If you’ve ever been on horseback, you know just how important it is to have the right saddle. After all, it’s an essential part of your tack!
Different riding disciplines and activities call for specific saddle weights and types. From the design and size to the weight and padding, they all play a role in creating a comfortable ride for your and your horse.
But don’t worry, we won’t rein you in with a ton of jargon. In this guide, we’ll tell you all you need to know about the different types of horse saddles, how much they weigh, and how to pick the right saddle for your horse.
Weight Differences: English Saddles and Western Saddles
When it comes to horse saddles, you’ll encounter two main types: English saddles and Western saddles.
These two saddle types have distinct shapes and weights, and each one is further tailored to suit specific riding disciplines. The ultimate goal of any saddle is to assist you in performing your tasks more efficiently while ensuring the rider’s weight is evenly distributed across the horse’s back.
Now, let’s talk numbers! On average, saddles can weigh anywhere between 4.5 kg to 27 kg (10 – 60 lbs). For more specifics, English saddles typically range from 4.5 kg to 11 kg (10 – 25 lbs), while Western saddles weigh between 11 kg to 27 kg (25 – 60 lbs).
We weighed a range of our sadlles to give you an idea of their weights. Check out the video below
English saddles are all about giving riders the freedom to move around effortlessly. Whether you’re into racing or jumping, these close-contact saddles let you find the perfect position for your riding style.
An English saddle is designed to be lightweight and straightforward so it doesn’t burden your horse’s back. Instead, the weight is evenly distributed over a smaller area.
Used for horse racing, these saddles are small and made of a thin piece of leather.
Racing saddles weigh around 0.45 kg (1 lb).
The less weight a horse carries, the faster it will run and the longer it will take to tire out. A racing saddle is, therefore, perfect for horse racing as it’s lightweight and does not add any unnecessary weight to the horse’s back.
Racing saddles are used to hold the jockey’s stirrups in place. They offer better mobility and allow closer contact with your horse.
Close contact saddles
Close-contact saddles are used in disciplines such as foxhunting and show jumping.
These saddles weigh between 4.5 kg and 6.8 kg (10 – 15 lbs).
Used in activities that require more mobility, as riders often have to ride at a fast pace and jump over a range of obstacles, close-contact saddles have shorter rider stirrups. They lack the soft padding Western saddles have, thus allowing closer contact between the rider and horse.
Close-contact saddles are for the more experienced rider because, due to their small size and lighter weight, they do not offer as much comfort and security as other heavier and bigger saddles.
With a deeper seat, a cantel, a higher pommel, and a long flap to allow for longer stirrups, a dressage saddle weighs slightly more than the average English saddle.
Dressage saddles weigh between 6.8 kg and 11.3 kg (15 – 25 lbs).
Dressage saddles take a different approach compared to other English saddles. Rather than emphasising mobility, they intentionally limit it. In the world of dressage riding, subtlety and precision are of great importance. That’s why these saddles tend to be slightly heavier and larger, providing essential support and stability.
The all-purpose saddle combines the best of both worlds, providing a deeper seat and the security typically found in dressage saddles. Its shorter and forward flaps also make it an excellent choice for jumping, offering riders the freedom to move with ease.
All-purpose saddles weigh between 6.8 kg and 9 kg (15 – 20 lbs).
They are incredibly versatile and suitable for various disciplines like showjumping, dressage, and cross-country riding. They ensure riders have the needed security without compromising their mobility.
Because they have more padding than other English saddles, all-purpose saddles tend to weigh a bit more but offer more comfort and security.
Western saddles were specifically crafted with the hardworking horse and rider in mind. You see, ranch workers spend countless hours on horseback, so they need saddles that are not only comfortable but also built to last.
Western saddles tend to be stronger and are used to hold equipment and tie down cattle. They are long-lasting and can withstand the stress of hard work and, because of their additional padding, provide support and comfort to both the rider and horse.
A Western saddle is perfect for beginner or novice riders and is designed to distribute weight over a larger area of a horse’s back, minimising the overall weight impact.
Built for longer periods on horseback, these saddles offer comfort to both the horse and rider.
Trail riding saddles weigh between 11.3 kg to 15.8 kg (25 – 35 lbs).
Available in many different weights and styles, these saddles have more padding than English-made saddles and offer riders more comfort, especially for longer rides.
Perfect for beginner riders, they offer a seat and build that keeps the horse rider in proper form while offering enhanced safety and security.
Built for barrel racing, these saddles offer riders a lot of mobility and security.
Barrel saddles weigh between 11.3 kg to 15.8 kg (25 – 35 lbs).
Because a horse has to make quick, tight turns during barrel racing, one needs a lightweight and small Western saddle, such as a barrel saddle, to compete in this high-speed activity.
Barrel saddles have a shorter saddle skirt which allows the horse more mobility, while its higher cantle provides security to the rider. This also makes them a perfect choice for other timed events.
Roping saddles are built with added weight compared to other Western saddles, precisely because they serve the purpose of roping and handling various farm duties.
A roping saddle weighs between 13.6 kg to 20.4 kg (30 – 45 lbs).
This extra weight is necessary to ensure the saddles are strong enough to withstand the immense stress that occurs when a horse or cow pulls on its horn during roping activities.
They also need to offer riders a lot of mobility as riders need to rope an animal and quickly jump off the horse’s back.
Roping is a timed event and therefore needs a saddle that offers both the horse and rider speed, stability and mobility.
Used for all types of ranch activities, including roping and long-distance riding, they are the heaviest of all saddles.
Ranch saddles weigh between 18.1 kg to 27.2 kg (40 – 60 lbs).
Due to their sturdier design, these saddles weigh more than other Western saddles and are much more durable. With added padding, these saddles are also a lot more comfortable and – like both trail saddles and roping saddles – offer a strong foundation.
Choosing The Right Saddle For Your Horse
When it comes to selecting the perfect saddle for your horse, there are a few key factors to consider.
You will choose your saddle weight depending on the type of horse riding activity you want to participate in.
Most importantly, irrespective of the activity, riders should select a saddle that’s comfortable for their horse.
To ensure your horse’s well-being, it’s crucial to choose a saddle that fits properly. An ill-fitting saddle not only causes discomfort but can also lead to unnecessary pain for your horse. So, take the time to find the right fit, ensuring a harmonious and enjoyable experience for both you and your equine companion.
Checking If Your Chosen Saddle Fits Your Horse
To check if your chosen saddle fits your horse, place the saddle on the horse’s back without a pad. Place the saddle in position and see where it makes contact with your horse’s back.
The sides of the saddle should fit comfortably against the horse’s sides while the gullet or pommel should be about three fingers above its withers. Make sure your seat sits where you’d normally sit on your horse’s back and ensure that the horse has its complete range of motion to perform their tasks.
If your horse’s back is sore after the ride, or if they seem uncomfortable, this means that the saddle is not fitting properly.
Also, after each ride, check the sweat marks on your horse. Dry spots behind its shoulders indicate that the saddle does not fit the horse properly.
How much weight can a horse carry?
Horses can easily and comfortably carry 20% of their body weight. A horse weighing 680 kg (1,500 lbs) would, therefore, be able to easily carry a weight of 136 kg (300 lbs). To calculate your total horse riding weight, add your body weight to the weight of your chosen saddle to see if your horse will be able to comfortably carry you.
How much weight can a pony carry?
For riding ponies, it’s advised that a small rider should weigh a maximum of 68 kg (150 lbs), and a medium-sized rider a maximum of 63 kg (140 lbs). Ponies can accommodate large riders of up to 82 kg (180 lbs) in weight. Any rider heavier than 82 kg (180 lbs) in weight should not be allowed to ride a pony.
Will I know if my horse carries too much weight?
Horses will be sore after a ride if they carried too much weight. To see if your horse is sore, gently press your fingers about two inches from its spine and, if the horse winches, this indicates that the load it carried was too heavy. Another indicator is if your horse seems overly tired: A horse that moves slowly, trips frequently or that’s struggling to breathe carried too much weight during a ride.