding. I find the flatter seat way more comfortable and the nice sturdy horn is great if you need to carry bags, etc.
        Friend of bar.ka!
        Originally posted by MHM
        GM quote of the day, regarding the correct way to do things:
        "There's correct, and then there's correct. If you're almost correct, that means you're wrong."


        • #5
          Originally posted by SuckerForHorses View Post
          Here is a great site with many brands (including some certified used saddles) for sale: http://www.horsesaddleshop.com/

          Saddles are like women's pants...no two fit the same, even though both may be "semi-QH bars" and 15 inch seat. They all fit differently. I have tried umpteen saddles on my QH gelding, and only one fits...my Dakota show saddle! I hate it, its not comfortable, the leather is like plastic (even though it was a $1200 saddle years ago), and i feel rediculous trail riding with so much bling, but it fits, so we use it! My Dakota barrel saddle is the same bar size (both are Full QH bars) but it doesn't fit him

          If possible, try the saddle on with someone who can help with proper fit.
          ^ This, totally. Agree about the website, very helpful. For really learning about a western saddle, I would also recommend this site: http://www.western-saddle-guide.com/ It covers parts of the saddle that you will find helpful-the style of swell you prefer, the rigging arrangements so when you do shop you really know what you are looking at. I would go to a tackshop or find a friend with a few saddles and try several to see if you have a preference!

          Could not agree more about no two saddles being alike, and the only way to really tell is to get it on the horse, and eventually sit in it. I have never bought a new western saddle, and this being Montana, I have had very good luck at......yard sales!! At the yard sales (gotten a Circle Y, and a Crates) they let me pay for the saddle, then take it home and try it, then bring it back or keep it. One way or the other, just can't know until it sits on them. I bought my barrel saddle from a woman who had a horse I looked at. Passed on the horse but told her if she couldn't get rid of the tack....

          Totally and completely agree that having someone with you who knows about western saddle fit is so helpful!!


          • #6
            Originally posted by RxCate View Post
            If you can find an older Circle Y, .
            YES!! My most favorite saddle!!! Old, used, WONDERFUL!!


            • #7
              I found the saddle I bought for my short-backed Morgan "pony" (14.1 3/4) mare on that site someone posted. It's very comfortable and fits her well (she is not your typical "robust" Morgan either) in the withers and back length. I 'm very happy with it and use it at home and will show in some local open shows with it as well.



              • #8
                I prefer Wade type saddles. They tend to put your legs under you and not in front of you. They've traditionally been used by real working cowboys/cowgirls, but have gained huge popularity recently due to the Buck Brannaman film BUCK. A good one will set you back several thousand dollars, but you can find them used for slightly less. The better brands tend to hold their value well and resale is relatively easy. Brands I like; Frecker's, McCalls and my newest fascination Double H. Double H makes a "strip down" saddle that is basically just the tree and stirrups. You can get it customized any way you like with leather and tooling and fancy Monels. The fenders have a lot more freedom of movement and the saddle is in the neighborhood of 12 - 15 lbs. Kind of like a cowboy dressage saddle. You can even rope from them. They are highly regarded by the working cowboys I know and they are priced slightly less than some of the other big name saddles.

                Things to look for; pre-turned stirrup leathers (extremely important and all the good saddle makers do this), weight (most western saddles weigh in the range of 23 - 40 lbs(!), fit (you can get a wither tracing kit and send it to most saddle makers for an idea of what will fit your horse - just bear in mind that Western saddle fitting is quite a bit more general than English saddle fitting), rider fit (every saddle is different depending on type and manufacturer).

                If you opt for a Wade saddle, just know that they do not have "swells" around the horn. Some people like the swell fork saddles because they can be handy if things get a little "western". On a Wade saddle you can add bucking rolls which simulates a swell in front - although I doubt you'll want them coming from an eventing background. I'm a dressage rider and find the swells in front get in the way. All the leather on a western saddle is overwhelming to start with, so less is more for me. Some things I do like to have when I'm starting colts or riding rough horses are a Cheyenne roll of at least 1/2" (leather "roll" on cantle of the saddle) and a night latch (chicken handle).

                Hope this helps!


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you all so much! This is all great info. I sent me specs to horsesaddleshop through their "Recommend A Saddle" link and they suggested that a size 15" with full QH bars would work best for me and my pony. The 15" seat size makes sense to me (I'm a slim 5'4" and take a 16.5" in close contact saddles and 17" in dressage), but the wide tree/full QH bars is a surprise! My pony is a true medium tree in all my english saddles, so I thought they would suggest semi-QH bars. Is it common for horses to differ in the tree size like that?

                  I have to admit, I've already fallen in love with Circle Y saddles through my browsing online. I guess my taste for quality tack transcends my english disciplines! Unfortunately, I'm having difficulty finding used saddles online that allow test rides. Are there other good quality brands I should add to my list to consider? I'd like to stay under $650 and go for a better quality used saddle. Billy Cook saddles look nice from my searches.
                  "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"


                  • #10
                    I have a wide backed QH and the full QH bars are a little too wide for him in the front/shoulder area (but if I get a narrow bar, they are too narrow further back...). I would be VERY surprised if your TB went with a Full QH Bar saddle. Possibly just QH bar?

                    Even by describing your horse to the company, they cannot tell you the saddle will fit. I mean it when I say I have tried at least 15 saddles on my gelding, all Full QH bars, some QH bars, and none of them have fit, in one area or all areas. Some you could tell didn't fit as soon as it landed on his back!

                    The best advice I can give is this...find someone who is knowledgeable in western saddle fit, and have them help you find one that fits. The best way to know is to try it on the horse.
                    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                    • #11
                      Be careful with the quality of the Billy Cook...the old ones are nice quality, the new ones vary in quailty quite a bit.

                      Circle Y saddles, new and old, are good quality, but if you can find a good older saddle, the quality will probably be better.
                      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."