The rider’s most significant component of a western saddle is the saddle seat. It will define how comfortable those hours in the saddle will be to a large extent.
Everything starts with the “ground seat.” The ground seat is attached to the saddle tree and serves as the foundation for the final saddle seat. Although it is not visible on a finished saddle, it determines where you will sit on the horse’s back and how comfortable you will be. The ground seat is commonly built of all leather, all metal, all leather and metal, or one of the modern polymers.
The pelvic arch should be slightly bent in quality ground seats. Seats of poor quality are flat and might make you feel like you are straddling a table. On a long trip, this is not a feeling you want to have. The front of a well-designed ground seat will be narrower, allowing the rider’s legs to be close to the horse.
A “slope” is also present in the ground seat. The slope defines where the rider will be positioned on the horse, starting at the handhold and curving towards the cantle. The rider will sit at the lowest point of the seat, which will have a significant impact on his riding position.
There are many different viewpoints on what constitutes a “good” saddle seat slope; some are based on particular activities (such as cutting or roping), while others are based on personal choice. We will chime in with our thoughts. Most riders, we believe, will benefit from a rather flat seat that places their legs beneath them. This is the most evenly distributed location. Many saddles feature steep slopes that drive the rider’s legs out in front and tilt them back against the cantle. This is an unbalanced situation.
The final saddle seat is made of strong leather and sits on top of the ground seat. A single huge piece of leather covers the seat, cantle, and front and seat jockeys on the greatest saddles. Examining a saddle’s seat construction can reveal a lot about the saddlemaker’s craftsmanship. Lower-quality saddles will have a two-piece seat design, with a padded seat to hide the seam.
Padded seats have become increasingly popular, and they can now be found on a wide range of saddles. Padded seats, on the other hand, are not a good option for an uncomfortable saddle. The issue is not with the seat’s softness, but with its design. With or without a padded seat, a seat that is made to match the human anatomy will be comfortable. Naturally, any novice rider will require some time in the saddle to acclimate their muscles to riding. There is no getting around the discomfort of being a newbie. However, once it is out of the way, you will find that a good saddle with a well-designed seat is very comfortable.
Style and Fit of Saddle Seats
We recommend sitting in and riding in as many saddles as possible to identify the ideal saddle seat design and seat size for you. You will learn to distinguish between what feels nice and what doesn’t.
Seat measurement is a typical method for determining saddle size. All saddles have a seat size that is measured from the base of the horn to the highest center border of the cantle. It ranges from 12″ (child) to 17″ (adult) in half-inch increments. Most saddle builders believe that saddles larger than 17″ should not be created because they seat the rider too far back and cause discomfort for the horse.
The truth is that seat size is simply one component that influences saddle size. The depth and slope of the seat, the slope and dish of the cantle, and the style and angle of the fork all work together to define how much space is available in a given seat. Unfortunately, none of these additional parameters are standardized or documented in saddle measurements.
As a result, to determine fit, you must sit in each saddle. Within a given seat size, you will notice significant variances amongst saddles. As a general guideline, the distance between the front of your body and the fork should be four inches. Your seat should rest on the cantle’s base rather than against its back. Some people prefer a tighter or looser fit.
In general, a saddle that is a trifle too big is preferable to one that is a little too tiny.
When buying a saddle, one of the most important factors to consider is saddle seat comfort and fit. Take your time and do it well.