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Need my first Western/Australian saddle and have no idea how to start

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  • Need my first Western/Australian saddle and have no idea how to start

    I'm old and fat. My father called me "whale tail". I take a 18, 18 1/2, or 19 inch saddle in English saddles, depending on how deep the seat is. My horses are all TBs.

    I've done a little research, and am totally confused. There are full QH trees and 1/2 QH trees. In addition, the sizing doesn't seem to match English sizing at all. I've also noticed that Western people don't seem to be as anal about saddle fit (at least not here) for either people or horses and use huge thick blankets.

    Also the girthing system is very different. I do know how to tie a latigo cinch, but would actually prefer buckles on both sides.

    I have a very bad right shoulder that doesn't lift well and isn't strong, thanks to a failed rotator cuff operation, so a very heavy saddle would be hard to even get on the horses' backs. Are synthetics lighter? Are there any good synthetics? I've heard not.

    I'd also like to be able to post the trot.

    I'd prefer used, of course; and my budget is very limited.

    So any advice about how to go about buying a Western saddle would be greatly appreciated.
    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
    Thread killer Extraordinaire

  • #2
    Budget is ??

    Back in the day, when I rode for western people, the good ones were expensive but worth it.

    If your horse is the tolerant sort you can ,with the girth and off side stirrup back over the saddle to the near side, sling the saddle on, which will take left shoulder strength more than the right. If your horse is touchy you may need help saddling.

    You don't want full quarter horse tree and your seat size western would be 16 - 16 1/2 ? There are plenty of large sized male riders so you should have no problem finding a saddle that fits your bottom.

    It's been forever, but if you go to a good western saddlery and explain your needs, they should be able to help you. I'd go to the ranch type places rather than the show type places. The cowboy/ranchers are usually straight up and helpful (they used to be). I am NOT speaking of the TV cowboys of today however. I have no experience with them and ,what I've seen I wouldn't trust.

    A good used one will not be cheap. I always preferred a slick forked saddle, less up front and in the way..
    Last edited by skydy; Mar. 20, 2013, 03:05 AM.


    • #3
      Saddle size will probably be 17", maybe more depending on the saddle. Maybe less. My western saddle was a 17", but I was perfectly comfortable riding in my friend's 15" --- go figure. Semi-QH bars will fit most horses --- sort of a medium fit. You'll have to try them on for comfort --- they all sit differently.


      • #4
        Go to horsesaddleshop.com and just look around, compare and contrast the different styles, brands, prices, everything and start to see what you think you'd like.

        Go to tacktrader.com and just look around.

        Think trail saddles, not roping (heavy), not cutting (high horn, deep seat), not barrel racing (high horn, deep seat), just trail or all-around, pleasure, or similar. Those high horns get in the way and a deep seat can get uncomfortable and is unforgiving of future expansions. You'll probably be a 16 or 17" seat size.

        Look at the Lady Fabtron; it's part synthetic and is actually a good saddle, good tree, lightweight, not very expensive and might fit your bill just right.

        I'd stay away from Aussie saddles; people love them but the chances of getting a bad one are pretty good and they don't always fit rider nor horse the way they should. If you go with one, get quality advice.

        The saddle fit to the horse is extremely important and not something that western people take lightly. Nor do we use big bulky pads to cover up bad fit any more than any english rider might. After buying six saddles to fit my one horse I think I can say I'm anal about saddle fit.

        You need to know how wide your horse's shoulder and wither area are. The semi-QH bars are often too narrow these days. A wide tree, fullQH bars, FQHB, ect is going to fit a big horse, a wide horse. Just like any other saddle. If you put that saddle up you should easily be able to slide your hand under the saddle on the shoulders without it pinching. Have it fit like a comfortable shoe. horsesaddleshop.com has a few pages on saddle fit.
        “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


        • #5
          If you're riding all TBs, then I think checking out Australian saddles is a good idea. I've had a couple different ones and my feeling is that they're generally a better fit for the more TB type horses than the wider, flatter backed QH or cob types. (Edited to add clarification that I don't mean better than a western saddle, I mean most Australian saddles fit TB type horses better than they do stocky QH types.)

          Australian saddles are typically lighter and easier to handle and the fit, feel, and girthing system are going to be more like the English saddles you're familiar with. Plus, they're wonderfully secure.

          But, like cowboymom said, you have to be careful about where you buy one. Don't get a cheap one and don't get one off ebay unless it's a used model of an expensive, good quality saddle. There are several nice looking used Aussie saddles from good manufacturers on ebay right now. But, you'll have to pay $1,000+ to get a good quality Aussie saddle.

          Good brands include Syd Hill (horsesaddleshop.com has a used Syd Hill right now that I would buy in a heartbeat if I could use a medium width tree) and Toowoomba, although I think I recall reading something about Syd Hill selling it's designs to someone else and going out of business.

          Check out downunderweb.com. I've owned two saddles from there. One is a cheap synthetic, which is fine for a spare and giving "pony rides" to company. The other was a DownUnder Dalby Poley. The Dalby Poley was good quality with nice leather and the most comfortable saddle I've ever owned. I only sold it because it didn't fit any of my current equines and I'm not likely to be replacing any of them (the equines, I mean) or adding any new ones.

          If you ride in an 18-19 inch English saddle you'll probably want an Aussie saddle of about the same seat size or maybe one size up. But, the size of your thighs is also important because of the poleys.
          "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
          that's even remotely true."

          Homer Simpson


          • #6
            Are you planning on showing or pleasure riding? If pleasure riding, have you thought about a dressage saddle? Super comfy and easier to maneuver in comparison to a western saddle. I have said all along if I could afford to buy a dressage saddle for the few times a year that I go on trail rides I would! They also have buckles on both sides of the girth instead of a latigo. A friend of mine prefers to use her dressage saddle for trail rides over her western saddle as well. Nice deep seat.

            As far as synthetic western saddles, the best I have come across are Fabtrons. I have not ridden in any other synthetics other than a wintec (hated it) and Fabtrons.

            I do prefer lather saddles over synthetics, but have ridden in synthetics for years and am now getting ready to purchase. Leather training western saddle.


            • #7
              Viney I am like you, and ended up getting a used endurance saddle. My struggle right now is getting used to the "cinch and latigo" and the stirrups (always used peacocks). I didn't like the block thingies on the Aussie saddles. I feel like I'm 12 years old again learning how to tack up and not knowing what the "parts" are called.....


              • #8
                They're poleys, I believe. Not sure I spelled it right, though...

                NoSuchPerson that's a good point, I think the Aussie horses are built more like a TB and so the saddles would fit a TB better. A friend of mine went to Australia to work on a station for a year and he brought back an Aussie saddle that was beautifully made, high quality, and then he was continually bummed out b/c it wouldn't fit any of his American ranch horses!
                “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                • #9
                  Fabtron Lady Trail saddle.
                  Weaver Smart Cinch
                  Leather latigo on the offside
                  nylon with holes in the nearside
                  prof choice saddle pad- they are light weight, durable, and easy to clean.

                  I had a couple of riding-clients who bought Fabtrons and they are comfortable from the start. I rode in the above saddle for a couple of hours its first time on a horse, and I forgot it wasn't my own custom, knows-my-fanny all leather western saddle. It just felt fine from the start, you know?

                  Horsesaddleshop carries all of the above.


                  • #10
                    I have a Wintec western saddle that I bought to use temporarily while waiting on the custom saddle I ordered, which is taking for freakin' ever, but that's another topic. Anyway, it's fine for casual use, but I have discovered that unless your horse has a really straight topline, it's likely to bridge. Which, in hindsight, makes sense because someone once told me that a Wintec western saddle fit his mule really well, and mules tend to have very straight toplines.

                    Most people that have the Fabtron Lady Trail saddle seem to really like it. I've seen quite a few glowing reviews and not many negative comments.
                    "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                    that's even remotely true."

                    Homer Simpson


                    • Original Poster

                      One of my TBs has shark fin withers; the other has pronounced withers but not shark fin. The latter is off being trained in a Western saddle, so maybe I ought to ask the trainer for his suggestion about the tree for withers and for that specific horse?

                      The Lady Fabtron sounds like a good buy if the tree would fit.
                      "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                      Thread killer Extraordinaire


                      • #12
                        I think the Lady Fabtron comes in FQHB, so not likely to fit either of those horses.

                        You might also consider saddles made for gaited horses. They are typically built for horses that have higher withers and more narrow builds.
                        "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                        that's even remotely true."

                        Homer Simpson


                        • #13
                          Is there a tack shop anywhere near where you live? I have taken my horses to the store several times when buying new saddles. The store's saddle fitting expert will bring them out to the parking lot and try them on. Of course, my horses are calm and well-behaved, so it's never been a problem. It's sure a lot easier than guessing and hoping one will fit. Make an appointment first, though, so you know their top fitter will be there.


                          • #14
                            Fabtron Lady Trail comes in several bar sizes. I own one and LOVE it !


                            • Original Poster

                              Originally posted by qhwpmare View Post
                              Fabtron Lady Trail comes in several bar sizes. I own one and LOVE it !
                              I just went to the Fabtron website and they show the Lady Trail in Full QH Bar only.
                              "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                              Thread killer Extraordinaire


                              • #16
                                I don't see it in anything but FQHB either but it does have a gaited tree...? But it's a different sort of saddle...

                                Yes, ask the trainer what has been working! No matter what width of bars your shark fin needs (full or semi) he will need a high gullet to clear them. It's different, there is width and height for the front of the saddle. The bars are the width that you will need to figure out, you know you need height to clear the fin.
                                “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                                • Original Poster

                                  I'm doing this because one horse is being started Western, and when I first start to ride him, I want to be as safe as possible. I"m very fearful and have this gut feeling that perhaps Western saddles are safer. What I'd really like to find in my size is one of those saddles that doesn't have a horn but does have a gripping bar instead at the pommel. I know I've seen them, but can't remember if it was in an Australian saddle, an endurance saddle or a hybrid trail saddle. Or maybe even a specialist therapeutic saddle.
                                  "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                                  Thread killer Extraordinaire


                                  • #18
                                    Why don't you just put a "grab strap:" on your english saddle? That gives you something to hang onto if you feel insecure riding. And has the same effect as a saddle horn to help you balance if you are flopping all over at the trot.


                                    • #19
                                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                                      • #20
                                        viney-- check out this Aussie saddle:


                                        I know the people who have it, and I have seen it in person. It is the only Aussie saddle I have seen that has soft, well-cared for leather that you'd want.

                                        The CL ad includes a link to the maker's website as well.-- James Saddlery in Australia.

                                        I can't vouch for the size-- for person or horse.

                                        The people are well-intentioned but keep their horses at home, working with what they know. I think they'd be ok to deal with. I'd be happy to go check it out for you and take measurements if this looks like "the one."
                                        The armchair saddler
                                        Politically Pro-Cat