American horse owners who are browsing the internet for their first saddle purchase are much more than likely to consider a western saddle over any of the other types of saddles on the market, such as the English or Australian type, which is mainly down to the styling and overall purpose of the product.
For those individuals who are unconnected with the equine world it would seem that all saddles are the same when it comes down to it, however in reality there are many different types and styles to choose from and if it's your first time in doing so, making the wrong buying choice can not only be a waste of money but you could be causing your animal back pain which can be dangerous to the rider if the horse reacts to the pain which a poorly measured saddle would cause.
Before ordering a saddle, it is the buyers responsibility to measure certain areas of the horse in order to ensure as good a fit as possible, thus reducing the possibility of attempting to ride on a badly fitting saddle.
Consumers who choose a western saddle do so mainly for the following two reasons.
For the first reason listed above, the US has a long and well documented history of first rustling and subsequently training and using horses as low maintenance working animals on the ranch mainly for hearding and roping cattle, dating back to the days of legendary although real life cowboys such as Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok. In the period of US history known as the wild west, horses were also the only choice of transportation of goods across hundreds of miles of prairie.
Such events in history are steeped in American folklore forever and play a huge part in the reason why today's horse owners will likely opt for a western saddle, even if the horse owner neither works on a ranch or has any connection with a working horse environment.
Western saddles can be placed into four main categories. The show saddle, the barrel saddle, the roping saddle and pleasure saddle.
The show saddle can best be explained as described, in such a way that the show saddle is mainly used when the horse rider is riding for pleasure, or perhaps during a show type of event. On such an occasion, a show saddle is not required to carry out any type of work and roping bulls or calves will not be part of the riders duty when astride such a saddle. Western Show saddlery is manufactured for sale firstly to look superior to a standard type saddle above anything else although certain show saddles can be utilised to rope cattle if necessary.
Western show saddles are often adorned with emblems and the leather is normally hand finished using a process called tooling which is used to carve symbols and designs into the leather, making the saddle nothing short of a work of art. Show saddles are often completed with stainless steel D rings, adding to the overall embellished look of the product. As a consequence, western show saddles are generally more expensive than roping saddles or barrel saddles.
The second category can be split into sub categories. The western barrel saddle and the roping saddle. The barrel saddle differs from a show saddle or roping saddle in such that it is normally lighter and offers the rider a more crouched riding position to allow for quicker turns and easier maneuvering of the horse. Barrel saddles are mainly used for the popular activity of barrel racing in which the rider has to navigate the horse around a series of strategically placed barrels against the clock. The squat position in which the barrel saddle provides allows the rider to control the horse with less input although a different riding style needs to be mastered by the rider.
Western roping saddles allow the working ranch hand to attach a rope to the horn part of the saddle which is attached at the front and is mounted at the site close to the area between the horse's withers, a strong area at the front of a horses just above and between the shoulders. Attaching a rope here allows the horse to easily out muscle smaller animals such as bulls and calves.
A pleasure saddle is generally made from softer material and will have a softer seat, allowing the rider to ride for the longest possible distances without becoming saddle sore.
When choosing a western saddle, the horse rider needs to take into account exactly what the saddle will be used for before making their buying decision and must measure their horse at various points before choosing a saddle size and model. Specialist horse saddle websites will provide all of the information relating to horse measurements and saddle choice that's required before purchasing a saddle also. Incorrect sizing can cause the saddle to pinch the horses back muscles and cause significant pain when the rider mounts the animal. When this happens, the horse may try to throw the rider to avoid further pain and discomfort.