cowboy trail riding in western horse saddle on buckskin horse by the creek. Western saddles for sale.

5 Types of Western Horse Saddles

Choosing the right Western horse saddle isn’t as easy as just selecting the “Western Saddles for Sale” tab on your favorite  online tack store. If you’re new to the horse world, it may surprise you to know that there are specific saddles for each discipline. For example, a barrel racer needs a saddle that will hold them in place around tight, fast turns while a rancher needs something sturdy with a strong horn designed for hard work. 

It’s important that you understand which saddle you need and the differences between these saddles before you start shopping. 

Reining Saddles

Buckskin in Western horse saddle performs reining pattern

Reining saddles prioritize communication with the horse over brute strength. You can’t rope out of a reining saddle, as the horn is not designed to take the weight. But, you will be able to communicate with just the slightest movement from your legs as the close contact skirt promotes more connection between your leg and the horse’s side. The pommel and horn are kept low so the rider can exhibit reining movements easily, without anything getting in the way. A flat seat allows the rider to use their hips efficiently and effectively. 

These saddles place the rider more “on the pocket” to allow their legs to swing out in front of them and sit deep in the saddle. This position also allows the rider to stay balanced during fast starts or stops. 

When it comes to looks, free-swinging fenders, slim stirrups, and dropped rigging are common on these saddles. You may even see a fair amount of silver trim to impress and catch the judge’s eye in the show ring. 

When shopping for a reining saddle, check out the  Wintec New Generation Close Contact Saddle. This Western saddle has a cutout skirt for clear communication between you and your horse, as well as close contact jockeys and fenders to decrease bulk under your leg. 

Barrel Racing Saddles

Chestnut in Western horse saddle rounds a barrel in an arena

Barrel racing saddles are designed with a short, deep seat which helps to hold the rider in place around tight turns at high speeds. Just like reining saddles, the horn on these Western saddles is not designed for roping and can’t take the weight of a bull, calf, or horse. Instead, many barrel racers use the horn as an added support around the barrels. This type of Western horse saddle has a rounded skirt and is designed to be lightweight, so as to not slow down the horse. Short skirts and simple rigging help to decrease any weight on the horse’s back. 

Unlike other types of Western horse saddles, these have a hip hugger ridge molded around the back of the seat which helps to keep the rider in the saddle. Barrel racing saddles should also have thick  swells to allow the rider to hook their knees underneath the fork and hang on tight. A rough-out seat completes the look and adds even more grip. 

If you’re shopping for an entry-level saddle for barrel racing, check out the  Wintec Barrel Saddle. It has lightweight, simple rigging with a roughed-out seat and high horn to hold the rider in place. 

Ranch Saddles

Rancher in Western Horse saddle cuts calf from the herd

Ranch saddles are the bulldogs of the Western saddle world. These Western horse saddles are heavy and tough, with a strong horn and tree designed to stand up to the everyday demands of the ranching lifestyle. A high cantle and deep, roughed-out seat are designed for comfort and grip over a long day in the saddle. The low swells and tall thick horn, complete with a horn wrap, are designed to stand up to the abuse of working horses and cattle. Similar to trail models, ranch saddles will usually have additional strings for carrying gear and supplies. 

There are also ranch cutting saddles which combine the features of sturdy ranch saddles and the taller horn and pommel of cutting saddles. Ranch cutting saddles are more versatile than either ranch or cutting saddles alone and can be used for trail riding, arena work, and ranch work.

The best ranch saddle isn’t worth much without a good saddle pad. Cushion your saddle with the  Professional’s Choice Cowboy Felt Roper saddle pad. The high-quality, American-made wool felt provides natural shock absorption. Also embedded in the pad is a ½ inch air ride core for additional shock absorption and breathability for your horse’s protection and comfort. 

Show Saddles

Western horse saddle in the show ring

Show saddles are all about the bling. These flashy Western saddles feature silver accents and beautiful tooling. While they are on the heavier side and do have a horn, they are not designed for roping. Instead, the horn and fork tend to be shorter than other types of Western horse saddles. Deep skirts, padded or suede seats, and turned stirrups are standard in the show ring. 

Perfect equitation is key while competing and these saddles are designed to help. The lower pommel and well-balanced seat aid the rider’s equitation. A close contact skirt cuts out material around the rider’s leg, allowing it to have more surface-area contact with the horse’s side and be more effective.

Be sure to buy a matching headstall and breast collar while you look at western saddles for sale. Buy them together to be sure that the leather matches. We recommend taking a look at the  Silver Ferrule Show Set for a headstall and breast collar that can stand up to the competition.

Saddles for Trail Riding

Rider in Western Horse Saddle overlooks a mountain range on palomino pony

A rider who hits the trails to relax with their friends will have very different needs than a competitive endurance rider who travels across a variety of terrain at distances up to 100 miles. The relaxed, weekend trail rider may only need a saddle that is comfortable for both the equestrian and the horse. This could be a Western pleasure saddle with a deep padded seat and ample attachments for saddlebags. 

Most trail saddles will have rounded skirts and a thin horn with a short pommel for comfort. Some riders may prefer their Western horse saddle to have a high cantle for more protection, while others prefer the low cantle for additional comfort. The fenders on these saddles are usually positioned to encourage good equitation, which will help your horse stay comfortable on long rides. 

When you’re looking at Western saddles for sale, check out the  JR Plainsman Youth Western saddle. This versatile saddle features a padded suede seat for comfort and saddle strings so the rider can tie supplies directly to the saddle. The beautiful floral tooling and silver accents are an added bonus for those who like to be fashion forward. 

Shop for All Your Western Tack Needs

At, we strive to anticipate and meet our customer’s requirements. We have Western horse saddles, tack, and accessories so you can excel at whatever discipline you ride in. Whether you need a comfortable shock absorbing saddle pad that can hold up to ranch work or if you’re looking for the perfect all around Western horse saddle, we have what you need! 

Click here to shop all of our Western tack, including Western saddles for sale.


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