If you’re buying your first saddle or trying to find a saddle that’s right for your discipline, you might be wondering how much your saddle should weigh. Saddle weights can vary widely, so we put together this guide to help you find the right one for your riding needs.
How much do horseback riding saddles weigh? Saddles can weigh anywhere from 10 – 60 lbs. English saddles are lighter, usually between 10 – 25 lbs. Western saddles can range from 25 – 60 lbs.
The weight and style of a saddle will be a determining factor in how well you can perform as a rider. That said, it’s important to be well informed about what type of saddle you should be using.
English Saddle Weight vs. Western Saddle Weight
English saddles and Western saddles differ greatly in look and function. These saddles were designed to help riders accomplish very specific tasks, and have since been altered to meet the needs of modern events.
Western saddles were created to serve the working horse and rider. People used to spend the majority of their day on horseback, whether it was fighting battles or working their land. The Western saddle was not only created for a rider to sit in but also to carry equipment and to tie of cattle.
A Western saddle is heavy because it was made to withstand the stress of hard work. They are durable saddles that if taken care of properly, can last a lifetime. While they are considerably heavier than English saddles, Western saddles manage to distribute the weight over a larger area of a horses back due to their build.
English saddles were created to allow riders to have more mobility. The close-contact design of an English saddle allows for riders to get into the correct positions for jumping, swinging a mallet (as in polo) and for riding with shorter stirrups.
The English saddle is light because the design is simple in order to avoid any obstructions to the rider’s movement. Unlike the Western saddle, the English saddle sends to focus the weight to one area of the horse due to its smaller size and design.
Racing saddles are considered to be that thin piece of leather sitting across the horse’s back you see when you go to the races. Overall, these saddles weigh on average 1 lbs.
It’s proven that the more weight a horse carries, the slower they race and the quicker they tire out. The racing saddle is lightweight so as to not add any excess weight during the race. The only reason the saddle is used in the first place is to allow stirrups for the jockey to get into position.
While this type of saddle is an exception when it comes to average saddle weight, it is still considered an English saddle. Its purpose is to aide the mobility of the rider and offers them closer contact with their horse.
Close Contact Saddles
Close contact saddles are used in disciplines that call for more mobility in the saddle, such as jumping and foxhunting. They usually weigh between 10 – 15 lbs.
In disciplines like jumping and foxhunting, the rider is usually riding at a faster pace and going over many obstacles. Close contact saddles allow for a shorter stirrup length, which will help the rider keep a half-seat or 2-point form.
These saddles lack the padding and the security that other saddles may offer. Instead, it allows for the closest contact between horse and rider; hence the name. While this does make the saddle lighter, it also poses some challenges. Some people find it difficult to ride in close contact saddles because of the lack of security and comfort.
An all-purpose saddle can be used for any English discipline. Its build has the deeper seat and security of a dressage saddle but also the shorter and more forward flaps that allow for jumping and mobility. These saddles usually weigh between 15 – 20 lbs.
These saddles are seen many times in eventing, as it can be used for all three of the disciplines that eventing covers: dressage, cross-country, and showjumping. These saddles offer a more secure seat without compromising the rider’s mobility.
These saddles tend to weigh more than close contact saddles because they usually have a bit more padding for the rider. They also offer a deeper seat that will seem more secure to a rider. These saddles are usually very comfortable to ride in.
Dressage saddles are used in the discipline of dressage. They have a deep seat, a higher pommel, and cantle, and a long flap to allow for longer stirrups. These saddles can be between 15 – 25 lbs.
While most English saddles are made to cater to the mobility of the rider, the dressage saddle is not. If you’ve ever watched a dressage rider, then you’ve probably noticed that they move very little. Subtlety is a dressage rider’s goal, so their saddles weren’t made for a lot of movement.
The reason that these saddles are heavier compared to other English saddles is that they are bigger. The longer flaps and higher pommel and cantle make for a much larger and heavier saddle.
Trail saddles are used to ride many miles of trails. They are geared towards both the horse’s and the rider’s comfort. These saddles can usually weigh between 25 – 35 lbs.
This type of saddle is very popular among western riders, as many different weights and styles are offered. These saddles are padded for the rider’s comfort as well as offering a seat and build that will help keep them in proper form during long rides.
If you’re new to riding, this type of saddle may be a good first choice. These saddles leave the rider feeling safe and secure as well as offering less weight for your horse.
Barrel Saddles are used for barrel racing. These saddles need to allow for the horse’s mobility while also offering a secure seat for the rider. They weigh between 25 – 35 lbs.
In barrel racing, the horse gallops off around barrels, making very tight turns. Because this is a timed event, these saddles are made to be lightweight Western saddles.
The shorter saddle skirt allows for the horse to achieve mobility around the barrels and the higher cantle offers the rider security from being left behind. Barrel saddles work great for other timed events other than barrel racing.
Roping saddles can be used in roping events or on the farm. These saddles must be able to withstand the stress of having a cow or horse tied off to the horn. These saddles can weigh between 30 – 45 lbs.
These saddles are heavier than others because they need to be durable for their designated task. There may be a time where a 1000 lbs animal could be tied off from this saddle; because of this, the saddles are made with strong foundations.
Beyond the durability, these saddles need to also offer mobility for their riders. The riders will have to rope and jump off quickly. Roping is usually a timed event, so speed, mobility, and stability are key factors.
These saddles were made for the working ranch. A ranch saddle will be used for everything: roping, cutting, speed, and long distances. These saddles can usually weigh between 40 – 60 lbs.
Due to its hardiness, these saddles will weigh more. The ranch saddle must be durable and sturdy. Not only is it geared towards the rider’s comfort, but it’s also geared to working the livestock. This saddle will come with the extra padding like a trail saddle, but also the strong foundation and build of a roping saddle.
How Much Weight Can My Horse Carry?
A horse can comfortably carry 20% of their body weight. For example, if a horse weighs 1000 lbs, then they can comfortably carry 200 lbs. In order to figure out how much your horse is carrying, you need to add your saddle weight to your body weight.
If you want to know what breeds of horses can carry the most weight, click here.
How to Tell if Your Horse is Carrying too Much Weight?
If your horse is carrying too much weight, they may be sore after a ride. A great way to tell if your horse is sore is to press your fingers two inches down from the spine of your horse. If they wince, then they are sore in their back.
Another way to tell if your horse is carrying too much weight is if they seem fatigued. This may look like your horse moving slow, your horse tripping frequently, or your horse struggling to catch their breath.
How Do I Tell What Type of Saddle is Best for My Horse?
The best type of saddle for your horse would match the discipline that you plan on being involved in. However, it is important to be aware of your horse’s comfort when it comes to what saddle they’re wearing.
Whether you’re using an English saddle or a Western saddle, it’s very important that you make sure that the saddle fits properly. If a saddle does not fit on your horse properly, it can cause them real pain.
How Do I Tell If a Saddle Fits My Horse?
The way to tell if an English or Western saddle fits your horse is to first, place it on your horse without a pad under it. Place it in the position you would as if you’re tacking up. Note where and how the saddle touches the horse.
On the sides, the saddle should rest comfortably against the horse. To the withers, the pommel or gullet should be about three-fingers width above the withers. For your seat, make sure it sits where you would normally sit on your horse. It’s also important to make sure that your horse still has the complete range of motion in their shoulders with the new saddle on.
Other ways to tell if the saddles are not fitting the horse is if your horse has a sore back or seems uncomfortable under saddle. You can also tell how the saddle fits by examining your horse after a good ride. Look at the sweat marks the saddle has left on your horse. If there seems to de any dry spots behind the shoulders, then the saddle isn’t fitting as it should.
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