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Western saddles compared to English saddles

The Western saddle is different from an English saddle in that it has no padding between the tree and the external leather and fleece skirting. The weight bearing area of the saddle is large and usually covered with sheepskin, but it must be padded with a saddle blanket in order to provide a comfortable fit for the horse. Western saddles are extensively decorated—the carved leatherwork is often a true work of art—and intricately carved silver conchos and other additions are frequently added to the saddle for show purposes. More than any other style of saddle, the western saddle can be customized to be a true expression of the rider's taste and style. A fine quality western saddle, properly maintained, is intended to last for a person's lifetime, or even beyond.

Other differences between the Western and English saddles include:

An English saddle has no horn, no protective fenders and a different padding system on the horse's back
An English saddle has no horn, no protective fenders and a different padding system on the horse's back
  • Stirrups: Those of the Western saddle cannot detach from the saddle in an emergency, but instead have a wider tread; combined with the rider's high-heeled cowboy boots, the design minimizes the risk that the rider's feet will slip through the stirrup during a fall, and the rider being dragged.
  • Method of securing the saddle to the horse: Rather than buckling on as does the English girth, the Western girth, known as a cinch, is tied on with a flat strap of leather or nylon called a latigo, though modern latigos have holes added so that a buckle can be used, either in place of the knot or in addition to one.
  • Seat and Cantle: These parts of a western saddle are more pronounced than in an English saddle and may provide greater comfort and security to the rider.
  • Tree: The tree of a western saddle is larger and covers more surface area than that of an English saddle. There is little padding between the tree bars and the underside of a western saddle, whereas much of the weight bearing area on an English saddle is supported by a large amount of internal flocking inside the panels.

While a western saddle is designed to be ridden for many hours at a stretch, for covering distance when time is a factor, such as Endurance riding, the lighter English saddle dominates.

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