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How to Choose a Reining Western Horse Saddle

A good reining saddle is essential if you participate in reining events or need to round up cattle on your ranch. You can choose the right piece for you and your mount from the dozens of new and preowned reining saddles available on eBay.

What to look for in reining saddles

You need to consider several factors, including:

  • Seat - The seat of the saddle should lie close to the horse’s back. The pocket should be between 62% and 75% back on the saddle. Choose an option that is built up in the front for a more secure ride.
  • Horn - The horn on a reining saddle should be no more than 3.5 inches high. Look for a saddle with a small-diameter horn.
  • Stirrup leathers - Some reining saddles come with stirrup leathers; others do not. Look for a saddle designed to let the stirrups hang slightly forward as this will help you sit deeper in the saddle when the horse is spinning. The leather should be thin and flexible.
  • Cantle - For reining, choose a saddle with a fairly small cantle.
  • Tree - Choose a tree that fits your horse properly. If your horse is a little sway-backed, then choose a saddle with a curve or bend at the end of the bars.
How do you choose the right size?

Saddles come in many different sizes. See the manufacturer site for details. You might want to try different sizes to learn which one meets your needs. Many people prefer a smaller saddle for reining than they use for other horse-riding activities. Consider this general guidance:

  • 15-inch saddle - designed for riders 4 feet, 9 inches to 5 feet, 2 inches tall, weighing 95 to 120 pounds
  • 16-inch saddle - designed for riders 5 feet, 3 inches to 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing 120 to 165 pounds
  • 17-inch saddle - designed for riders 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing less than 220 pounds
What materials are used to cover trees on reining saddles?

Materials manufacturers provide include:

  • Rawhide - Makers like Western Rawhide and Paul Taylor apply rawhide to cover wooden saddle trees. These provide some flexibility, are durable, and can help protect the tree from moisture.
  • Bullhide - Brands like Circle G and Blue River sometimes use bullhide because it makes the tree stronger. Molding to fit individual horses is possible.
  • Fiberglass - Manufacturers like Bailey and Crates sometimes use fiberglass to cover wooden trees. Fiberglass is an economical material that helps protect the tree.
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