How Much Does A Western Saddle Weigh, And Why?

Jessica McDaniel
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Factors that Influence Saddle Weight

The weight of your western saddle will depend on several different factors, with the saddle seat, hardware, and type of material all impacting your western saddle's overall weight. The overall impact of each of these factors will also vary depending on what type of western saddle you're looking at since the various styles have varying weights. A rough estimate of the weight of a western saddle is between 20 and 60 pounds.

Obviously, there are a few reasons why your saddle would tip the scales. A lighter saddle is easier to carry, but if you tend to ride in very rocky terrain, you'll also need a heavier saddle that will be less damaged from falling. Saddles that are expected to be ridden in or around rivers or creeks will likely have an extra hole to safely tie a foot to the post for safety. If you're looking for a new seat, you'll want to be sure that your saddle has been made in a professional shop that uses safe and high quality materials. If you're looking for a new saddle or replacing a worn saddle, you want to make sure that you know the saddle's measurement and also verify that the measurement is correct for your situation before purchasing.

Duration of the Ride

Several factors influence how much weight you should add to your saddle when choosing the correct combination for the type and duration of your ride.

It is recommended to increase the weight on your saddle if you are planning a ride that is more than two hours long. However, there's some (rarer) types of saddles where this is actually the opposite. However, in general the logic that the longer you sit on the saddle, the more material is needed to make it comfortable for the whole ride and the heavier it gets.

Length of the ride, the terrain to be covered, your rock riding ability all play a part in deciding how much weight to add to your saddle.

If you’re riding long distances on a regular basis, you should purchase a saddle with an integrated seat post that you can easily adjust or that is custom fitted to you. This is especially important if you carry a heavy load, and have enough saddle-bags to carry additional weight, when you go on your long-distance journey.

Comfort of the Rider

Western saddle is divided into two main groups ‗ Light and Heavy. Light western saddle is designed for the comfort of the rider without using too heavy materials and it weighs between 20-35 pounds. Heavy western saddles use more materials to provide comfort for the rider and the mount and it weighs between 35-60 pounds. Obviously, it’s not always possible for every rider to have a saddle that weighs as little as they might want. The notable horn in the front and center of the saddle helps with the rider's stability, but also adds weight. That’s why you need to use saddle pads — these are the main cushions between the rider's body and the saddle.

Comfort of the Horse

Western saddles need to be comfortable for horses as well, but not only because they follow the natural contour of the horse's back. The horse's spine runs straight up and down and any saddle you put on a horse should not interfere with that natural position.

The saddle also needs to rest on the horse’s shoulder blades which should lay flat against the back and there should be not too much pressure on the spine. Each horse has its own weight limit. The part of the saddle that has the most effect on the horse’s comfort is the weight of the saddle itself. This is the part that many riders forget to think about when it comes to their horse’s comfort.

Budget

Budgeting and saving money are two very different things. Budgeting gives you an idea of how much you have to spend and saving money really means saving more than a budget.

Since budgeting doesn’t necessarily mean saving money, I like to think of these two terms as budgeting your money and saving money. This helps you ensure you’re effectively budgeting your money while at the same time trying to save more of it. But what do I mean when I say save more of your money?

If you’re anything like me, you try to obtain value at every turn. Whether it’s by buying cheaper groceries, not wasting gas, using coupons, using rebates or searching for the best prices available.

When I shop, I’m always looking for the best deal. So you might end up with an old used trail style saddle. Because the lighter the saddles are, the more expensive the usually get. At least if you want to keep comfort level high.

What Makes Western Saddles So Heavy

A lot of people ask me why western saddles are so heavy. And most of the time my response to that is pretty much like "Because it's made of leather and other dense materials." That tends to be the easiest answer.

A western saddle consists of a lot of parts. Not just the main frame, but the rigging (that's the leather straps and fittings), seat (fancy way of saying pad), cantle (a high point on the croup), skirt (outside part of seat), stirrups, horn (the bit that sticks out at the front of the saddle), all come together to make one complete saddle. And a lot of those parts have a lot of leather and a lot of stitching on them. Also, other materials like canvas, textile, metal, and suede are usually part of it.

In the late 1880's the US Army complained that it was too expensive to send their horse soldiers saddles overseas, so they decided to go with a lighter option (a McClellen saddle) and the US Army campaign saddle was born. An effort to find a lighter and cheaper alternative to the military saddle, the McClellen was only in use for a couple of decades.

Quantity of Material

It’s very possible that a western saddle will weigh more than an English one, but that’s only part of the story. Western saddles are made from differently from English saddles. Western saddles are designed to be as comfortable as possible for a person who is usually carrying a big load on their back. Quality leather accounts for more weight. The leather is often cut thick, filled with foam and wrapped in felt, canvas, suede, or textile. The use of inlays and inlay work also contributes to the weight of a saddle. They are pieces of metal, leather, or wood that are glued into the saddle and then the leather is hand tooled to look like an inlay. What’s great about inlays is that they add to the style.

Types of Materials

The saddle consists of the following parts:

The Tree

The Tree is the foundation of the saddle. It consists of wood shaped into a cradle, which the horse’s back rests against. The Tree is what gives the saddle its shape, and has various layers of padding, strategically placed all around the tree to form the shape of the saddle.

The Felt

The Felt is placed on top of the tree to help adjust the saddle to the horse’s back. It serves the purpose of allowing sweaty backs to dry, and to relieve pressure points on the back.

The Skirting

The Skirting is a material that’s placed on the front skirt of the tree. The skirting helps to prevent saddle wear and tear by keeping the saddle in place while the horse moves around.

The Seat

The Seat is the part of the saddle that you actually sit on while riding. The seat helps distribute weight evenly over the horse’s back, and securely anchors the rider in place.

The Fitting

The saddle fitting is the part of the saddle that you adjust so your seat is securely in place. It is also referred to as the Parlare.

The Stirrups

The stirrups help you keep your balance while riding, and allow the rider to better control the horse.

Accessories

You see, a saddle is a support for a rider to sit on. That’s a simple enough explanation, but the way in which a saddle achieves this is a complex topic. That’s why saddles are constructed in different ways, depending on the purpose they are used for.

In western riding, you'll find saddles that are used to ride with a more upright posture. Reining riders specifically, opt for saddles with a straight-cut seat, as this position is more suited to the particular style of reining they compete in.

Other types of saddles, like the ones you can see in polo competitions, are made for a more forward riding position. Speed events also require a more upright saddle, while trail-riding and endurance require a more forward saddle position. In order to achieve this, saddle designers often build a saddle with a wide pommel and a narrow cantle (pommel and cantle are the front and back parts of the saddle respectively). Saddles may also have different features, like a longer horn, for a rider to place their hand on for greater balance, or short sides, for the leg to extend to the girth properly.

For the longer trips that are somewhat common with Western style saddles, you might want to bring saddlebags or the likes and those will obviously add weight as well.

Average Weights of Western Saddles Compared to Other Saddles

The majority of Western saddles weigh from 20 pounds to 60 pounds. These weights differ, depending on the saddle's manufacturer and style, as well as the materials used. Generally, the more comfort you're looking for, the heavier your Western saddle will be.

The average weight for a Polo saddle (25 pounds) is lighter than most Western saddles.

Saddle weights vary between specific saddle styles, and brands.

How Much Does a Western Saddle Weigh?

Modern western saddles have undergone many changes since their inception during the 16th and 17th centuries. The famous stereotypical image, with the flat cantle, sweeping horn and high pommels, derives from the time of the old west cowboys, like the gunslinging John Wayne, who sat straight-backed and firm-legged, despite horses that galloped across the open plains.

Today, with a much, much softer riding style and advances in technology, western saddles are lighter, and there is much more difference between them than, say, their cantle peaks on the top of the saddle. And while the differences between the best one and the worst are very, very subtle, the difference in weight from the best to the worst is probably about fourty pounds (and very, very noticeable to your back!).

The best leather, of course, is hide-on-hide, meaning that the whole side of the cow was used for one saddle.

Conclusion

The weight of a western saddle is important, but not the only thing to consider.

The first thing you notice about a western saddle is that it looks stable, but heavy.

This is usually the first thing that leads riders to believe that western saddles are much heavier than English saddles. In a sense, this is true. But the heavy look of a western saddle is mostly due to it’s large, blocky look and generous padding.

Because a western saddle is not as streamlined as an English saddle, there is a lot of space for padding, hence the misconception that a western saddle must be that much heavier.

If you are considering a western saddle for a smaller horse or for longer trips, the weight may be an issue. At the end of the day, you’ll need to know if you feel comfortable and in control.