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Exploring the Various Types of Western Saddles

Active with the Home Builders Association of Austin, Alan Erickson leads a custom residential building company. Competing at Western equestrian events with his wife, Alan Erickson has had several horses that have garnered significant prize money.

One of the essentials of Western riding is proper gear, and this begins with the saddle. Employed in team roping events, the roping saddle has a strong tree, or base on which the rest of the saddle is constructed. This heaviness allows it to withstand intense forces as the rider chases the calf at speed. Meanwhile, suede or roughout seats prevent sliding. The saddle is hung forward and the horn is built tall, thick, and strong, to stand up to the force exerted by the roped calf.

A cutting saddle, used in cutting events, has a thin, tall horn that is easy to grasp when cattle are worked. Meant for easy grasping, the horn runs the risk of breaking off when heavy force is involved. The saddle is designed for substantial movement, allowing the horse to comfortably move as the horse and rider together demonstrate the steed’s skills in handling cattle.

Lighter in weight, a barrel saddle has a distinctively round skirt that helps with aerodynamics in races. The higher cantle and deeper seats also assist in securing the rider around tight turns at speed. The horn tends to be thin, with an emphasis on sturdy gripping. Barrel saddles also come with a variety of safety features, such as a breast collar and back cinch, which help prevent rider slippage.

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