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What’s the difference between a Western and English saddle?

Those with a passion for horses and horseback riding riding can easily distinguish the differences between a Western and English saddle.

Each specific saddle is designed for the type of riding it is meant for. Western saddles are used primarily for barrel racing, reining and cutting, while English saddles are used primarily for jumping and dressage. While the differences between the two saddles may not be as obvious to the rest of us, telling the difference between the two types is relativel easy when you consider the following points:

Western saddles were originally developed for cowboys who spent long days in them and are much heavier than an English saddle. The seat of a Western saddle was designed to keep a cowboy comfortable during long hours of range riding. Western saddles distribute the weight of both the rider and the saddle over a larger portion of the horse’s back, making long rides less tiring and a bit more comfortable for the horse.

With a contoured cantle, fenders, stirrups and horn, western saddles are constructed of wood covered in either fiberglass, rawhide or ralide. Most are covered in leather, with the seat covered in suede. The underside of the western saddle can be covered in sheepskin, wool or acrylic. Most western saddles are blinged out with ornate carvings in the leather and silver accents.

Western saddles are also available in a number of specialty models, designed for roping, pleasure or trail riding or reining. Each speciality western saddle has different features, such as a smaller horn and different balance, depending on the type of riding it is meant for.

English saddles provide the rider with more contact with a horse’s back. Lighter than a Western saddle, English saddles are constructed on a laminated wooden tree that is steel reinforced or out of a synthetic wood. The English saddle is covered with plain leather or a leather look-alike or fabric covering. They are stuffed with foam or a combination of wool and acrylic fibers.

Like the Western saddle, there are different types of English saddles suited to the type of riding that is being done. The Dressage saddle helps to sit the rider in a more upright position and puts the legs closer to the horse’s sides. Close contact jumping saddles feature a shallower seat more forward facing flaps. The General or All-Purpose saddle offer a deeper seat than the contact jumping saddle and flaps that are between those of the Dressage.

If you are a devotee of Saddleseat Equitation riding, then a Lane Fox saddle is required. This saddle features straight flaps, a flat seat and no rider knee rolls and is perfect for the Saddleseat classes such as the Morgan, Tennessee Walker and Saddlebred.

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