English Saddle Vs Western Saddle: What’s the Difference?

English and Western riding have similarities and differences. The primary difference is in the type of tack the horse wears. With English riding, riders make contact with the horse’s mouth, via the reins, effectively controlling their horse. Western riders make brief contact with the horse, using the saddle, their body weight, and neck reining to control their horse. The biggest difference between the two riding styles is the way the saddles are made. Knowing the differences between English saddle vs western saddle will help you better understand how to make the right purchase for your horse.

Understanding English Saddles

When comparing English saddles and Western, one of the first things you will notice is English saddles are lighter and smaller than their Western counterparts. Because an English saddle is smaller, it does not spread the weight over a large area, making it important to get a perfect fit. English saddles range in weight from 10 to 25 pounds.

An English saddle allows a rider to maintain much closer contact with their horse. English saddles allow the rider to control their horse with the reins, so the horse and rider become one, anticipating one another’s moves.

Another key difference between English and Western saddles is Western saddles are often greatly adorned. You will rarely find a tooled English saddle, though some saddleries have brought art to this riding style.

Understanding Western Saddles

Western saddles were created with cowboys in mind. These saddles helped cowboys to remain comfortable on long trail rides and time spent out corralling their cattle all day.

Western saddles are much larger than English saddles. They are also much heavier. Western saddles range in weight from 25 to 60 pounds. Although they are heavier, they have a larger surface area, to help disperse the weight of the saddle and rider across the back of the horse.

Another big difference in Western saddles is they are often adorned. You will find conchos, tooling, and braided leather, among many other details. Often, these saddles become works of art that are meant to speak to the style of the rider.

If you look at a Western saddle and an English saddle side by side, there will be something missing from the English version. Western saddles include a horn, but English saddles do not. The horn is for roping cattle and maintaining control.

Differences in the Trees

The tree of a saddle is its backbone. This is the structure on which the entire saddle rests, offering a framework that makes the saddle sturdy. Just as there are other differences, there are key distinctions between a Western saddle and an English saddle’s tree.

  • English Saddle Trees

English saddle trees are typically made from laminated wood or synthetic materials. They are meant to be lightweight, allowing the rider to remain close to their horse, without any rigid framework that prevents movement.

  • Western Saddle Trees

Western saddles have trees that are made of wood covered in fiberglass or a material called Ralide, which is polyethylene. This saddle allows for more structural support for both rider and horse.

English Saddle Western Saddle

Tips for Choosing the Right Saddle

No matter which style of riding you prefer, it is important to know what to look for when purchasing a saddle. Consider the following tips to help you purchase the perfect saddle for you and your horse.

  • First, set your budget, so you know what you can afford. Saddles can be expensive and should be considered an investment.
  • Next, measure your horse. Conduct a wither tracing and measure to ensure you get the perfect fit.
  • You will need to measure the length of your thigh for the perfect seat size. Horse saddles range from youth sizes at 12 to 13 and up to 17 for extra-large seats.
  • Choose the material wisely. There are both leather and synthetic options for Western and English saddles. Leather is more durable, but synthetic is easier to maintain.
  • Learning about the tree type is essential. You can choose from treeless and treed saddles. You can also choose semi-flexible trees, depending on your riding habits.


While riding English style is more formal, Western riding is more for work than pleasure, though both saddles can be used for trail riding. No matter which saddle style you choose, comfort for you and your horse is essential.

The right saddle should cradle your horse’s spine and eliminate painful pressure points. It should also support your lower back and prevent saddle sores.

There are English and Western saddles for all riding disciplines. With careful research and the knowledge you have obtained here, you should be prepared to purchase the perfect saddle to meet the needs of you and your horse. For english saddle vs western saddle, the differences are what makes each so special.

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