Remember The Man From Snowy River? The film's heart-stopping horse action - including riders charging down a near-vertical cliff - was filmed without special effects and left trail riders all over wishing they were just a little bit Australian.
Of course, the film reflected an equally impressive reality. Aussies have more than 100 years of rugged cattle chasing and trail riding in their history. This experience has given rise to an abundance of functional tack, apparel, and natural-fleece products. If you're ready for the real thing, check out the tour companies ready to book you onto the ultimate Australian riding vacation.
The Australian stock saddle is the most famous Aussie contribution to modern riding. First developed 150 years ago to aid cattle drovers in the Outback, the saddle was designed with both the horse and the rider in mind.
Many trail riders, including competitive distance riders, choose the Australian stock saddle for a number of reasons. First, it's lightweight. Unlike traditional Western saddles that can weigh 25 pounds or more, the Australian stock saddle comes in around 15 pounds, sometimes less. You'll be able to easily lift the saddle onto your horse's back, and your horse will have less dead weight to carry on long rides.
Also, the saddle is famous for its ability to keep the rider on the horse. A deep seat and high knee pads (called Poleys) help you stay on during spooks, spins, and abrupt stops. These features were necessities for Australian Outback riders who faced snakes, crocodiles, and wild pigs as they rode through the country's steep and varied terrain.
And consider these trail-friendly details: The challenging Australian terrain gave rise to stirrup flexibility - designed to swing freely, the stirrup accommodates your leg position as you go up and down hills. Plus, the saddle typically sports a high pommel but no horn; horns add weight and bulk. (Models with horns are available, if you prefer.) And finally, the saddle is covered with D-rings and brackets for hanging saddlebags and other trail-riding accessories, and for attaching a breastcollar and crupper.
Note that the Australian stock saddle is traditionally made from leather, although synthetic versions are available; some Australian-made models feature crocodile-skin accents.