History Of The Western Saddle
The western saddle has a long and very interesting history. Common belief is that the western saddle is American in design and development, truth be told however the saddles original design came from the Dark Ages and Moorish horseman. As the Moors invaded other countries they brought their style of saddle with them, it had a high cantle and fork and longer stirrups. The Spaniards took up on this style of saddle and bough them over to the New World. As they expanded the saddle changed to be more of a tool for the working cowboys. The most notable change was the horn was added as we now know it, designed for easier roping of a cow. As the saddle spread across North America two types of saddles further developed.
The Texicans and the Californios
The Texicans style saddle had a squared skirt, was double rigged, and tended to be plain. Very similar to modern western saddles with regular forks and small horns. It allowed cowboys and farm workers to more easily handle the terrain and a quicker style of roping. These where more used east of the Mississippi.
The Californios style is more of a roper style saddle with the A-fork or wade tree and over sized horn. These, especially in Spanish or Mexican tradition have become very decorative as well as serving a purpose. The larger horns where an essential to their method of tying cattle. These saddles where used on our west coast.
The Modern Western Saddle
The western saddle is suppose to be comfortable when ridden in for long hours. It is a working tool for those who spent what seemed like 24/7 in the saddle. For many it is their first introduction to a horse is in a western saddle. The saddle is now designed for many other styles or disciplines of western ridding, each tailored to the specific need of the rider and horse. There are also improvements made in the way of materials, some used to make up the tree of the saddle and some to cover the saddle instead of the traditional leather. The new synthetic saddles weight less and can still hold up as well as a leather model.
Just from the shape alone you can tell where in American history your saddles design came from, even in its modern disguise, the saddle and the way it came to be hasn't changed much. Improvements to safety, comfort level, and now better designed trees and support systems are results of better technology being applied to the equine world. The result is less accidents, happier horses and riders and the ability to tailor a saddle can shave inches off your time.
Here is a link to a previous blog detailing the different modern types of western saddles: