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here are many types of Western saddle available. Some are general-purpose models while others emphasize either greater freedom for the horse or greater security for the rider, as may be necessary for specialized work in the various Western horse sports such as cutting, reining, barrel racing, team roping, equitation and western pleasure. Factors such as width of the swells, height of the cantle, depth of the seat, placement of the stirrups and type of rigging all influence the uses of a given design. For example, a saddle with wide swells, high cantle and deep seat is suitable for cutting, where a rider must remain in a secure, quiet seat on the horse. At the other end of the spectrum, a saddle with a "slick fork" - virtually no swells - and a low cantle is suited for calf roping, where a rider must dismount quickly, often while the horse is still in motion, and not be caught up on the saddle.

The most common variations include the following:

  • Roping saddle: Heavy, sturdy saddle that usually has a thicker horn for securing a rope, low cantle, and slick fork that allows rider to dismount quickly when needed.
  • Cutting saddle: Has a deep seat and wide swells allows the rider to sit deep and securely through sharp stops and turns.
  • Barrel racing saddle: Lightweight saddle with wide swells and high cantle which allows rider to sit securely but also allows the horse to perform fast sprints and sharp turns.
  • Endurance saddle: Lighter weight than most western saddles, often without a horn, has a tree that spreads the rider's weight out over a large area of the horse's back, thus reducing pounds per square inch. Often has stirrups hung slightly farther forward, to allow rider to get off the horse's back when traveling at faster speeds. Designed for long rides at faster speeds
  • Trail saddle: Designed for maximum comfort of rider as well as a good fit for the horse, features deep, padded seat, designed for long rides at slower speeds.
  • Show saddle: May be based on roping, cutting, or other trees, but is characterized by additional leather tooling and silver decoration. Usually features a deep, padded seat that allows the rider to sit quietly and give the appearance of a smooth ride.
  • "Equitation" saddle: Show saddle with an especially deep seat to help hold a rider in place.


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