Although modern western saddles are mostly made out of synthetic materials, the basic design hasn’t changed much over the years. First created for riding and working on the range, western saddles are equipped with a saddle horn and other features for ranching and herding. They're now used for all sorts of western-style riding and performance, and finding the right one can make or break a pleasure ride or an equestrian competition. Western saddle seat sizes range from toddler sizes to large adult sizes.
Figure out what type of western saddle you need based on your riding goals. Although basic western saddles are all designed for practicality, comfort and security, they come in many varieties, notes the Mini Horse & Pony Tack Guide. Choose your saddle based on your riding purpose and style.
Use a pleasure saddle if you plan to ride for recreation only. It’s the most popular saddle and is designed for comfort. Select a saddle for performance if you plan to show horses. Performance saddles include barrel racing, cutting horse and roping saddles. Buy a saddle that not only fits you but also fits your horse properly.
Stretch the measuring tape from the back of the pommel, just below the saddle horn, to the outside seam of the cantle, or seat back. Western saddles seat sizes range from 5 to 22 inches, according to Mini Horse & Pony Tack Guide. Choose a seat that's 7 to 8 inches for a small child or toddler; 9 to 10 inches for a child 3 to 6 years old; 11 to 12 inches for a child 7 to 10 years old; 13 inches for a larger child or teenager; 14 inches for a small adult; 15 or 16 inches for an average adult; and 17 to 20 inches for a large adult.
Try out the saddle for comfort by sitting in it for a few minutes before buying it.
Check that your saddle fits your horse properly. Badly fitting or malfunctioning saddles can cause serious injuries to horses.