Educate me on saddles

Ok. I have survived for a long time with the world’s crappiest barrel saddle. Some weird brand, I don’t know. It served its purpose, it did its time. The blevins buckles exploded, I replaced the fenders, but they’re way too long for my short legs and I accidentally bought nylon lined ones where I can’t punch more holes and I’m just over the whole thing. The horn is damaged, etc etc. It’s a total piece of crap that’s squeaked its whole life.

It’s time for it to die.

I have ridden in and am partial to hard seated saddles. For my purposes of using, I want rough out, at least on the jockeys (it only comes out when I have a rank beginner riding, or the horse is squirrely) - more is ok too. I like a round skirted saddle. I want semi, not full, QH bars. I hate bucking rolls. Cantle needs to be mid-to-high (again, squirrely). I don’t mind lifting a heavy saddle, but would prefer it to be as light as possible…

I am ignorant to what brands are decent, which ones are junk, and where to even look for used western saddles, if people are willing to even ship the beasts. Help me.

I am currently hunting for a new saddle for my horse as my Martin is too narrow. :frowning:
Places I have found to be good places to look:

National Roper Supply

RS Saddlery

Horse Saddle Shop

Be aware that if you try a saddle from Horse Saddle Shop and it doesn’t work, you have to pay a 10% restocking fee, even on used saddles.

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One of my friends used the saddle fitting tool from Horse Saddle Shop, and it was perfect for the fit on her horses. That might be a consideration, although not great if you want to try the saddle fit for you too.

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I honestly haven’t even put my current saddle on her, I know it’s semi-Qh but haven’t put it on to peek at the fit. After I realized I would not be able to ride in it because of my fender faux pas, I just tossed it into my trailer in disgust. lol

This saddle is GORGEOUS. I love the sunflower tooling. I don’t like the non-removable rope strap (or is it removable?). I don’t know if I’d rather have rawhide on the edge of the horn and seat, or as it is. I might also appreciate an inset tiny bit of padding, but my bum is pretty padded as is. Loooove the design here though, so pretty.


I just bought 2 saddles from Horse Saddle Shop . The first one did not fit my gelding right even though I did have the saddle fitting tool. The gullet width was fine but it rocked. Thankfully it fit my wide backed mare so I didn’t have to send it back.

I just bought another and it appears to fit him near perfectly ( near because no fit is 100% perfect). I had tracings done and sent them to HSS so I could hopefully get it right .

So my recommendation is to try CircleY. They have plenty of saddles to fit your wish list.

I like CircleY but sadly my 2 are too widely built for any saddle circle Y makes…

I have a Big Horn and a SouthBend and find them well made, comfortable and affordable as I went with leather/ cordura which is easier on my knees.

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The best western saddle I’ve ever owned was a Circle Y Pioneer. I ordered it new with short fenders and in extra-wide. Very comfortable, light weight (by the standards of all-leather saddles), and fit almost every horse I tried it on.

I very stupidly traded it in for a Cashel trail saddle (also very nice) in regular width when I bought a small Thoroughbred who was supposed to be my “forever” horse. He wasn’t. And the saddle doesn’t fit my current (forever :crossed_fingers:?) horse.

But I digress… :slight_smile: Anyway…

Be aware that there is no real consistency between manufacturers in gullet width. One company’s semi-QHB is not necessarily another company’s semi-QHB. In my experience, Circle Y and Cashel both run narrow. The Circle Y extra-wide is a narrow full-QHB and the Cashel regular is a narrow semi-QHB.

Oh, also, don’t rely on the advice from the Horse Saddle Shop. They insisted, like, absolutely, vehemently insisted, that the Circle Y extra wide would fit the horse I sent them photos of and matched one of their templates to. It did not. And it was a special order, so I couldn’t return it. It did, however, fit my other horse like it was custom made and I loved it so I kept it and didn’t make a fuss.

If you’re interested in a Circle Y, there is a Facebook group: Circle Y Flex-lite and Flex 2 Used Trail Saddles Only.

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That is a gorgeous saddle! :heart_eyes: It checks off a lot on your wish list. Where is it? Did you inquire?

I second the recommendations for Teskeys and National Roper Supply (NRS). I buy a lot of my working and schooling tack from them. I’ve also ridden in a couple of the rough out working saddles from Schneiders ( . But I’m not sure if they offer a rounded skirt.

As a side note, as much as I’ve supported Circle Y saddles over the last 40 years, I had the tree snap on my last one that I used for trail riding. I had no idea until I turned the saddle upside down to thoroughly clean it and… Yikes! Oddly enough, at about the same time, a fellow boarder who also had a Circle Y discovered his tree was cracked, too. Both of our saddles had the flex trees, and both of ours cracked at the screws. Fortunately, Circle Y guarantees their trees, so we shipped our saddles back to Circle Y and they replaced the trees for free. But it took over a month and honestly, the way Circle Y acted like it wasn’t a surprise was eye-opening. So that’s my cautionary tale about their flex trees.

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Circle Y has been recommended to me to try, but I’m thinking it will be too narrow for my wide girl. Good to read some of these comments of similar thinking.

One thing I’m having a hard time finding is a lighter saddle that also doesn’t have a super padded seat. Many of the newer saddles at Circle Y’s price point seem to have very padded seats. The ranch saddles I’ve looked at have little to no padding but are built on heavier trees. I’m open to the right barrel saddle, but I don’t want to have the fenders too far forward as I ride western dressage and ranch rail classes as well as trail ride. I just don’t want to be hefting a saddle that weighs more than 35 pounds. And I do want leather as I show in the ranch classes.

I’m busy with my co-curricular activity at school until mid-March, and then I will have to get super serious about finding something. That saddle @endlessclimb posted is definitely gorgeous!

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I was unhappy that I had to pay a restocking fee. I also sent pics and tracings done by a saddle fitter, and the saddle that Horse Saddle Shop suggested would fit was, in reality, a narrower, steeper bar than the current saddle I have that isn’t fitting.


I absolutely love my Crates reining saddles. They do have a slightly padded seat, seem to fit the wider-shouldered horses very well, and come in around 30#. No roughout though, as far as I know. I use mine to show regular and ranch classes, the one reining class I’ve done, and trail ride. Oh, and western dressage. They are super versatile. My only caveat would be to look at saddles made pre-2016. The ones from 2016 on, IMO, are pretty crappy. Pretty, but not well built.


It’s already sold, I just did a Google image search on lady wades and it caught my eye. It was 3.2k! Ouch!

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I despise the Oregon cross over rope straps. Usually it’s held on by a screw and or slotted through the leather on the forks. You can swap it out for a regular rope strap. The advantage to regular rope strap is when your not using it you can run the tail through the breast collar dee to keep it out of your way.

If you order through McCall, you have the option of rope straps, the cross over shown, I think a removable one, regular or none.

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My plan is to put my existing western saddle on the mare tonight to see if it sorta-kinda fits and measure it to see what the fork measures as. I think the brand name might be “chisolm trail” or something like that?

All I know is it’s not comfortable for me, and it squeaks no matter what I do to it. I’ve oiled it a million times, and I even resorted to puffing baby powder up in the innards. Nothing has ever worked.

I do have an idea on how to punch the holes in the nylon lined fenders though - I have a wood burning tool that has a knife attachment. That should cleanly cut the nylon, if I can cut the leather side with my punches.

I don’t rope. Anything. Ever.

I have done some screwing around in the past, roping barrels or cones (I’m left handed, and my rope is… somewhere in my garage lol).

IF I put a rope holder on a saddle, would it need anything special to accommodate a lefty?

No you wouldn’t need anything special. Ropes are always on the right regardless of what hand you use to to rope with.

Do you have a budget in mind?


Usually, cheap leather is going to squeak.

There is no standard in the western industry.
So while one company might label their saddle as a “semi”, another company’s “full” might fit the same way.
So just because you buy another semi-QH, it does not mean it is going to fit the same.
There are so many other variables, such as the gullet, the rock, the shoulder flare, etc, etc that all influence how that tree is going to sit.

Just how you properly fit an English saddle to your horse, your Western saddle needs to fit as well.
In my opinion, fitting a Western saddle is harder b/c it’s more difficult to see exactly what the tree is doing because it’s so covered up.

For new saddle prices, something really nice quality with good quality leather is going to run you at least $3,000

For more entry level new saddles (leather isn’t as good, but still okay), then it’s around $1500 to $2000.

Stay away from anything that is new and selling for under $1,000
Trees are usually garbage.
Leather is usually garbage.

Now, if those are out of your budgets, you can always look for USED.

I myself have really had success with the Circle Y Flex2 saddles. Now, I will say their leather quality is mid-par. Certainly not what it used to be years ago. There are lots of other saddles that have BETTER leather. But I like the fit of the trees. I have 3 barrel saddles and 1 trail saddle (I use for ranch horse) and they are all the Flex2 tree. All of my horses (except one) have always fit with the regular tree. My other horse needs the wide Flex2 because he is a beef cake.

Although, next time I need a new saddle, I am going to explore the new Martin Fearless saddle. They too have a flex tree option now, since Lisa Lockhart moved to them (from Circle Y). Much, much better leather quality with Martin. Gorgeous saddles too. But probably more than you want to spend, unless you find a used one.

I like the concept of the flex trees because there is never any pinching at the shoulders and it allows good freedom of movement.

WOO yeah that’s a little much.

I think I’m going to budget for around 3k. I don’t want to have to do this again.

I’ll take pictures of what I’ve got now, tonight - you are 100% correct that it is a mega el-cheapo.

Frankly, I’d rather buy a saddle that will fit the “average bear” horse, especially if I’m spending a small fortune on it. My mare has not ever been a tough fit, so I don’t want to go full-out and be pigeon holed with a saddle that won’t fit anything else.

In regards to future horses, a super weird back ends up being a pass for me - I am not interested in fighting that saddle fitting fight with any horse.

I’m thinking around 3K could get me what I want (and then some, hopefully). I’d love to spend less, but I don’t want another piece of crap saddle.

I’m quite short at 5’1" and my knees are just starting to be a problem, so I really don’t want to have the fender jammed way up against the tree, with the super wide part right where the stirrup is at. That HURTS my knees after awhile. Shorter fenders, turned - I think those are a must.

This looks like a MaCall Lady Wade. These are excellent saddles, retain their value and have a groundseat similar to a dressage saddle.

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