Western saddles - are they better for the horse?
I’ve heard this debate a few times. Some people believe Western saddles are more comfortable for the horse and rider. Others think an English style saddle is best.
The truth is, so long as your saddle fits properly and is suited to your main riding activity, any saddle should be fine. Western saddles aren’t “better” than English saddles and vice versa. As we all know, if your horse is comfortable and happy that’s half the battle! Then of course, you - the rider, needs to be equally as comfortable.
So what is the main difference between Western and English saddles? We’ve talked about this in previous blogs but to recap quickly, generally speaking, English saddles are good for jumping / hunting / hacking. Western saddles, being designed specifically for longer spells in the saddle, are more suitable for ranch work, long trail rides and barrel racing. Not that the rider spends long spells of time in the saddle whilst barrel racing - but they definitely need something mega secure to sit on! I’m in awe of barrel racers. One sudden spook on a quiet hack and I might be on the ground…. so how you guys stay on and bend round those barrels at astonishing speed is completely beyond me!
I digress. It all comes down to personal preference. This blog writer is based in the UK and most of her riding career has been spent in English general purpose saddles. However, I have had the good fortune to try the western style of riding and saddles. It was a few years ago, admittedly, but I’d love to try it again.
My most vivid recollection of the experience was sinking into what looked like an extraordinarily large, very ornate saddle with a horn at the front. Hurrah - something to hold on to and oh boy was that saddle comfortable! It’s safe to say my western riding style needs a bit of work but it’s definitely something I’d like to revisit one day.
We had a western riding instructor that day and I’m not sure who was more confused - me or the horse, or said instructor with our attempts at neck reining and one-handed riding. Very different to our slightly, dare I say it (just my personal thoughts here) stiff and bolt upright style of riding in the UK. I was forever being told to “sit up” in my early horse riding days. As well as “don’t forget to breathe!” Concentrating on staying on board and moving the horse at the same time, remembering where my legs, heels, arms and hands were all meant to be simultaneously was all a bit much for me. Thankfully I have improved and breathe more normally now! (Although I do have the odd relapse depending on what’s happening in my four legged friend’s head at the time).
With an artistic background, something I especially love about Western saddles as opposed to English ones, is the huge variety of styles available and the absolutely stunning craftsmanship and design detail that is present in so many of them. The bigger surface area of the western saddle (designed specifically to spread the rider’s weight over the horse’s back) is the perfect place for design detail.
Of course you’ll know all this if you’re already familiar with western saddles, but for any readers who aren’t - you should take a look at our western saddles range on our website. Prepare to be amazed just how many styles there are to choose from! In fact I’d suggest grabbing a coffee, putting up the “do not disturb” sign and finding a comfortable chair to start your browsing.
To sum up, there is no saddle type that is better than another. It just needs to fit the horse and rider properly and be suitable for its end use. Plus of course be to your taste. To use one of my favourite phrases at the moment just “do you.”
As usual if you want any advice then just shout. We’re here to help you and just a phone call away!