Weight is probably the most common gripe about western saddles. Real working saddles can weigh over 60 pounds and just an average western saddle will weigh over 30 lbs. Quite a difference from the lightweight English saddles. There has definitely been a trend towards creating lighter western saddles, especially with synthetic materials.
But there’s a reason for the weight. It’s sturdier, more durable, and more comfortable for the horse and rider. Sounds illogical, right? How can a heavier saddle be more comfortable for the horse?
The reason is that a horse’s comfort is more dependent on weight distribution than on the actual weight itself. Do you think an 1100 pound horse will notice much difference between a 30lb and a 60lb saddle? Of course not. He will notice, however, how that weight is distributed over his body. The better it’s distributed the more weight he can carry and the more comfortable he’ll be.
A typical English saddle with a 150 lb rider up will apply about 1 ¾ lbs of pressure per square inch to the horse’s back. A typical western saddle, with that same rider up, will apply only ¾ lb per square inch. Why the difference? A western saddle has far greater weight bearing surface to better distribute the weight.
So, there’s a real reason behind the heavier weight of the western saddle. For some, the weight’s not a big deal. For others, including myself, handling the weight can be a challenge. At 5’3" (almost) and a bit of a weakling, I used to really struggle to saddle my horse with a 30 lb saddle. Then I learned a great saddling technique that uses positioning, leverage, and momentum, rather than brute strength. It takes a little practice to master, but now I can saddle my new 45 lb saddle with ease.
Learn this helpful saddling technique: How To Saddle A Horse.