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Western Saddle Buyer’s Primer

Ready to shop for a Western saddle? Here's a primer on how Western saddles differ by event discipline, plus a list of shopper resources and a handy seat-sizing chart.

H&R photo files
H&R photo files

Western Saddles, by Event & Interest
Trail & pleasure: Wide selection, padded seat, large skirt, light tree (usually plastic or new "flex" trees), in-skirt rigging, high or low cantle, not designed for roping or ranch work.

All-around: Flat seat for versatility; often padded, suede seats; close-contact skirting to assist in "feel"; reinforced rigging, roping-style horn, and wooden tree for light roping.

Barrel racing: High cantle with deep seat pocket for security, short skirt, high horn, in-skirt rigging, often with suede seat or tooled seat back and jockeys for added grip.

Cutting: Low cantle, high pommel and horn; flat seat with low rise at pommel; back cinch and slim stirrups; jockeys and fenders of rough-out material for grip.

Endurance: Comfortable seat, lightweight, no saddle horn, minimal skirt, many saddle strings for securing equipment.

Ranch: Big, heavy; slick seat for all-day riding and easy care; sturdy tree for roping; high cantle and back cinch; typically with plate rigging, which is easy on the horse.

Reining: Close-contact saddle for rider feel and ease of providing leg, foot cues; low horn and pommel to facilitate rein handling; often highly decorated for show arena; flat seat for easy hip movement.

Roping: Strong, sturdy tree of wood wrapped in rawhide, bull hide, or fiberglass; reinforced rigging and back strap; "pocket" seat and suede material provide excellent grip and help strengthen rider's position--standing or seated.


Show: Detailed tooling, often with silver work on skirts, cantle, pommel, horn and stirrups; equitation seats emphasize balance; deep pockets aide rider's position; "turned" stirrups for easy foot placement; often close- contact.

Training: Reining-style saddle trees common; low pommels and cut-out skirts for close contact; padded, suede seats for grip; fenders and jockeys of rough-out leather for added grip.

Horse Saddle Shop
Phone: 866-880-2121
Online and catalog retailer carrying multiple lines of Western saddles from name-brand American manufacturers, including Fabtron, Dakota, Bighorn, Billy Cook, TexTan, Tucker, Circle Y and more. Offers online assistance for saddle-fitting and saddle-buying advice. (formerly Country Supply)
Phone: 800-637-6721
Online retailer of farm, ranch, and equine supplies, including a variety of saddle lines, saddle accessories, blankets and horse tack.

Phone: 423-559-8799
Maker of quality tack and American saddles for all disciplines, including trail, ranch, show, roping, reining, cutting and barrel racing. Featuring "flex tree," as well as traditional tree designs.
Phone: 760-451-2075
Online (and traveling) retailer of new and used, top-quality "boutique" and custom saddle lines, especially reining saddles, by makers including Bob's, Donn Leson, Leddy and others.

Circle Y Saddles of Yoakum, Texas
Phone: 800-882-5375
Major manufacturer of American-made saddles for all events and purposes; pioneer in "flex tree" saddle design and super-tough Kevlar-reinforced saddle trees.

American Saddlery Inc.
Phone: 800-251-7288
Tennessee-based saddle company representing a variety of saddle lines, including recently acquired Big Horn Saddles; online dealer locator and product information.

Western Saddle Seat Sizing Chart by Rider's Weight and Height
Courtesy of The Horse Saddle Shop

5'- 5'5" tall 5'6" - 5'9" 5'10"+
100-125 pounds 15" 15" 16"
126-145 16" 16" 16"
146-165 16" 16" 16"
166-185 16" 16" 16"
*Pear-shaped women
17" 16" 16"
196-225 17" 17" 17"
226-250 17" 17" 17"
*Pear-shaped women
18" 17" 17"
250+ 18" 18" 18"


For more great saddle-buying tips, see "10 Tips for Saddle Buyers" in the May 2010 issue of Horse & Rider. To order a copy of this issue or other back issues, call 877-717-8928.

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