Monday, September 26, 2022

Back in the Saddle Again

  By Cindy Regnier

Ever ridden a horse bareback? Not real safe or comfortable, right? Whether you’re a cowboy, in the Calvary or just plain enjoy it, everybody knows you need a saddle to ride a horse. Saddles are the most widely known horse riding equipment, but how come we use them and who first thought of this idea of a piece of leather on a horse’s back? Seems the answer to that question must remain a mystery as I came across almost as many answers to that as sources I could find.

Some say Scythians created the frame for saddle made from two parallel pieces of leather with a girth attaching them together.

Another source claims the saddle was invented as a simple cloth over the horse’s back when the Celtic cavalry served as mercenaries to the ancient Egyptians. Still others say mounted warriors needed them for wars or perhaps it was the charioteers of ancient Egypt. One source I found said saddles likely started as seats made for camels or even elephants. Take your pick, but by and large, all the designs are similar.

Most agree that in the early days saddles were just a simple blanket or cloth on the horse’s back.

These were likely a status of wealth for the earliest users. Some even had gold accents or embellishments.

When tanning hides became more predominant, the first leather saddles came into use. Likely, they were made by building them around solid trees and as the idea progressed, atop wooden frames, This was a huge achievement as the tree or frame raised the rider above the horse’s back and allowed for even distribution of the rider’s weight on either side of the horse’s spine. This would have kept the horse healthier and allowed the rider to use the animal for a longer time.

4 point saddle
Eventually, the saddle would also have a rounded knob as a pommel and a cantel made from leather, bone or horn pieces. Soon leather thongs, served as a crupper to help keep the saddle from slipping. During the middle-ages, many advancements were made to the saddle, including creating a higher cantel and pommel along with stirrups and a girth.

The rise of cattle work and bullfighting resulted in splitting the design of the saddle into two main categories. There are Moorish and Hungarian styles, both of which are used today. The Moorish design is what we now consider the western saddle.

It was greatly influenced by Spanish conquistadors and vaqueros, cowboys that conquered lands in the United States. It includes a prominent horn on the front to allow a rider to tie a rope around it for moving livestock.

The Hungarian design is the modern English saddle. It doesn’t have a horn but features a low cantel and pommel for jumping or dressage.

Riding in a Western saddle is done differently than in an English saddle as any accomplished horse person will tell you. The saddles have developed over time to be most suited to the particular discipline chosen by the rider. So the saddle evolved along with the many and varied use of horses. Just take note, the saddles in old western movies may or may not be authentic to the time – but most likely not!

Leather saddles of today can last a lifetime if well cared for and maintained (unlike the one in desperate need of TLC sitting in my basement for the future use of some horse we’ll never own – but that’s another story) Personally, I wouldn’t have clue how to use anything but a western saddle and even that is rather iffy. Do you ride? What kind of saddle do you choose?
Rand isn't looking for love. He'd ridden that trail before. What he needs is a wife to help care for his orphan nieces. Desperate, he sends an advertisement to a newspaper. Fleeing her former employer who would use her to further his unlawful acts, an advertisement seems like the perfect refuge to Carly. Hiding on a Kansas cattle ranch is her best shot for freedom. But its sanctuary comes with a price—a husband. Marrying a man she doesn't know means sacrificing her dreams, but it's better than being caught. Or is it?


  1. Thank you for posting today, and what an interesting subject! I don't ride but if I did I feel that the Western style gives more stability. Maybe not, but I'm not the most agile person in the world and I need all the help I can get!

  2. Hi Connie - I'm with you on that (The not the most agile person and needing all the help I can get part!) And with a cowboy dad, I've never even been in a saddle not western. Still, it is kind of fun to watch the English style riders in competition, like at the Olympics. I always wonder how they get those high-priced horses over seas to wherever the Olympic venue is. Airplane for horses?

  3. Growing up in Texas made me want a horse of my own, but living in the city of Dallas wasn't quite conducive to it. I never knew there were so many different kinds of saddles. I learned about some of them in research on rodeos, but you've shown more, and that's really fascinating to think they have so many different uses and designs. I did learn to ride as a teenager, but haven't been on a horse since those days. Great post.

  4. Thank you Martha. I've been on my Dad's sawhorse with the saddle on it but bt the real live horse for many years so I hear you! Thanks for your comments today.