Reining-saddle test ride.
During a reining pattern, you'll need to move your body and your legs forward and backward to cue for various maneuvers. Make sure your reining saddle allows for free movement.
Before you get on, look at the detail. Does the seat look flat and have a narrow twist, allowing you to sit back or lean forward without a high cantle or high seat rise? A reining saddle shouldn't lock you into one position. Look at the leather. Is it good quality? You don't want your stirrup fender to stretch easily on the left side where you mount. Also look at how the riggings attach. Will they rub on the fenders and cause holes, or do all attachments lie flat?
When you sit in a saddle before your purchase (and do test before you buy), make sure that the stirrups hang straight down and that you're in a balanced position. Next, swing your legs forward and back and make sure the movement feels smooth—without cumbersome materials to limit you. For a stop, you need to get your legs forward, but if you need to kick, you need to reach back—all with fluid motion.
Go through the motions of the maneuvers: You want to sit deep without hitting your spine on the cantle when you go to a sliding stop. If you're doing fast circles, you don't want there to be excessive buildup in the front that will stop you from moving forward to ask for speed.
Tip: If you invest in a work saddle and show saddle, make sure the saddles have the same tree and same design. Only the external decorations should be different. Your everyday saddle and your show saddle should feel the same so your cues are always consistent. And keep in mind you don't need tons of sparkle in the reining pen. All judges' eyes are on you, and it's more important that your tack be clean and work well instead of having tons of shine.
--Reining Trainer Devin Warren, Franktown, Colorado (2011 Dodge(r) Invitational Freestyle Reining Champion)
Model: The Reinmaker Competition Series.
Maker: Leson Saddles.
Why buy: Made with many of Donn Leson's custom saddle features (hand-made in his studio, laminated wood and rawhide tree, permanently twisted stirrup leathers, close-contact seat and skirt, and strong rigging dees) but without the expected price tag. The seat is padded and has top-grain leather, and the saddle is finished with corner tooling and an all-over basket stamp; add on more options at your discretion. Made by a master who's made saddles since 1966.
More info: lesonsaddles.com; (541) 476-1762.
Price: Starting at $3,999.
Add the Bling
Model: Cicero Floral.
Maker: Kyle Tack.
Why buy: Choose a work version (as shown) or add full tooling and customized silver on a saddle with the same custom tree. Hermann Oak leather on the whole saddle and smooth or suede leather seats in your favorite leather colors. Opt for engraved, leather, wooden, or aluminum stirrups. All saddles are made to order.
More info: kyletack.com; (877) 429-2116.
Price: Starting at $4,000.
Model: Lady Reiner Saddle.
Maker: Bob's Custom Saddles.
Why buy: Women wanted the narrow seat and a close-contact feel. This saddle delivers and offers slightly shorter skirts, fenders, and seat jockeys. Narrow fenders allow riders' legs to move freely. An in-skirt rigging adds to the close feel.
More info: bobscustomsaddles.com; (800) 207-6373.
Price: As shown, $6,602.
Rose of Texas
Model: Billy Cook Hamley Rose Reiner.
Maker: Simco-Longhorn Co., Inc.
Why buy: Made in Texas and hand-carved with a swirling rose border, this saddle has stirrups and fenders tooled to match. The cut-away skirts, full double stainless rigging with dropped front dees, and tree designed for the sport make it sturdy and smooth.
More info: simcolonghorn.com; (800) 251-6294.