At Colorado Trails Ranch, we offer families a chance to go on horseback riding vacations that they’ll never forget. Before you head to Colorado for your ideal dude ranch vacation, however, you should educate yourself a little about the Western saddle.

Western Saddles vs. English Saddles

You may be aware that there are two main riding styles based on the two basic saddles – Western saddles and English saddles. An English saddle is lighter than the Western saddle and its stirrups keep a rider’s feet under him instead of in front. This makes a huge difference in how the rider is poised while riding. While the English saddle is perfectly at home in some show rings, there are places not suited for this type of riding equipment, like roping cattle and riding the untamed slopes of the Rockies.

The Western saddle was designed with the American cowboy in mind. Although it’s larger and heavier than an English saddle, a Western saddle protects the horse by distributing the rider’s weight more evenly across the horse’s back. For cowboys who were going to be driving cattle over long distances, protecting the horse’s back was an absolute necessity.

Also unlike the English saddle, the Western saddle has a horn protruding from the front of the saddle. Originally, the horn was used by cowboys who had just roped a calf. The cowboy would tie the end of the rope around the saddle horn to keep the calf in place while he jumped down from his horse to deal with it. For riders today, the high pommel under that horn and the raised cantle or seat back, provide a very secure seat while out on the trail, especially here in the Colorado mountains around the dude ranch.

Finding the Right Fit for the Saddle

For a comfortable horseback riding experience, it’s important that the saddle fit the horse first and the rider too.  It is super important that your horse not have an ill-fitting saddle, it can make him irritable and even injure his back. For you, it is also important to give you a comfortable and safe ride. Riding a horse with a saddle that’s the wrong size for either of you is a bit like wearing the wrong size shoes.  After a while on the trail during dude ranch vacations the wrong saddle can put a damper on either you or your mount getting much out of the experience.

For this reason, every horse used by our guests on horseback riding vacations has a certain saddle in the barn that is almost always used for them. We also take stock of the size of our riders, not only for selecting their horse, but to ensure they have a good fitting saddle and a great time in the corral or on the trails. Other things go into matching up our guests with their horse for the week, including personality combinations and riding skill levels.

Don’t be surprised upon arrival that our dude ranch has no English saddles in the barn. This is the West, and around these parts, Western is the way to ride.