Finding the best western saddle for you and your horse is critical to success in the show ring, out on the trail, or at home. The right western saddle provides optimal connection and comfort for both you and your horse, minimizing the risk of sores for your horse or throwing off your balance, so you will want to find the best, well-fitting one, regardless of your discipline. If you feel overwhelmed by so many choices, we created this guide to help you determine which saddle should enhance your riding performance and ensure your horse’s comfort.

Understanding the Western Saddle

Although different western saddles meant for certain disciplines do not all look or feel the exact same, they generally all share the same parts, including a horn, square or circular skirt, and set of fenders with stirrups. Western saddles are typically heavier than english saddles as well since they were originally designed to provide ample stability and make working long days on ranches more comfortable.

Today, each type of western saddle is created for a specific purpose. For example, saddles are crafted with reining in mind, trail riding, barrel racing, and many other disciplines. Depending on what you and your horse like to do, you may need to find a saddle suited for your chosen discipline to maximize comfort for both you and your horse as well as to help you position yourself properly while riding.

Ranch Saddles

Ranch saddles can be pretty heavy and offer deep seats and high cantles for comfort, perfect for working cattle. The seat is usually a rough-out style, which provides greater traction for riders and keeps them secure in the saddle. Basic ranch horse saddles usually have low swells and double rigging. Ranch-cutting or cow horse saddles tend to have fenders hung slightly forward in front of the seat, so they are best if you need to sit deep into your pockets during quick maneuvers. If you rope instead, a ranch roping saddle is more likely to feature a shorter, thicker horn that can be wrapped and used to throw a rope from horseback without sacrificing your balanced seat.

Work Saddles

A western work saddle is also designed for long days working on the ranch. It offers a comfortable, deep seat, high cantle, thick horn, square skirt, and long swells. The fenders are usually hung directly below your seat, and you will find that double rigging is common. The basic work saddle is great if you work all day on the ranch, enjoy going on long trail rides, or simply like to ride for pleasure at home.

Show Saddles

Western show saddles typically feature more bling than other saddles and have an equitation-style seat with a short and thick horn. The primary goal of a show saddle is to be eye-catching in the ring and provide a nice, balanced seat for the rider. These saddles are often heavier, weighing about 40-60 pounds. You might want a shiny show saddle if you compete in horsemanship, western pleasure, trail, or western riding.

Youth Saddles

Youth saddles are made specifically for children, with small seats and short fenders. Most kids do not fit in adult-sized saddles since the seat can be too big and the fenders can be too long. An ill-fitting saddle can be difficult and uncomfortable for a child to learn, so finding a youth saddle for their discipline and horse helps them progress more easily and have greater fun.

Trail Saddles

Western trail saddles are designed for pleasure and trail riding as they keep you in the correct position while traveling long distances. These saddles are extra comfortable since they offer cushioning in the seat, and they are usually much lighter than other types of Western saddles. Many trail riding saddles have leather strings attached to hold saddle bags during long rides for equipment or other items you might need while out riding.

Reining Saddles

Western reining saddles are designed for competitive reining events. Most reining saddles feature forward-hung stirrups to help you sit back during quick stops and close contact seats to help your aids. Reining saddles often have a medium-height fork and horn, dropped rigging, and slender stirrups. Similar to a cutting saddle, one meant for reining has a seat designed for big stops and quick maneuvers, but cutting saddles usually have larger horns and swells. If you actively compete in reining, a reining saddle is the best option for optimal comfort and cueing.

Barrel Saddles

Barrel saddles are mainly used for barrel racing, but their unique design allows them to be used for other gymkhana or mounted gaming events. Trick riders will also sometimes use barrel saddles as they are designed for security, especially at high speeds while making quick turns. Since a barrel saddle is meant for speed, it is lightweight and small with a deep seat, high cantle, tall and thin horn, and short skirt. These saddles are best if you want to barrel race, pole bend, or show in other timed events.

Synthetic Saddles

Synthetic saddles are a popular choice for trail riding or all-purpose riding since they tend to be waterproof and scratch resistant. Plus, they are lightweight (usually no more than 20 pounds), so children or riders who cannot lift bulky, heavy leather saddles can more easily tack up their horses. Saddles made of synthetic materials are often less expensive, too.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Western Saddle

There are several unique factors to consider when choosing the best western saddle for you and your horse. Some riders turn to a professional saddle fitter, who can help you determine whether a certain saddle or brand properly fits both you and your horse. If you opt to vbut on your own, there are still ways to check for fit and comfort and that the overall integrity of the saddle you want is good to go.

  1. Fit and Comfort
  2. Fit and comfort are the first factors in deciding whether a saddle is right for you and your horse. If you are not comfortable in certain seats or you dislike the way your legs might hang in the stirrups, you are less likely to enjoy and focus on your ride. Of course, your horse’s comfort is paramount. A saddle should not pinch them anywhere or feel too loose, causing sores or behavioral problems.

    Many companies provide sizing charts for customers to determine which size seat works best. Adult-sized saddles range from 14 inches to over 17 inches. While it ultimately comes down to your preference and what feels most natural, you typically want to fit about 2-3 fingers between your thigh and the swell. Your rump should also rest at the base of the cantle. Make sure to check that you can adjust the stirrups to your desired length. Some riders order a separate set of fenders in the event that the original pair cannot go long or short enough. If you are in between seat sizes for an adult saddle, it is recommended that you size up since many riders prefer a little extra room instead of squeezing in. Consider your discipline, too, and your riding goals. Some riders opt for a saddle that feels more close contact, some riders want a smaller pommel and horn - find a saddle that makes YOU feel the most balanced.

    Just like it’s uncomfortable for you to ride in a saddle that does not fit, your horse will not appreciate wearing a saddle that pinches them or slides around awkwardly. If a saddle is ill-fitting, you might notice that your horse nips or pins its ears while tacking up or riding, bucks or kicks out, or has painful sores on its back or withers.

    Learn How to Fit and Measure for Western Saddle

  3. Riding Discipline and Purpose
  4. Some competitive disciplines have tack requirements, so you should double-check that the saddle you are thinking about is allowed. In most disciplines, though, you will find that saddles designed specifically for that sport are the most comfortable for you and your horse to complete maneuvers and feel your best. For example, reiners often want a reining saddle, so they can sit back during sliding stops and comfortably neck rein throughout their runs. Cutters often want a cutting saddle, so they can sit deep and easily rest their hand on the horn while their horse rocks back and forth. Finding a saddle that is meant for your desired purpose works hand in hand with fit and comfort. You and your horse will likely feel the most comfortable and balanced if you choose a saddle made for your discipline, leading to greater success.

  5. Materials and Construction
  6. There is no right or wrong answer when deciding between leather or synthetic materials, as it is a personal preference regarding looks, comfort, and the amount of maintenance you wish to do. Leather is more common in competitive disciplines. Most riders prefer leather for its looks, quality, and comfort, but it does need frequent cleaning and conditioning. When properly taken care of, leather can hold up longer than synthetic. Even though synthetic saddles can be easier to clean, they are harder to find outside of trail riding or all-purpose styles.

    Whether you are considering leather or synthetic, you should also complete a thorough inspection of any saddle you wish to buy. The material should not be ripped, torn, worn down, or moldy. A saddle that was not cared for might not last you long and could have structural issues, resulting in a possible wreck.

  7. Budget
  8. A saddle is one of the biggest investments you will make as an equestrian. If you ride often, especially if you show, you may spend at least a few thousand dollars, depending on your discipline. Quality leather is worth it since it can stand the test of time and potentially last your entire riding career. If you ride every once in a while, it may not be as vital to spend a huge sum of money as long as the saddle you choose is safe and well-fitted. Although an advantage to buying brand new is that you know the integrity of your saddle should be sound and might last you a lifetime, purchasing a solid used saddle can be a great option to save money. There are even many local tack shops that sell used saddles on consignment. While a used saddle might not have that “new” smell, it might be nicely broken in and save you quite a few bucks.

  9. Reviews and Recommendations
  10. Always, always, always do your research. Look up saddle brands online for honest reviews, ask your friends, ask your trainer, and always do your homework to ensure the saddle you are looking at is a good, quality candidate for your needs. If you are buying used, some sellers allow potential buyers to do a test trial with the saddle, ensuring it will fit both rider and horse. Some brands also offer special warranties in case the saddle does not fit your horse. In the beginning of your customer journey, consider asking a friend or your trainer if you can ride, or at least sit, in their saddle to help determine if a brand or seat size is right for you. If you can sit in as many saddles as possible, you will quickly discover what feels right for your unique needs.

The 25 Best-Selling Western Saddles at Schneiders

Not sure where to officially start when choosing your next western saddle? We narrowed down some of our 24-best-selling western saddles to help you find the best one!

The 2 Best Ranch Saddles

Billy Royal Dover Ranch Western Saddle

Billy Royal® Drover Ranch Western Saddle

The Billy Royal® Drover Ranch Western Saddle features close-contact cutout skirts and beautiful hand-tooled basket weaving. Designed to fit many of today’s conformations, from Arabians to Quarter Horses, you and your horse will be ready for long days in the saddle.

Billy Royal Grizzly Ranch Western Saddle

Billy Royal® Grizzly Ranch Western Saddle

If you are interested in versatile ranch or cow disciplines, including ranch riding, reining, or sorting the Billy Royal® Grizzly Ranch Western Saddle might be a great option. With close-contact cutout skirts, a comfortable seat, and fine hand-tooled basket weaving, this saddle is perfect for long days on the ranch or at the show.

The 5 Best Western Work Saddles

Billy Royal Classic Work Saddle

Billy Royal® Classic Work Saddle

The Billy Royal® Classic Work Saddle is made with comfort in mind for both you and your horse. The generously padded seat, flex fenders, and exceptional quality are unmatched for a saddle that can last you a lifetime.

Billy Roayal Chocolate Roughout Classic Work Saddle

Billy Royal® Chocolate Roughout Classic Work Saddle

Looking for a gorgeous work or general riding saddle? Check out the Billy Royal® Chocolate Roughout Classic Work Saddle. The seat is extra comfortable, and you’ll enjoy a close contact feel that is hard to find anywhere else.

Billy Royal Comfort Classic II Work Saddle

Billy Royal® Comfort Classic II Work Saddle

The Billy Royal Comfort Classic II Work Saddle offers a more comfortable and balanced ride than most custom saddles. Plus, its extremely durable, super supple Grade A roughout leather breaks in easily, making this saddle a true must-have for everyday riding.

Doube S Jackson Roughout Work Saddle

Double S Jackson Roughout Work Saddle

In search of a lighter-weight work saddle? The Double S Jackson Roughout Work Saddle is only 21.5 pounds and doesn’t sacrifice comfort or quality. The leather and heavy-duty hardware will help make trail riding or colt breaking a breeze, too.

Billy Royal Basketweave Tooled Roughout Saddle

Billy Royal® Basketweave Tooled Roughout Saddle

Go from work to the show ring in the versatile Billy Royal® Basketweave Tooled Roughout Saddle. It features outstanding comfort, close contact cutouts, sturdy hardware, and easy change fenders, so you’ll be sure not to leave this one behind.

The 5 Best Western Show Saddles

Double S Tulsa All Around Saddle

Double S Tulsa All Around Saddle

If you are an avid trail rider and showman, do not miss out on the Double S Tulsa All Around Saddle. The beautiful tooling will turn heads, and you’ll be comfortable with the balanced, padded seat. The short skirt will accommodate young horses or shorter-backed breeds as well.

Billy Royal Studded Basketweave Show Saddle

Billy Royal® Studded Basketweave Show Saddle

Available in chocolate or light tan, the Billy Royal® Studded Basketweave Show Saddle is truly stunning. The classy studs only add to the beautiful tooled design. You’ll have all the best features, including a padded seat, close-contact cutouts, heavy-duty hardware, flex fenders, and slotted stirrup hobbles.

Billy Royal Sedona Western Show Saddle

Billy Royal® Sedona Western Show Saddle

Who doesn’t need more bling in their life? The Billy Royal® Sedona Western Show Saddle is a real showstopper. Perfect for shorter-backed or petite horses, this saddle does not sacrifice comfort, quality, or sterling silver. You are sure to be riding in style!

Billy Royal Mesa Show Saddle

Billy Royal® Mesa Show Saddle

Look like a million bucks with the Billy Royal® Mesa Show Saddle. Designed to keep you comfortable, balanced, and polished, this saddle is crafted from the finest hand-selected hides and hand-tooled to perfection. No Western show look is complete without this dazzling silver saddle.

Double S Denver Show Saddle

Double S Denver Show Saddle

The Double S Denver Show Saddle is another show-stopper. This attractive entry-level saddle is nicely balanced to help position riders correctly. Of course, it offers striking rosette tooling and silver-plated trim that will stand out in a crowd.

The 3 Best Youth and Beginner Western Saddles

Billy Royal Congress II Youth Show Saddle

Billy Royal® Congress II Youth Show Saddle

If your child is ready to hit the show ring, outfit them with a meticulously hand-tooled Billy Royal® Congress II Youth Show Saddle. This show saddle will start them out right with a balanced seat and close contact skirting, helping them look and feel their best.

Double S Outlaw Youth Saddle

Double S Outlaw Youth Saddle

Begin your child’s riding journey with the Double S Outlaw Youth Saddle. At an amazing value, it offers a beautiful design, quality leather, and a comfortable padded seat, perfect for the show ring or casual riding at home.

Dua-Tech Synthetic Children's Saddle

Dura-Tech® Synthetic Children's Saddle

The Dura-Tech® Synthetic Children Saddle is a great option for beginner youth riders. It is lightweight, weatherproof, abrasion resistant, and fits most horses and ponies. Your child will love the padded suede, well-balanced seat with lined stirrups for extra grip as well.

The 5 Best Western Trail Saddles

Double S Work and Trail Western Saddle

Double S Work and Trail Western Saddle

Whether you are training horses or going for trail rides, the Double S Work and Trail Western Saddle is designed to meet your versatile goals. The total roughout design adds “stick” and security for riders, while the comfortable hand-shaped, padded suede seat offers excellent balance.

Double S Leather-Cordura Trail Saddle

Double S Leather-Cordura Trail Saddle

The Double S Leather-Cordura Trail Saddle grants the perfect combination of leather and Cordura for lightweight comfort and easy synthetic care. You’ll love spending all day on the trail with the generously padded smooth leather seat. Plus, there are several stainless steel rings to attach plenty of your trail gear and necessities.

Dura-Tech Synthetic Western Saddle

Dura-Tech® Synthetic Western Saddle

Experience the convenience of a comfortable, lightweight, weatherproof, and maintenance-free trail saddle with the Dura-Tech Synthetic model. Its synthetic leather is abrasion resistant and built on a fiberglass tree. The shorter skirt is also a great choice for horses who need less material, preventing rubs on their hips during long rides.

Double S Oiled Trail Saddle

Double S Oiled Trail Saddle

The Double S Oiled Trail Saddle is the ultimate trail riding rig. You’ll love the knee guards that cover the cinch hardware, reducing rubs from long days in the saddle. This trail saddle truly has it all, from the beautiful tooling, to the lightweight tree, to the saddle bag tie strings and steel rings.

Double S Apache Trail Saddle

Double S Apache Trail Saddle

If you’re an active trail rider, the Double S Apache Trail Saddle might be the best option for you. It not only features attractive leather tooling, but it also offers a super comfortable padded leather seat as well as plenty of tie strings and rings for your saddle bags.

The 3 Best Reining Saddles

Billy Royal Panhandle Reiner Saddle

Billy Royal® Panhandle Reiner Saddle

Enter the show ring in style and class with the Billy Royal® Panhandle Reiner Saddle. It is an outstanding example of balance, quality, and workmanship, from the incredible leather tooling to the close-contact cutouts.

Billy Royal Westcoast Reiner Saddle

Billy Royal® Westcoast Reiner Saddle

Slide and spin like never before with the Billy Royal® Westcoast Reiner Saddle. The impeccable leather tooling and quality in combination with the beautifully balanced, smooth leather seat make this saddle a big show stopper.

Billy Royal Tucson Reining Saddle

Billy Royal® Tucson Reining Saddle

The Billy Royal® Tucson Reining Saddle is pre-oiled and ready to ride. Made from the finest quality leather with an impeccable tooled edge design and close contact feel, you and your horse will feel prepared to perform your absolute best.

The 2 Best Barrel Saddles

Double S Reno Barrel Saddle

Double S Reno Barrel Saddle

The Double S Reno Barrel Saddle is perfect for barrel racers who live on the wild side. This hand-tooled saddle offers fun pink accents and antiquated silver conchos, making it a fun option to turn and burn. It’s super functional, too, with a cut-away skirt under the fenders for closer contact with your horse as you wrap around barrels.

Double S Studded Roughout Barrel Saddle

Double S Studded Roughout Barrel Saddle

For a more classic option, the Double S Studded Roughout Barrel Saddle is ready to go. The roughout leather provides great grip, while the deep seat keeps you secure. With great contact and feel as well, you’ll be ready to chase cans in no time.

We know buying a western saddle can be a big commitment, whether you are on the hunt for a new or used one. A saddle that comfortably fits you and your horse is worth it in most cases. Purchasing a saddle is an investment in your riding career that you could have for more than a lifetime. If you are unsure, remember the decision is ultimately about what feels best for you while allowing your horse pain-free movement. There are numerous styles and designs for almost every type of western saddle, so it is only a matter of time until you find the best one for YOU!