Hard Seated Saddles

Will I love it or hate it?

My mare needs a wider saddle, so I am on the hunt for a decent used one. I am a former English rider (pony club, lower levels of dressage) who has shifted to western. We dabble in western dressage, trail ride, and show locally in ranch pleasure. One saddle I’m considering has a hard seat, and I don’t know if I’ll like it.

I can trial the saddle, but especially these days one needs to consider the cost of shipping saddles back and forth.

TIA for any thoughts.

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As an eventer that also does stock horse work (and spends long hours in the saddle) - its not the saddle seat hardness that matters. Stock saddles will have a harder seat that english saddles, the leather is not meant to be coddled but to last. But you usually ride with a longer stirrup, a bit shorter than dressage and carry more weight in your feet and crotch than your seat. That said, the stirrups must hang in the proper location (and not give you a chair seat.) Then for women, find a saddle with narrow twist and proper ground seat (lowest point in the saddle) so that you can balance properly and not get behind the motion. A lot of these are called a “Lady Wade” tree.
Most off the rack saddles for are not made this way. But most custom working saddles ARE made this way. Be prepared for some serious sticker shock, even used. As a starting point I recommend McCall saddles. They are a good starting point and are available used so you can afford to try and swap out until you find what fits you and your mare.

Thank you for your response. I have been riding in my western saddle (a Martin Sherri Cervi) for several years now. I would say the seat is not overly padded but it is not “hard” as what is listed in the description of the ranch saddle (A JJ Maxwell) I am looking at.

I appreciate the link you shared…definitely out of my price range. I’m looking to spend max $2000, which is why I need used.

I will see if any McCall saddles fit my and my mare’s needs, so we can try one.

Both my western saddles are hard seats. The one on the bay (current OTTB) I bought really cheap off Ebay over 20 years ago and when it arrived it turned out the leather was completely shot, but the tree was good and fit for my TB. Through a friend I found an Amish saddlemaker that stripped all the old leather and rebuilt it the way I wanted with minimal decoration and shorter than normal stirrup fenders. This saddle is very comfortable and I have logged some long trail rides (3-4 hours) in it over some serious terrain. Total cost 20 years ago, including the rebuild was around $600 or $650.

The saddle on the pinto I found for sale at an Amish shop for I think $75 about 2 years ago. I needed a saddle that would fit a widebody (TWH in the picture) and this worked. It needed new billets, a new cinch (still needs a new rear cinch, but I haven’t needed it) and a few other minor repairs. I replaced the oxbow stirrups as well, total cost was under $200.

Personally, I prefer the hard seat saddles as they’re more comfortable for me.


Thank you for the feedback, Christa_P! In general, I love old saddles. My dressage saddle is about 30 years old. Your saddles are lovely. And how fortunate that you have options for people to work on saddles relatively close by. Maine is like the ends of the Earth.

Check around for Amish communities and then ask for saddle shops. In my area saddle shops frequently get in old saddles and sell them for people in the area. I did google and apparently there are 3 Amish communities in Maine, but I’m not sure how far they are from you. If they’re close enough they’re also a great resource for repairs.

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I can’t do hard seated saddles, so mine has a foam seat. A client has a harder seat on her saddle, so she went with a gel seat cover. It is fantastic and you can’t see it when she is riding. You can also get sheepskin.

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Yes, maybe for repairs and leatherwork. We actually have a community in the town where my horse is boarded. They are mostly furniture workers, but I’m sure some of them maintain the harness. In that community, the only people who actually ride are the teenagers. :smile:

Very few ride in the communities around me as well, but there are some saddlemakers that do repairs and some build saddles (and harnesses, bridles etc.) to order for commercial dealers.

I actually buy quite a bit of stuff through various Amish shops including horse supplements, horse sheets and blankets, custom halters in both nylon and leather, basically almost everything I need as they are usually cheaper than anywhere else and if a horse is an odd size for a halter or bridle I can easily get it customized.

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I have two custom hard seats. I truly love those saddles for the close feel and comfort. I agree with the prior poster that the twist and stirrup alignment are critical. I will try to find pics of mine, you’ll see the stirrups aren’t forward slung (the Cervi may well be, barrel saddles are often built that way).

I find I cannot stand an overly padded seat, they dull the feel too much.

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Thank you to those who have responded. I have the JJ Maxwell ranch saddle on the way to try on for size (for both me and my mare). If it works, I’ll post a pic!

This is my hardseat with a modest bicycle seat insert. First time on a horse.


And my true hardseat a million miles in. Exact same saddle save for the bicycle seat.

And both side by side.

I hope you love yours like I do mine.


What lovely horses! Thank you for sharing pics. I hope I love it, too, because it will be expensive to ship it back to the saddle shop if I don’t. :sweat_smile:

Beautiful horses! Are those Reinsman saddles? I fell in love with one that looked like these years ago but apparently they don’t make it anymore.

This is the saddle I have coming on trial.


ditto to some of the other thoughts.

It just really depends how the saddle fits YOU.

I won a trophy saddle a few years ago that had a hard seat and a pencil roll. I was really worried it was going to be uncomfortable, but it was VERY comfortable! I ended up selling it though because the saddle didn’t fit my horses.

I bought an old Longhorn roping saddle a few years ago with a hard seat. It was actually a bit too big for me but I needed something for ranch horse showing. Very, very comfortable saddle! Ended up selling that one too because I sold the horse, LOL.

We also have an older Tex Tan trail-type saddle, hard seat. I hate it. So uncomfortable. Hurts my seat bones.

but just a different shape!!

Thanks, they are from Rocking R, it is now out of business since the owner passed away. These were made in North Alabama, not far from where Simco made saddles back in the day.

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I think you will like it. I love the slick swells and supportive cantle. Also those free swinging stirrups are awesome for really letting you use your leg easily.

You may need shorter cinches to accommodate the dropped rigging. We put dressage girth converters on my husband’s saddle with similarly dropped rigging. Just made it easier to not have a Latigo tail to deal with.

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Thank you for the input, especially on the shorter cinches. I will be sad if my show cinch doesn’t fit; I had it custom made this past summer, and the maker has retired.I will definitely post back after I try it on my mare on Tuesday. :grin:

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Thanks for your thoughts, beau159. I am really hoping that this saddle fits me (and my mare). But I am ready to ship it back and keep trying if it is not comfortable. I am not one to spend 6-8 hours in the saddle, but we do regularly ride 2-4 hours on the trail, so my butt needs to be happy.

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