Parts of a Western Saddle

To conclude our mini-series, let’s go over the parts of a western saddle. Due to the nature of their design there a few more parts to name than an English Saddle.


Horn: The horn is one of the main features of a Western Saddle. Not only is it a handy handle to grab onto it is also very useful when working cows and other ranch work. The horn design will vary on the style of the saddle but is a structural part of the saddle’s tree.

Pommel/Swell: The pommel/swell can be used as interchangeable terms. This part of the saddle is part of the saddle tree. Different heights and designs will vary on the style of saddle.

Gullet: The true gullet measurement on a western saddle comes from the distance between the pommel/swells on the inside of a saddle tree. There is no 100% way to measure this from the exterior of the saddle without knowing the specs. This distance will have the front distance of the beginning of the channel of the saddle tree.

Front Rigging Dee: You will find the front rigging dee’s on both sides of a western saddle. This is where the latigo and off-billet connect to the saddle and then attach to the girth. Similar to the billets on an English Saddle. There is a few different types of rigging, such as D-type rigging, in-skirt rigging, single rigging, double rigging, and different positions such as 7/8, 3/4, and 5/8. (We might have to go into this on another #TackTipTuesday)

Off Side Billet: The off-side billet is on the right side on the saddle. It attaches from the front rigging dee to the cinch. It is typically not adjusted as often as the left side latigo.

Blevins: These are how you adjust the length of the fenders and the stirrups on a western saddle. Typically come in 2-1/5” or 3” width and can easily be replaced if needed.

Hobble Strap: Also called Stirrup Hobbles. These are a very important safety features to have on your saddle. Having stirrup hobbles will prevent the rider’s foot from accidentally getting caught in between the saddle fenders.

Stirrup: You can find a variety of different styles of western stirrups made in a range of materials and in different sizes. All depending on the rider’s comfort and the task at hand. Barrel Racing stirrups tend to be made of lightweight aluminum, compared to roper stirrups which are heavier leather-wrapped stirrup with a wider footbed.

Fender: This is a great place for beautiful tooling to be showcased from the saddle maker. Fenders can also be found made of rough out. The fender is essentially a stirrup leather in English Saddle terms and can be adjusted for different lengths for the rider’s comfort.

Seat Jockey: The seat jockey is the leather that covers the fender and transitions to the seat of the saddle.

Seat Rise: The seat rise is used to explain the change of angle in the seat from front to back. It can be steeper in an equitation/show saddle to help keep the riders still, vs flatter in a cutting/roping saddle.

Seat: The seat is for fitting the saddle to the rider. Measured from the back of the pommel to the top of the cantle, straight back. Barrel saddles tend to run smaller compared to other styles of western saddles.

Back Cinch: Also called a rear cinch, this cinch is not supposed to be tight as the front cinch. This cinch helps to keep the longer western saddle level on the horse’s back. The back cinch needs to be connected to the front chinch with a leather hobble strap, this prevents the back cinch from sliding too far into the flanks of the horse.

Rear Rigging Dee: The back cinch will connect to the saddle at this point of the saddle.

Cantle: Similar to an English saddle, the cantle is the back of the seat of the saddle.

Back Housing: This term relates to the leather finish on the back of the saddle, connecting to the skirt.

Skirt: When you read the skirt measurement on listings, it refers to the total length of the saddle. This is an important measurement for horses with a short back. It also refers to the lower leather that surrounds the tree. You can have saddles with different styles of skirts, such as a round or square.