Different Types of Western Saddles
The difference between western saddle styles is not as extreme as English saddles, but there are a few different categories that a saddle can fall into.
Barrel Saddle: These saddles are typically the smallest and lightest of western saddles. They typically have a short skirt, tall thin horn, and a high cantle. They offer the rider to feel secure in the saddle when moving at high speeds such as in barrel racing.
Reining Saddle: This saddle is designed for a close contact feel between the horse and rider with a common cutout in the skirt. They are popular for more events than just reining, as they place the rider in a steady balanced position.
Cutting Saddle: Designed to help the rider stay balanced and out of the horse’s way when working cattle. Cutting saddles typically have a tall slim horn, high and wide swells, and a flat longer seat. These saddles can also be called Cow Horse saddles.
Wade Saddles: A true traditional wade saddle comes from a long line of history and horsemanship. These saddles are typically handcrafted which increases their value that they tend to hold. Designed for ranch work, and long hours in the tack. Wade trees have a wooden horn compared to a metal horn. The horns are also typically wider and lower. They also often have a lower set fork style, but will vary on the maker and design.
Roping Saddle: True roping saddles must be built off of a strong tree, as they will take a ton of force when a rider ropes a cow off their horse. This makes roping saddles more of a heavy-duty saddle, and are typically larger in size and weight than other western saddles. The horns are tall and thick, typically already wrapped if you are buying used.
Show/Equitation Saddles: Oh so shiny! Western show saddles can be true works of art beautifully designed with detailed tooling and lots of silver. Depending on the style, many may have a close contact cut, and typically have a smaller horner horn with a deep seat. Older-style Equitation saddles will have a steep rise from the front of the seat to the back.
Trail/Pleasure Saddles: Many saddles will fall into this category. There is no true set definition for a trail or pleasure saddle, but more of what fits the horse and feels comfortable for the rider. A true trail saddle will be designed with lots of ties and rings to allow for attachments for saddlebags, breastplates, and other items.