Last Updated on March 17, 2023
If you’re new to western riding, you may be surprised at the size and weight of the saddles! But just how much does a saddle weigh, & why are western saddles so big?
Every riding discipline around the world has a specialist type of saddle, ranging from the tiny lightweight saddles used for horse racing, through to the ornate, elaborate saddles used in traditional western riding. If you’re starting out on your horse riding career for the first time, or have switched from English to western riding, the big, bulky western saddle can seem huge at first! However, they are designed this way for a specific reason, to aid both the horse and the rider.
Let’s find out everything you need to know about western saddles, including what makes them so heavy, and the specialist design features that make them so versatile.
Factors That Influence Saddle Weight
Think that a saddle is just something you use to sit on a horse? Well, while this is correct, there is much more to it than that! For a horse to be comfortable and free from pain while carrying a rider, the saddle needs to be perfectly designed for the activities taking place.
This means that you may have different saddles for one horse, depending on the activity taking place. Here are some factors that will influence the style and weight of a saddle:
Duration of the ride
A big factor that influences the weight of a western saddle is the length of the rides you intend on taking. For riders that intend on taking a shorter hour to two-hour trail rides, a saddle that is comfortable upon mounting is likely to remain comfortable for the duration of the ride.
But, many western riders like to take day-long or half-day trail rides. A saddle that is comfortable upon mounting might not be comfortable several hours down the trail. So, these saddles will need to be specially made with materials that will keep both the horse and rider comfortable for long periods.
Sometimes, this can require additional materials, particularly padding, which can make a saddle heavier. On the other hand, some trail riding saddles are lighter, to reduce the load the horse needs to carry. It all depends on the make and style of the saddle!
The comfort of the rider
The overall comfort of the rider is also a large influence on the weight of a western saddle. Western saddles are known for being very safe and comfortable for the rider. These saddles have a cradle-like structure which helps the rider stay still and secure in the saddle.
Western saddles have the famous horn at the front to help keep the rider stable in the saddle, particularly when making fast turns or riding over treacherous ground. They also have a high cantle, providing lower back support to the rider. But all of this extra material adds weight to the saddle!
If we compare a western saddle to an English saddle, you will notice that the English saddle is flatter and far less elaborate, but they are still heavy! So, then take a western saddle, which has all of the additional leather and other materials to provide structure for the rider, and think how much heavier that saddle would be.
The comfort of the horse
Another factor that affects the weight of a western saddle is the comfort of the horse. Horses have weight limits that restrict how much they can carry, so saddles can’t be unreasonably heavy. Many companies specialize in making western saddles that are specifically designed to be light, to ensure the horse’s comfort.
One of these companies is Circle Y Saddles. They have many western saddles that weigh under 23 pounds! That’s extremely light for western saddles, as many traditional styles weigh 60 pounds and over.
Some of the lightest western saddles you will come across are those used for barrel racing. This sport relies on the horse being able to make rapid turns at high speed, and the saddles are very small and lightweight to allow for this. However, a barrel racing saddle would not be a comfortable choice for a rider embarking on a long trail ride!
The last factor that influences the weight of a saddle is the purchaser’s budget. Sometimes specially manufactured saddles that are incredibly light can be expensive. Sometimes all a buyer can afford is an older, more clunky trail saddle.
So, the price will determine how heavy a given rider’s saddle will be. Not all saddles need to be featherlight, but it’s important that your saddle fits your horse and keeps him comfortable.
Why Are Western Saddles So Heavy?
Western saddles tend to be the heaviest type of saddle used in all types of equestrian pursuits. This is not normally a problem for the horse, as the types of horses used for western riding tend to be strong and muscular, making a heavy load no problem for them at all. But why is it necessary for western saddles to be so heavy?
Quantity of material
So, as illustrated earlier, we know that western saddles can be large. This reason may seem obvious, but western saddles can get very heavy because of the quantity of material it takes to make them.
The more materials used, the heavier the saddle will be. So, saddles often have thick leather, sometimes a canvas or suede, and, especially with western saddles, other metal or leather embellishments. The more of these things make up a saddle, the heavier it will be.
Types of materials
Also, the type of materials will dictate how heavy a saddle is. There are different types and cuts of leather, all of which have different weights. If the saddle does have metal embellishments, what kind of metal are they? All of these things contribute to the overall weight.
Leather is a heavy material, but riders looking for a lighter option can switch to a synthetic saddle instead. In recent years the
Many western riders also use many saddle accessories that can contribute to the overall weight a horse is asked to carry. Think of things like saddlebags, breastplates, stirrup covers, and the like.
While these don’t contribute directly to the weight of the saddle, they are important to keep in mind when determining the max weight that your saddle could be.
Western Saddles vs English Saddles
If you were to browse the range of saddles available for horses, you would come across a myriad of different options! There are saddles designed to suit every type of equestrian discipline, from lightweight racing saddles to deep, comfortable saddles designed for long hours out on the trail.
This leads to a huge difference in the weight of saddles, and as a rider, you need to factor this in when figuring out how much weight your horse can carry. Don’t forget, your horse isn’t just carrying a human on its back, but also a saddle as well!
How much does a western saddle weigh?
So, we’ve discussed what contributes to the weight of a saddle, but we haven’t talked about numbers yet. We know that they aren’t lightweight, but exactly how much does a western saddle weigh? Well, a traditional Western saddle can weigh as much as 60 pounds!
In comparison, a standard English saddle will weigh about 20 or 25 pounds. Specialist dressage saddles might weigh closer to 30 or 35 pounds, depending on the model. As you can see, western saddles are definitely on the heavier end of the spectrum
How much should my horse weigh?
When it comes to the weight of your horse, many factors influence what weight it should be. These include the height, breed, type, and age of your, as well as the time of year.
Most veterinarians recommend that you don’t aim for your horse to be a specific body weight, but instead, you should assess their body condition score. A body condition score is a system where each area of the horse’s body is looked at in turn, and assessed against a chart showing horses of different body weights. This will allow you to determine if your horse is underweight, overweight, or just right!
So, as we have learned, Western saddles tend to be one of the heaviest types of the saddle we use on horses, and they can weigh as much as 60 pounds. The design of a western saddle, with a deep, comfortable seat, means it weighs much more than a traditional English riding saddle. Ornate saddles with metal embellishments and saddle bags will weigh considerably more.
The exact weight of a saddle will depend on what it is made from and the style of the saddle. The best type of saddle for a horse and rider varies depending on the equestrian pursuits they are participating in. Your horse’s comfort must always come first, and getting the right saddle is a vital part of achieving this.
We hope that this article has helped you better understand the weight of western saddles and why they are so heavy. If so, please share this article, and share with us your experiences with heavy western saddles!
How much does a western pleasure saddle weigh?
A western pleasure saddle, on average, weighs around 17 pounds. This is a very light saddle and is perfect for horses that can jump or do other athletic work. Because of that, western pleasure saddles are also known as show saddles. The saddle pad is there to protect the rider from the impact of the horse's hooves and provide support for the rider. The seat pad is designed to help push the rider into the correct riding position and help keep the rider in that position for extended periods.
How much does an average saddle weigh?
The weight of a saddle will be influenced by the materials used in its construction, the purpose of the saddle, and how it is fitted to the horse. Saddles can be very different in their function and design, and can weigh anywhere from 10 to 60 pounds. While English saddles are lighter, usually between 10 and 25 pounds, western saddles are heavier and can weigh from 25 to 60 pounds.
Why do Western saddles weigh so much?
A Western saddle is heavy due to the material used and the way they are built. They were designed for a hard work, and this design makes them heavier than their English counterparts. Western saddles are built in the way that helps to distribute the weight of a rider over a larger area of a horses back than English saddles. English saddles, on the other hand, were created to allow riders to have more mobility.
A good leather saddle should be comfortable, but it should also last for years without breaking down. A well-made Western saddle is a long-lasting investment.
Does the weight of a saddle matter?
The weight and style of a saddle is a very important factor that will determine how well you can perform as a rider and how much work the horse is able to do. When calculating the weight that a horse can carry, the saddle weight must always be added to the weight of the rider.
If you are a casual rider, then you will be looking for a comfortable saddle. On the other hand, if you are an endurance rider, then you will be looking for a saddle that minimizes pressure on your horse’s back. And, if you are a long distance racer, then a lighter saddle is a better choice. This is because your horse will be able to go faster with less weight on his back.
What size Western saddle do I need for my horse?
Saddle sizing is more than just a matter of the size of the saddle’s stirrup leathers. The length of the saddle tree, the distance between the tree and the pommel, the position of the stirrup leathers, and the overall fit of the saddle are all factors that go into determining the size of the saddle.
It is very important to keep in mind that this is a very personal choice, so there is no one-size-fits-all rule for saddle sizing. As a general rule, a saddle should fit your horse like a glove. If the saddle doesn’t fit, it will be uncomfortable for both you and your horse.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.