Barrel Saddles

Barrel racing saddles are designed for speed. They are the smallest and lightest of the western saddle types. The well-designed barrel saddle will secure the rider and maximize maneuverability through hard turns and fast sprints. In addition to barrels, these saddles are suitable for a variety of eventing games.

Typical features of a barrel saddle include:

With females comprising the majority of barrel racers, barrel saddles can often have a flashy look with a bold use of color and materials such as ostrich leather.

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Cutting Saddles

The cutting saddle is designed for “cutting,” the process of separating a single cow, steer, or calf from a larger herd. Cutting is a finesse activity and requires a finesse saddle. A cutter is designed for to keep the rider balanced and out of the way of the horse during sharp starts, stops, and turns. Contrary to what you might it expect, a cutter is not an overly secure saddle, so it’s up to the rider to use their balance to stay in place during what can be quite a wild ride.

Typical features of a cutting saddle include:

A cutter saddle is a relatively versatile saddle, which can make it an economical saddle to own. In addition to cutting, a cutter can be a good choice for training, for penning events and even for reining, in a pinch. These activities all require close contact and movement by the rider to stay out of the horse’s way.

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Endurance Saddles

The endurance saddle was designed for endurance competition where horse and rider can cover 50 to 100 miles in a single day. To be competitive, a rider needs a saddle that is lighter weight but still sturdy enough to withstand the long miles that can include rugged and steep terrain. Built for close contact with the horse, this saddle minimizes bulk wherever possible.

Typical features of an endurance saddle include:

While designed for competition, the endurance saddle is gaining popularity as a general trail saddle. It’s unusual styling, which is influenced by English versions, results in the most “unique” looking of all of the western saddle styles.

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Ranch Saddles

A ranch saddle is a true working saddle. You’ll find these saddles also called “cowboy,” “buckaroo,” “old time,” and “all-around,” with each term indicating slight differences. What they all have in common, however, is that they’re heavyweight, sturdy saddles designed both for cow work and for long hours of riding. Their goal is both comfort and functionality for a variety of ranch work.

Typical features of a ranch saddle include:

The ranch saddle, particularly the slick fork-style with a Wade tree, has regained popularity of late with the renewed interest in the buckaroo style of tack and riding. You’ll find a wide variety of these solid saddles for sale among both custom saddle makers and manufacturers. The ranch saddle is just a solid all-around using saddle.

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Reining Saddles

A reining saddle is designed for use in the sport of reining, a competitive event that involves meticulous patterns of circles, spins, and sliding stops. A reining saddle provides the rider with the close contact needed to communicate those moves to his horse in a manner so subtle that they will ideally go unseen by the spectator.

Reining is an event created to show off a horse’s athleticism and the advanced communication between horse and rider. In reining, it’s the horse, not the rider that’s the star. The reiner saddle will place the rider in the proper, balanced position and keep the rider out of the horse’s way.

Typical features of a reining saddle include:

The reiner is a very event-specific saddle designed to provide the rider with the maximum amount of contact with the horse for subtle communication cues that appear invisible. Although a reiner is definitely not appropriate as a working saddle, some riders like to use reining (and cutting) saddles as an overall training saddle because of the close contact and communication it provides with the horse.

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Roping Saddles

A roping saddle is designed for demanding use and maximum freedom of movement for the rider. In a well-designed roper, a rider can easily chase, rope, and dally a cow to the horn. To withstand this punishment, the saddle must have a particularly strong saddle tree and horn.

Typical features of a roping saddle include:

Specialty roping saddles are designed specifically for roping and are most often used by those participating in roping events. For more general-purpose ranch work and riding, ranch-type saddles are a better choice. They’re built for comfort during long hours of riding, but also incorporate features that make them suitable for roping.

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Show Saddles

The show saddle is designed for looking good rather than for working hard. These decorative saddles are for the horse show arena and are impacted by current fashion trends more than any of the other western saddle types. Particular styles and features come in and out of fashion, and if you want to be in the ribbons, you better know what’s in and what’s out. Nothing’s more embarrassing in the show circuit than to be caught with last year’s fashion.

Typical features of the show saddle include:

Like all fashion, show saddles seem to run the gamut from the tasteful to the truly tacky. It’s up to you to police yourself.

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Trail Saddles

The trail saddle is also known as a pleasure saddle as it’s specifically designed for pleasure riding. Comfort is the main goal. Hours in the saddle over uneven terrain can make you quite appreciative of a saddle that’s designed to lessen the wear on your body.

Since you won’t be doing heavy work on your pleasure rides, this saddle is much lighter weight than working saddles such as roping or ranch style saddles. Because trail saddles are so popular and the choice of so many riders, they come in more styles than any other western saddle type. You can choose from a wide variety of trees, horns, swells, seats, and skirt styles. Typical features of a trail saddle include:

Trail or pleasure saddles make up the largest group of saddles purchased today. Most riders simply ride for pleasure and don’t require heavy working saddles. Because of their popularity, the trail/pleasure saddle type is also where you’ll most often see new materials (i.e. synthetics) and new concepts (i.e. treeless saddles) first appear and gain traction.

While some pleasure riders prefer the comfort, security, and tradition of the ranch-type saddle, the trail saddle, with its many varieties and lighter weight, will be the ticket for the majority of riders.

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