Last Updated on March 10, 2023
Choosing the best trail riding saddle is key to keeping you safe, comfortable, and secure out on the trails. For serious trail riders, you want a saddle that is comfy, lightweight, and sturdy. It is key that the saddle fits both you and your horse.
Having to shorten a trail ride because you just can’t be in the saddle any longer stinks. Before I found the right saddle, I was shorting rides because my body was aching or I had to go get supplies! Choosing the best saddle for trail riding creates comfort for the rider and the horse and extends riding time.
Why is Finding the Right Saddle Important?
The best trail-riding saddle should fulfill your travel needs while fitting you and your horse comfortably. The time spent enjoying your ride rather than thinking of all the aches and pains creates a bond between you and your horse that will allow you to grow closer. You should take time to think about what you want in a saddle to ensure that the focus of your ride is your horse.
Choosing the Best Trail Riding Saddle: Factors to Consider
Different styles of saddles have different benefits, so knowing which quality is most important to you will help you narrow down your choices. The University of Missouri Department of Animal Science says that riders should supplement personal preference with knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of saddles. Their helpful guide outlines the differences in saddles, as you can see below:
- Western – Security
Security is the main feature of western saddles due to the thick leather and padding. They also tend to be more durable and versatile than other types of saddles which is great for people looking to serve a variety of customers or a family with multiple riders. A downfall of these saddles is that they are heavier and riders may have a hard time moving them, particularly if they are novice riders.
- Hunt seat – Maneuverability
Hunt seat saddles are the lightest and that makes them easily maneuverable. This allows you to feel the horse’s movement and communicate easily with them, creating a higher level of the bond between the horse and the rider. Due to the smaller size, these saddles make long rides less comfortable and are better for experienced riders.
- Dressage – Communication
Deeper and wider than hunt seat saddles, dressage saddles allow for greater physical contact with the horse. If you enjoy feeling like there is nothing between you and your horse, then consider these saddles for trail riding. A word of warning, their lack of padding means you will need strong legs for riding distance and these saddles should not be used for novice riders.
According to Horse and Rider, you should check the feel, strength, and finish of the leather on a saddle.
- The Feel – Leather should feel smooth and supple. Feeling spongy or dry and visible cracking are signs of poor-quality leather.
- The Strength – There should be no wrinkles. Leather that appears to have an open or coarse grain indicates it is from an animal’s belly, which is less durable than leather from the animal’s sides and backs.
- The Finish – The edges should all have sharp edges removed, are slicked down, and be sealed with a coating.
When searching for the best saddle for trail riding, think about what you bring with you when you trail ride. Various saddles will provide options for packs or rings for hooking in gear. There is nothing I like better than bringing a picnic on a ride and remember, if you are riding for a long time, be sure to bring some snacks and water with you!
The ‘tree’ of a saddle is basically the skeleton and helps determines the comfort of the horse. Some modern saddles have trees that are made of flexible materials that you can adjust from horse to horse. Tucker Saddlery recommends looking at the bar angles, the gullet, the saddle placement, and the rock of the tree when looking for the best saddle for trail riding.
How Much Are Horse Saddles?
The saddle you pick will most likely be the most expensive piece of tack you will spend money on. Saddle prices can start in the low hundreds and easily into the high thousands.
Saddle prices are determined by the type of material used such as synthetic or leather, if you’re looking for a custom saddle or will a standard model be suitable, and what type of saddle are you going to purchase; English, Western, Australian, etc.
Synthetic or leather
So synthetic saddles will cost far less than all other saddles. Synthetic material is significantly cheaper than leather. You can find synthetic saddles starting as low as $70 and the highest would be around $800 or so.
Leather quality is something to consider when looking at saddles. You can find a low-quality leather saddle starting at around $500.00. At this price it is likely the leather will be stiff, riggings may be placed in irregular areas, and stitching may also be poor quality. So take a look before you make your final decision.
Name more expensive brand saddles; Broken Horn custom saddles, Circle Y, Crates, Crosby, and Pessoa, are some of the higher-end saddle makers.
Custom saddles will be in the $1,000s but they will be fit just for you and your horse and they will be made with the best quality leather, rigging placement is ideal, and you can pick all the details that will make up your saddle.
If you choose a saddle that is a standard design for the company, high-quality leather is used to make the saddle, and rigging is placed according to the intended use of the saddle. In addition, there are a variety of seat and tree sizes for you to pick from. This is where you can find a saddle that is good quality and you will be spending between $800 – $3000 or possibly more based on your personal preference.
Type of saddle
In all honesty, the cost of a high-end saddle is going to be about the same across the board. It doesn’t matter if it’s English, Western, or whatever else it is you want. If it is made with quality materials it will reflect in the price.
New or used
New or used? That is a question to ponder. Used saddles are great options. There are tons of very affordable and good-quality used saddles available.
You can find them online and at consignment at tack stores. If you want quality without breaking the bank this is a great option. Top-of-the-line saddles usually go for ½ the purchase price used so you can very easily pick one up for $500 – 600 dollars. For those that can afford to buy a new saddle, do it, it’s definitely worth it.
Top 5 Best Trail Riding Saddles
The AceRugs western leather horse saddle measures 12-18 inches in the seat and weighs about 26 pounds.
- 100% premium leather
- Beautiful hand-carved floral and basketweave tooling
- Well-padded seat
- Numerous ties
- Adjustable Blevins Buckles
- Does not fit high-withered horses
The Barrel Racing western horse saddle measures 15-16 inches in the seat and weighs about 30 pounds.
- Nylon Reinforcement on stirrups
- Free matching headstall breast collar
- Heavy to move around
The Premium Western horse trail saddle measures 14 – 16 inches in the seat and weighs about 25 pounds.
- Drum-dried leather
- Padded suede seat
- Basket weaved leather
- Fiberglass tree
- A dramatic curve in the saddle
- Bit not included
The AceRugs Western pleasure trail saddle measures 15-18 inches in the seat and weighs about 18 pounds.
- Free headstall, reins, and breast collar
- Silver corner plates
- D-rings for accessories
- Made of synthetic material
- Cinches not included
- Brittle tree form
The King Series Synthetic Trail Saddle measures 20 inches in the seat and weighs about 18 pounds.
- Suede seat
- Rawhide covered bars
- Made of synthetic materials
- Does not hold up to heavy riding
Choosing the Best Trail Riding Saddle: Top-Rated Western Saddles
There are many saddles on the market and it can make it overwhelming to choose the right one for you. While you don’t have to buy the most expensive option to have a good-quality saddle, there are some top-rated brands you can purchase to ensure you are getting a good saddle.
Some of the best brands of Western saddles to look for include Circle Y, Billy Cook, Reinsman, Double J, Dakota, Cashel, Dale Chavez, Wintec, and Tucker. However, there are several other great brands of western saddles that you can choose from.
The most important thing when choosing a saddle is that it properly fits your horse and yourself. If your saddle does not correctly fit your horse it can cause sores, rubs, discomfort, and even lameness with your horse. Your horse may even develop behavioral problems if your horse associates pain with riding.
Best Australian Saddle Brands
Australian saddles are another popular option for trail riding. They are specifically designed for those who spend hours in the saddle at a time. Australian saddles are designed for security and comfort so you can best focus on enjoying your ride.
Australian saddles have deep seats, high cantles, knee pads, and free-swinging stirrups. The style can vary depending on the purpose of the Australian saddle but many have English stirrups. They can also be more affordable than western saddles depending on the brand you choose.
Some of the best Australian saddle brands include Australian Saddle Company, Australian Outrider, and Wintec. Australian saddles typically ranch in price from $500 to $2,000. Prices will vary based on the brand and features included in the saddle.
The Most Expensive Saddle in the World
According to the Guinness World Record, the most expensive saddle ever sold cost $653,234. The saddle belonged to the Crown Prince of Dubai, Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, and was sold at a charity auction.
Fortunately, most saddles are much cheaper than that, costing on average no more than $4,000. In general, you can expect to pay somewhere between $500 to $3,000 for a saddle with the price varying depending on discipline, brand, features, and materials. However, some brands of saddles can cost upwards of $5,000.
For example, the Albion Fabrento Dressage Saddle retails for $5,665. The cost of a western show saddle decked out with silver can cost $7,500 from Dale Chavez.
How Much Do Western Saddles Weigh?
Due to their design, western saddles weigh more than English saddles. On average, a western saddle will weigh around 25 to 50 pounds.
How much a western saddle weighs varies by material, size, and discipline. For example, a ranch saddle will weigh around 40 pounds whereas a trail saddle will weigh around 25-3o pounds. Leather saddles will weigh more than saddles made from synthetic materials.
So What is the Best Trail Riding Saddle?
Out of the options given, the AceRugs Cowhide Western Leather Horse Saddle is the best saddle if you want a comfortable trail riding experience. The premium leather will only get better with age and the hand-crafted designs add an element of style that will help you stand out among riders. Also, the amount of ties available on the saddle allows for multiple bags to be added on so you never have to worry about leaving any trail riding essential behind.
How Do You Know If A Saddle Is Good Quality?
A well-made saddle will be made with good quality leather that is thick and pliable when you touch or try to move it. The stitching will be uniform around all of the edges of the saddle and there will be thick fleece on the underside of the saddle.
If it’s an English saddle it will have padding covered in leather, you want this to be thick like the fleece. Check the weight of the saddle, good quality saddles will weigh more because of the quality of materials that are being used.
Check the tree, that is what your saddle is built on. Wood and fiberglass are the main types that are used today, make sure it is solid and does not have cracks or is broken.
How Long Does It Take to Put a Saddle on a Horse?
The amount of time it takes to saddle a horse really depends on the individual horse, rider, and the skill level. If you are saddling a horse that has never been saddled it could take five min up to an hour possibly longer and a horse that is saddle broke will be saddled in the time frame of the rider.
Beginner riders will take longer to saddle than advanced riders and depending on the amount of time you spend grooming is a factor in this also. Make sure the saddle and bridal areas are clean and the rest is really up to the rider. If you are taking a lesson your time will be somewhat dictated by the instructor but if it is your own horse take as much time as you want.
How to Measure a Horse for a Saddle?
1. You will need a wire hanger or a piece of wire. Make sure the wire starts out straight.
2. Place the center of the wire of the horses wither and then bend the wire following the shape of the withers.
3. Remove the wire and with a measuring tape go straight across your hanger, 3 inches under the angle of the withers, the distance between from one side of the other will be the size of the gullet the saddle your horse will need.
4. Check all areas of the saddle, run your hand underneath between the pad and the saddle make sure you don't feel anything pinching.
5. Lastly, if you are able to work the horse in the saddle and allow them to get a decent sweat, when you remove the saddle there should be an even sweat all over their back, if there are any dry spots, the saddle is pushing there is to tight, meaning the saddle is not a proper fit.
What are Good Western Saddle Brands?
Some of the best western saddle makers are:
- Circle Y
- Billy Cook
- Tex Tan
- Silver Royal
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.