All natural horse care in the west of Ireland

Fun with a Western Saddle
Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Have been thinking for a while that it might be nice to try a western saddle. I was talking to someone the other day who rides western and they described it as really good fun. So I took the plunge and ordered a couple of western saddles to try out with my guys.


I ordered two synthetic western saddles a 15 and a 16 inch as I wasn't sure what size I needed and they were going really cheap on 50STG for the 15 and 65STG for the 16 plus 8STG each saddle for postage to Ireland.

From what I could find out there seems to be a couple of gullet widths and the most common saddle sizes are 15 and 16 inch. A 16 inch Western would be of similar fit as a 17.5 - 18 inch English saddle.

Western riding developed according to the needs of 'cowboys'. The Western saddle is made to distribute weight more evenly over the horse's back so horse and rider can counterbalance the weight of a roped cow. The seat is comfortable for long hours over rough terrain. The horn anchors a lariat when roping cattle.

English riding takes many of its traditions and equipment from European mounted military styles.

The 16 inch saddle arrived on Friday so I decided to try it out on Saturday with Polly.

After messing with the latigos and the cinch we decided to ditch the latigo and go with a Cinch-Em Up which I bought to go with my bare pack pad but hadn't actually tried yet.

When I had done the latigo up tight enough to make the saddle snug I thought it seemed to be cutting into Polly. Even though it needed to be tight to hold the saddle snug it seemed to be too tight. It was a webbing latigo, not leather so that may have been the problem

The Cinch-Em Up was much easier to use and didn't appear to be cutting into Polly. This little gadget makes it easy to adjust the cinch whilst on board as well. I dont think it would be that easy using a latigo, once mounted, as it is wrapped more that once around the D ring on the saddle. You would have to make sure the saddle was tightened sufficiently before getting up.

I wasn't sure about not having a rear flank cinch. I had read conflicting opinions. Some say alway use rear flank cinch as it secures the saddle whilst others described it as a 'bucking strap' if the horse wasn't used to a rear cinch.

I texted the person I spoke to before to ask if she used a rear flank cinch. She replied 'No, dont ever use the back cinch unless you're steer roping. Most horses will resist the back cinch cos it's hitting a very delicate spot. There's no need for it anyway, the saddle won't budge. Have fun!'

Once I was happy that the saddle was secure enough and Polly seemed happy, we headed out.

First things, first. Be aware, if you are moving to western from English you will need to lift your right leg (if you mount on the left) about 2 inches higher to get over cantle.

Once up, it was really very comfortable!!. And you are definately higher up than in a English saddle. But it does feel more secure.

We went out for a hack but decided to stick with walk and trot until me and Polly got used to the saddle. Polly didn't seem at all bothered with the change.

The hardest thing for me was trying not to rise (or as the cowboys would say: post) at the trot. I have only ever ridden English so I automatically rise for trot when out on a hack. I think I will be mixing it up and go with whatever is the most comfortable during the ride.

We were out for about an hour when we came to a steep hill that we had to go down that took us down into some forrestry. At this point Polly seemed confused and just stood at the top of the hill. After a little encouragement she did walk on but with very small steps initially. About half way down she started walking normally.

Dont know why she hesitated on the downhill?

We were out for a total of about 3 hours. When we got home and I took the saddle off Polly there was very little evidence of sweat marks. Had she been wearing an English saddle there definately would have been sweat marks under the saddle area.

Maybe as the weight of the saddle is more widely spread the horse doesn't sweat in the saddle area so much which can only be a good thing.

We will be trying Magpie in a western saddle next week when the 15 inch saddle arrives.

Good fun!!

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