Unlike the more commonly known English saddles, Western saddles are made up of a solid wooden or fibreglass tree, and are therefore not easily adjustable. There are various types of Western saddles, categorised by design for their particular discipline, be it barrel racing, reining, roping or Western pleasure.
In South Africa, Western saddles are hard to come by and are often very expensive, and frequently you need to import the correct saddle for your preferred discipline, as the locally made versions are general-purpose saddles, used mainly for farm work or trails. Given these limitations, it is very important to fit the saddle correctly for both you and your horse.
As per the English alternative, a Western saddle that does not fit correctly can be uncomfortable and even cause injury to your horse. Similarly, if the rider is not correctly positioned in the saddle, it will adversely affect their seat and thereby the general performance of horse and rider.
Unless your saddle is custom made for you and your horse, it is highly unlikely to find a 100% perfectly fitting Western saddle, but that does not mean that it is impossible to fit a Western saddle comfortably and correctly.
Another issue to bear in mind is the fact that horses change shape as they develop and grow, and as their exercise and nutrition vary throughout the years. For this reason, you require a good-quality, effectively fitted saddle, designed for your horse’s specific conformation type, which can accommodate these changes over time. Blankets and saddle pads are used in conjunction with the ideally fitted saddle to ensure the perfect fit and ultimate comfort of the horse during these periods of change, or even when a saddle is being used on many different horses with similar physical types.
As important as finding the right fit, correct positioning of the saddle on the horse’s back is imperative. A saddle situated in the wrong place can cause major discomfort and even injury to the horse, as well as influencing poor rider position. Unfortunately, poor placement is an error made by many riders and is very often blamed on a poorly fitted saddle.
We now look into tips for fitting a saddle correctly for Western riding.
The full article appears in the September issue (126) of HQ > Shop now