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Western Saddle Style Variations

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Western Saddle Style Variations

Did you ever wonder what defines a Barrel Racing Saddle verses a Cutting Saddle, a Rough-Out Saddle or a Show Saddle? There are numerous Western Saddle styles and each is designed for a unique purpose in mind. This article describes the main characteristics of these saddle styles. The bullet points below each saddle style highlights the main differentiating features.

Barrel Racing Saddle

  • Designed for speed, handling and stability around a barrel course
  • The saddle is smaller and lighter than the typical Western Saddle
  • May be used for various types of events
  • The skirt is smaller to reduce the weight of the saddle
  • Narrow stirrups to reduce foot slippage
  • Has a deep seat to increase the riders stability
  • In skirt single front rigging (no flank cinch)
  • A tall thin horn to allow the rider to easily grab onto around hair pin turns
  • A higher cantle and fork with wider swells for added rider security (the fork is the part of the saddle below the horn)
  • A rough-out seat, jockeys and fenders to increase the rider’s grip to the saddle (the rough side of the leather faces out)
  • May offer a choice of seat colors from a pastel color to black
  • The fenders swing to enable the rider’s legs to maintain the proper center of gravity

Cutting Saddle

  • Designed for separating or “cutting” an animal from a larger herd.
  • Double rigging-front and flank cinch
  • A tall thin horn to allow the rider to easily grab onto around hair pin turns
  • Longer, flat smooth seat to enhance maneuverability
  • Rough-out jockeys and fenders to increase the rider’s grip
  • Has a low cantle so it won’t hit the rider’s back
  • The fenders swing and are hung forward to enable the rider to handle quick stops and maintain their balance around turns
  • High, wide straight swells to better secure the rider around turns

Rough-out Saddle

  • Designed to offer the rider added grip to the saddle while riding
  • A rough-out saddle is made with the flesh side of the leather facing out instead of the grain side out
  • The flesh side of the leather is rough and the grain side is smooth
  • The roughness of the flesh side or “rough-out” side of the leather helps prevent the rider from slipping around in the saddle
  • Some saddles are completely rough-out and some are partially rough-out.
  • The seat, seat jockeys and fenders are the most common rough-out saddle parts.

Show Saddle

  • Show saddle are decorative saddles designed for horse shows
  • Has intricate tooling patterns and silver trim to enhance the appearance
  • Has a low silver trimmed cantle
  • A silver trimmed short fork and horn
  • Deeper skirts to enhance the tooling and silver trim
  • Padded or rough center balanced seat for grip and correct positioning
  • Turned stirrups to allow for proper leg alignment with silver trim to add to the appearance

This article is meant to present the general high level differences between some of the various Western saddle styles. It does not take into consideration the riders personal preferences or the differences between saddle manufacturers.

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