What brand/type of saddle is best for someone with a bad lower back and hips? I need something light to carry. I’m selling my western so I can get something a little easier to lift, as well as I need something as comfortable as possible for my back and hip . I am on a limited budget if I buy now, but can save up for something if it truly makes a large difference in comfort.
You really should go (travel if you have to) to some big saddle shops and physically sit in different style saddles.
I have lived with deteriorating disks for 30+ years. The most comfortable saddle I own is a 1960’s something Big Horn barrel racing type saddle. It has a low cantle with a mild “incline” to the top.
I have sat in saddles to where it took less than a minute for pain to start shooting up my spine. They looked great and were recommended for back issues but they didn’t work for me.
While you do need to buy a well made saddle, I can’t stress enough to sit in saddles first and then hope you find one that also fits the horse. My old Big Horn fit almost all of my horses and if I remember correctly it weighs ~26 pounds - lightweight for an all leather saddle:)
I hope you can find something that works for your issues:)
Generally speaking, you’re going to want something with a high, moderately dished cantle but that’s about all that can be said because the details of back and hip issues vary so much from person-to-person. Your best bet is to try as many different ones as you can.
I took a Black Country Celeste and a GP on trial, thinking the Celeste was going to be the clear winner. I thought the Celeste rather hard and uncomfortable, but the GP felt fantastic after a day of trail. What’s more, I was able to customize the flap for my leg, add d-rings front and back, and add An additional layer of foam to the seat.
Abetta endurance with the padded seat is light and comfortable.
What about a trooper saddle? They are usually built with a suspended seat over western type bars. I just bought one, a Tarpin Hill, and it is the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever used.
(I have no body aches yet, just 29, but the suspended seat acts as a huge shock absorber)
I have a bad left hip and prefer an english style saddle and rigging. They’re usually less bulky and lighter. I currently own two Tucker Equitation Endurance Saddles: a classic and a Horizon Nomad. The Classic is very light at just 23lbs. It is a hybrid saddle of a western style seat, wide english flap and english rigging. It’s very comfortable and secure with lots of tie rings and latigos for taking things along on the trail. I’ve bought some Tough 1 Nylon saddle bags which are lined for taking food along on a ride and which attach to it perfectly. I’ve really enjoyed it and the Horizon Nomad (though it is heavier at 27lbs and bulkier).
You could cushion it further with a seat saver or natural sheepskin cover. I’ve spent 3 hours at the time in mine and the only thing that usually starts hurting is my seat bones. Some people ride longer distances in padded cycling shorts and they do help a lot, but the diaper feeling can be annoying, though worth it.
I was trail riding in a dressage saddle when I had an energetic warmblood stop suddenly and spin away, dropping me hard into the middle of the trail (which is why my left hip is problemmatic now), so I go for something with a more secure seat for trails these days. I don’t want a horn, stiff or long leg flaps or fenders, or western rigging. There are all kinds of endurance/trail saddles out there, but finding a secure seat with english rigging, lessens the options a good bit. A friend of mine says the better treeless saddles are really comfortable, but I’ve also read that slippage can be an issue, especially on taller horses mounting from the ground. As I’m only 5’2" an usually have to pull up onto any horse, I haven’t tried one.
I did buy an Abetta Endurance saddle and absolutely hated it but lots of people really like them. I didn’t like the balance of it at all.
JFYI but you can convert western saddles to english rigging. we did that with my husband’s Alleghany mountain trail saddle.
I had a Tucker River Plantation saddle that was very comfortable for long rides (think multi day packtrips).
I have two burst vertebrae in my lower back, nerve damage in my hip and sciatica issues and I compete in endurance (glutton for punishment I guess lol). My Bob Marshalls are by far the gentlest on my person. Seriously I’ve done up to 55 miles in one and could walk the next day Other things I’ve found that make a huge difference for me at least- take Advil before the ride, continuously work on core strength, vary your pace (the more time I spend just at a walk, the worse I feel at the end) and get off and walk every once in a while.
Good point Tabula Rashah, varying the pace does indeed make a huge difference. A friend and I rode at a park we had not previously been to and which was poorly marked. We spent several hours there trying to find a specific trail. The terrain was rugged with lots of knee knocker trails through the trees, so we walked the entire time. I came away from that ride really sore in my seat bones due to lack of variability. Have found that if I mix up the walking with some good trots sets and the occasional canter, I stay much more comfortable, no matter what saddle I’m in.
I second this with great enthusiasm. My experience with this saddle is that it is super comfy for hours of trails, light to lift, resilient to rain and snow, and comfortable for my horse who is broad backed but narrow shouldered. I have ridden many miles and 15 years on my Abetta cordura endurance saddle. I do also use a wool seat pad, from White Horse Trading Post, called fuzzy butt: