Last updated: August 7, 2021

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Welcome to our big western saddle test 2022. Here we present all the western saddles we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best western saddle for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a western saddle.




Summary

  • Western saddles allow you to sit comfortably and above all safely on the horse. They are comfortable for the horse and the rider due to the special weight distribution.
  • There are two basic types of western saddles. The Californian, which is similar to the dressage saddle, and the Texan, which is mainly used for working with farm animals.
  • Not every western saddle is suitable for every horse, so it is advisable to choose a saddle that suits your horse.

The Best Western Saddle: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a western saddle

Who is a western saddle suitable for?

The suitability of the saddle for the horse depends on the fit, as not all horses have the same dimensions.

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The western saddle is usually used for western riding or, in recent years, increasingly for leisure riding. Originally, the saddle was used by cowboys in the Wild West to perform strenuous work over a longer period of time. As a result, the saddle used to weigh between 15-25 kg. (Image source: pixabay.de / skeeze)

The question that should also be asked is, how is the saddle used? The fit depends on several factors.

However, the basic assumption is that the saddle should not rest on the shoulder and should not go beyond the 18th vertebra.

If these guidelines are not adhered to, this will lead to increased muscle and joint problems in horses, because the freedom of movement of the animal is not given.

What size and weight should the western saddle have?

The size depends on the horse as well as the manufacturer, year of construction and species. It also depends on the size of the rider and the seat size. Not every horse is built like another. The weight can be narrowed down to 10-25 kg.

The size of the saddle can be determined using various measuring instruments. Some manufacturers only want to know the seat size and the gullet width, but this does not make the size 100% accurate.

The seat size is given as 14-18 inches (2.54 cm = 1 inch), for the different seat sizes. However, there are variations between manufacturers.

The easiest way is to decide which saddle you want and then have an expert come and measure the horse. They will then measure the exact distances and lengths.

The weight is influenced by the material. A very light saddle can weigh as little as 7 kilograms, while the average is between 10 and 25 kilograms. In comparison, English saddles weigh between 6-10 kilograms.

Which fit is right for me?

The fit depends on the breed and the build of the horse.

It is also about having a good seat on the horse yourself, which is why the seat size plays a role. It depends on what you want to use the saddle for.

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Here you can see a typical picture of barrel racing in Utah. Here you can see the two belly straps and how the rider's centre of gravity is shifted. (Image source: pixabay.de / tcdeveloper)

There are different ways to find out the fit of the horse:

  • Putting on the saddle (usually inaccurate)
  • Putting on the tree
  • Equiscan (not all saddlers have the software)
  • Plaster cast
  • Horseshape (scanner)
  • Saddle checker (metal bar)
  • Thermal image (before and after using the saddle)
  • Sweat image (pressure points are clearly more sweaty)
  • Impressions Pad (gel fluid under the saddle)
  • Visual inspection during riding

It is best to have an expert check or fit the horse to prevent any problems.

For which horse breeds is the western saddle suitable?

Western saddles are basically suitable for all horses, but especially small, agile breeds. It is important to know whether the saddle is suitable for what you need it for. There are breeds that have been bred specifically for western riding.

Horse breed Features
Quater Horse Flexible and compact or narrow and agile
Appaloosa Pied coat, small and agile
Paint Horse Kind-hearted, persistent

Horses with a withers height of about 1.55m, broad shoulders and narrow hips are often used for western riding. Haflingers and Fribourgers also belong to these breeds.

What alternatives are there to a western saddle?

There are a good 14 different types of saddle, classified according to breed and discipline.

The most common type is the English saddle and from this, different superstructures have developed. These can be used in overlapping disciplines.

The most commonly used types are:

  • Eventing saddle
  • Dressage saddle
  • Jumping saddle

However, there are also disciplines in which a special saddle is required, such as the polo saddle, the military saddle, the racing saddle or the endurance saddle.

There are also saddles for Icelandic horses, such as the Tölt saddle, which distributes the weight differently than other saddles.

What does a western saddle cost?

The question of cost always depends on the quality, the material and the manufacturer. A distinction is also made between new, used and custom-made saddles.

The price range of the individual manufacturers is understandable, whereby it is of course true that the cheapest is not of high quality, but also that the most expensive is not necessarily the best product.

Prices start at around 200 euros and can go up to around 2500 euros. Of course, there are also various manufacturers who sell saddles for considerably more.

Type Price range
Used approx. 200-500 €
New approx. 500-2500 €
Custom-made from 1000 € upwards

Decision: What types of western saddles are there and which one is right for you?

When buying a western saddle, there are two basic types you can choose between:

  • Californian Saddles
  • Texan Saddles

There are also different styles of western saddle such as:

  • Reining Saddle
  • Pleasure Saddle
  • Ladies Reiner Saddle
  • Pro Balance Saddle
  • Buckaroo or Wade Saddle

Below we will explain the advantages and disadvantages of these saddles in more detail to help you decide.

What distinguishes a California saddle and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

California Ranch Saddles are very similar to English saddles in use. However, the construction is very different.

Advantages
  • High horn
  • High rear saddle frame (also called cantle)
  • Seat similar to dressage saddle
  • Simple thigh support possible
Disadvantages
  • High weight
  • No subsequent adjustment
  • Re-girthing problematic
  • Jumping height limited

The lower seat gives a better fit and less strain on the horse.

The thigh aids are easier than with a Texas saddle, but it is not possible to girth from the horse.

What distinguishes a Texas saddle and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Texan saddles are mainly designed for working with livestock, for example with an additional girth to prevent the saddle from slipping if an animal tied to the horn tries to break free.

Because the centre of gravity is at the back, the weight is distributed more evenly, but this makes leg aids problematic.

Advantages
  • Flat horn
  • Flat cantle
  • Centre of gravity at the back
Disadvantages
  • Hardly any leg aids possible
  • High weight
  • Subsequent adjustment hardly possible

But made the cowboys' work easier, as they did not have to concentrate on it. The flat horn and the flatter support part is also an advantage for sitting more comfortably in the saddle.

Buying criteria: You can compare and evaluate western saddles on the basis of these factors

In the following we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate western saddles. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a certain product is suitable for you or not.

In summary, these are:

  • Material
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Fit
  • Price-performance ratio

In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Material

Originally, western saddles were made of leather with wood inlays. In the meantime, there are different materials that are used for the production.

Leather is often stiff on new saddles and only becomes softer with use. However, it is also more adaptable than, for example, synthetic or plastic.

Plastic and synthetic are soft, but these materials hardly adapt to the horse. Both are significantly lighter than leather.

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Simple western saddle made of leather, as it is often manufactured. (Image source: pixabay.de / TechPhotoGal)

Leather is heavier than other materials in terms of weight, but if it is cared for regularly, it is all the more durable.

Weight

As mentioned above, the western saddle is heavier than the other saddles and weighs between 15-25 kilograms.

The weight is not a problem for the horses, as the weight distribution is more even due to the wider contact surface.

Endurance saddles are lighter because, unlike the other types of western saddles, they do not have a horn. A heavier representative of its kind is the roping saddle, which was made especially for heavy farm work.

The weight always depends on the material. Leather is usually heavier than plastic or synthetic. Another criterion is your own weight, because not every saddle can bear the same weight.

Size (inches or centimetres)

The size is often given in inches, because historically the influence from Great Britain is perceived to be very large.

It is also given in centimetres. For brief information, one inch corresponds to 2.54 cm.

We have already described the dependence of size. An important aspect is the saddle tree. It rests on the back on both sides and is responsible for you not falling off the horse.

To measure the saddle tree you should take a close look at the parts it is made of. From these you can find out the angle of the bars, for example, using the width of the gullet. The angle is crucial for the fit.

The different sizes of the manufacturers are listed between 14 and 18 inches, which corresponds to approx. 35 to 45 centimetres.

Many producers require the comb width as well as the rider's seat size. The crest width consists of the two points of the saddle tree that lie to the left and right.

Fit

The fit depends on the horse, rider and manufacturer. You should always be aware that the saddle must fit your horse, otherwise consequential damage can occur.

As mentioned above, the fit can be determined with different instruments. The basic rule is that the saddle should not rest on the shoulder blades and not behind the 18th thoracic vertebra.

The rider's weight also plays an important role in the fit. More specific are the dimensions of the buttocks, so that one has a perfect fit on the horse.

Furthermore, the duration of use is a point you should consider. Depending on the quality, you should consider how long you want to use the saddle.

Another important point is that you should always try the saddle on and use it on your horse to determine the exact fit.

A subsequent adjustment is hardly possible with western saddles and is associated with high costs.

Price-performance ratio

Apart from the fit, the materials are also important. They determine the price.

The production of the materials often plays a role in whether the western saddle is expensive or not. Cheap leather is often produced and treated in third countries and transported to the manufacturer for processing.

High-quality leather is usually processed in Europe and is therefore more expensive in terms of production and processing costs. The colour also plays a role in the price, should the leather have to be dyed in a special colour.

The material of the saddle tree is also important. With cheap products, the wood is usually made of inferior or defective wood and thus not resilient. Therefore, it is worth looking at the workmanship of the entire saddle.

Facts worth knowing about western saddles

What consequences can the wrong fit have for my horse?

Irritations and injuries of the muscles, ligaments and bones can be consequential damages of an incorrect saddle.

The saddle then presses on the shoulder, with an additional load on the forehand or the rear vertebrae and forms a hollow back.

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A saddle that does not fit properly can press on the forehand and the rear vertebrae, causing injury. The wrong seat position can also cause damage to the rider's posture. (Image source: pixabay / evixtus)

Can the western saddle be adjusted to the horse afterwards?

In principle, no. The saddle should be made for the horse from the beginning and fit properly.

There are saddlers who will consider retrofitting the tree, but this usually involves high additional costs for the owner.

How do I clean a western saddle properly?

Cleaning depends on the material. We will only briefly discuss the cleaning of a leather saddle. Clean it with warm water and leather soap and let it dry well.

Oil it at regular intervals. It is important that the oiling is not done too often, but only to prevent the saddle from becoming brittle.

Where can I sell my western saddle?

There are different ways to sell your saddle. You can ask at the stable, go to fairs or offer it for sale on the internet.

However, the same rules apply as with a purchase and you should exercise caution.

Picture source: 123rf.com / 21429

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