Western Saddles – Four Working Types

Lisa Blackstone

Western Saddle Review Top 4 Working Western Saddles Form To Function!

Jun 09, 2018

Western saddles come in a variety of designs.  Each design has evolved to reflect what the horse and rider are trying to accomplish.  The different intended purposes of these saddles will dictate how they are built to assist the rider.   This article is a quick Western saddles review to familiarize you with the main varieties.

To begin with, you will see some generic western saddles in most boarding barns that are not specifically designed for anything else other than comfortable riding and showing. They may change in fashion, such as the color of the leather, the tooling or silver trim, or the size and shape of the skirt.

But, when it comes to working western saddles, there are four very distinct saddles to cover in a western saddle review: the roping saddle, the cutting saddle, the reining saddle and the barrel racing saddle.

Let’s start with the Roping Saddle.  Riders who use roping saddles have specific needs to accomplish their discipline.  If you’ve seen any rodeos, you will recognize the sport with a rider quickly sprinting out of a shute and chasing a cow who has a slight head start.

The rider swings a rope over his head and tries to lasso the calf.  Once lassoed, the rider dallys the rope around the horn, dismounts and “hog-ties” the calf while the horse keeps the rope taut.

Now, this sport requires a heavy-duty, tough, strong saddle, while at the same time providing as much freedom of movement as possible for the rider.  The horn must be stronger and taller and thicker than most.

The roping saddle must be so strong that it can withstand the pressure exerted by tightened rope and the calf.  It will have a lower cantle so the rider can dismount quickly and easily without having the saddle get in the way.

Cutting Saddles are designed for an altogether different purpose.  Cutting horses cut a cow out of a herd and then keep it away from the herd with quick stops, turns and sprints.  Their riders must stay out of the way!

For these reasons cutting saddles have taller and thinner horns for the rider to grasp while riding these quick turns and stops.

Cutting saddles also have very high and wide swells.  This design helps the rider hold her position in the saddle.  Additionally, the fenders on Cutting saddles swing freely to help the rider stay balanced.

Now let’s look at the Reining saddle.  As you may know, reining horses perform patterns that exemplify the type of maneuvers required on a working ranch.  Even though we do not see working ranches as often as in the past, the athlete that can perform these tasks is a beautiful thing to watch.

Reining horses perform patterns that include very specific actions.  Circles, spins, sliding stops, backing, flying lead changes, are a few of the required maneuvers you will see in a reining pattern.

Reining saddles are built to help the rider perform these patterns.  The rider needs close contact and maximum ability to give subtle cues.

For that reason, the horn and the fork (pommel) will be lower than in some other western saddles.  This lowers the likelihood that the reins will get caught or otherwise impede the rider.

The rider must be able to shift himself during sliding stops and adjust his balance as the horse makes his moves.   Therefore, the seat is shaped so that the rider can shift himself during sliding stops and the skirts are cut out for closer leg communication.

The final saddle in our western saddle review is the Barrel Racing saddles.  If you have never seen a barrel race, let me describe this event:

Three barrels are placed (at a specified distance) in an arena, one at the far end, and two at each side of the arena some distance from the rail about half way down the arena.   A rider blasts at a full run into the arena headed to the barrel on the right.  She then turns around the barrel and heads to the left side barrel. After circling it, the rider heads to the barrel at the far end, circles it, and heads to the out gate as fast as possible.

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The rider who complete this the fastest without knocking over a barrel is the winner.

Since speed is of the utmost importance, Barrel Racing saddles are very light, unlike the earlier mentioned Roping saddles.   The rider must maintain maximum maneuverability through this pattern, so the saddle fenders swing freely.

The saddle horn is also thinner and taller than the others so the rider can grasp the horn to help balance, in this fast paced event.

As you can see, there are great differences in western riding  saddles to cover in a western saddle review.   There are many good western saddle brands to choose from.   Good used saddles can be found as well.  just do some shopping!

I welcome your comments and any other information you would like to share at my blog!  Also, visit my site at Horse And Rider Club.  Lots of good information there too!

Well, I hope that helps!

With Warm Regards,

Lisa Blackstone
American Horse Association

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