Saddles for the Gaited Horse

Last post 10-29-2007 11:29 AM by Dancing. 16 replies.
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  • 09-11-2007 8:16 PM

    Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    I opened this topic to answer some questions on saddles for gaited horses; since this comes up so often, it deserves a topic of it's own!!

    Your BEST bet for saddles is to buy a saddle made specifically for a gaited horse. Saddles made specifically for gaited horses are built with a wider tree, and the front of the saddle is high and wide and drapes over the horses side rather than gouging in the shoulder area at the points of the tree. They have a wide gullet, and the Western gaited saddles have shorter skirts to accommodate the swing of the horse’s back legs. Walking horses have sweeping movement behind (huge long stride), and a lot of action in the shoulder even when barefoot. Think of when other breeds do an extended trot, where they really reach up front; walking horses do that naturally. And my walking horses mostly have wide backs, and require a wide or double wide tree.

    The best saddle for the money is The Tennessean. They start around $800 for a work saddle and get more expensive as you add silver in the show models. The Tennessean comes in both Western and endurance styles. I have two show Tennesseans, and we don’t show in anything else when showing Western. The saddle is so balanced that even when my girth has come loose, the saddle stayed in position and I didn’t fall off. The difference in the movement and gait when riding with the Tennessean compared to riding in a saddle with quarter horse bars is phenomenal. It frees up the horse’s shoulders, and maximizes the horse’s performance. The Tennessean is made by Crates, and they are sold by National Bridle Shop.

    With some walking horses with a not-too-wide back, you can ride in a saddle with quarters horse bars, like a Big Horn. “Quarter horse bars and semi-quarter horse bars” are how they refer to the tree size in ordinary Western saddles. I think there is also a fit called Arabian bars, sized to an Arabian. Most western saddles are built on quarter horse or semi-quarter horse bars. We have a couple of Big Horn synthetic saddles that we sometimes train in, but they really don’t free up the shoulders enough to allow the horses to maximize their gait and encourage them to reach from the shoulder. I rode in a Big Horn saddle for many years until the Tennessean came on the market.

    There is another line of saddles built for gaited horses called Tucker. They have some really nice saddles, but in my opinion, they are built more for a man than a woman (I got terrible saddle sores when I rode in one), and you can’t sit in a balanced position like you can in a Tennessean. Different people have different preferences, though, so I’m mentioning those too.

    Almost any English saddleseat saddle (flat saddle) will fit a walking horse, but if you want to seriously ride, you need to invest in a good one, like a Cliff Barnsby. They are very pricey, but the balance is superb. In a saddleseat saddle, there is almost nothing to it, so the balance is incredibly important if your horse starts to rear and buck. Sometimes you can find a good used one, and many saddle shops will take a trade-in on your old saddle.

    In a dressage or jumping saddle, the width of the tree is incredibly important. The best multi-purpose English saddle I’ve found is the Stubben gaited saddle. If you need to start out with something less expensive (my first jumping saddle cost $100 and I was awfully happy to have a saddle of my own!!!!!), just make sure the tree fits the horse.

    Whenever you try a saddle, make SURE that the saddle company will take a return. Put a clean white pad or a white sheet under the saddle, ride in the saddle, and then look at the bottom of the saddle pad or sheet. If the hair on the pad is evenly distributed along the tree, then the saddle fits well. If you have big patches of hair only by the shoulder areas or by the back of the saddle, then you know the saddle is pinching or out of balance. If this happens, send it back and try another saddle.

    The other test is how happy and freely your horse gaits in the saddle. If he doesn't slow or stop, but opens up in his gait and goes very smoothly without breaking, then the saddle is probably right for him. The other thing is your balance, as your horse canters and does manuevers, if you feel pushed forward, pushed backward, or about to fall off, often the saddle isn't balanced well. If you feel secure, it is probably the right saddle for you!

    Here are a couple of examples:

    Gunslinger is wearing the Tennessean; the saddle doesn't constrain his movement.

    This is Flashcube in a Big Horn; see how I'm kind of rolling my weight back because the saddle doesn't fit as well.

    This is Moe in the Stubben gaited saddle. My saddle pad is too far forward, but you can see how easily I'm sitting in balance and how relaxed he is.

    This is Sling in the Barnsy saddleseat saddle. Again, note the balance. My hands are too high, but I'm really good balance--and that was really important as Gunslinger bucked and jumped in that class and I didn't fall off!!

  • 09-13-2007 12:39 AM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    Well, I guess I am just talking to myself (LOLOL!), but I thought of one other saddle built for gaited horses. There is an Amish saddlemaker up in Kentucky that makes real nice old-style plantation saddle replicas, that are priced reasonably. They sell the plantation saddle, breast collar, and bridle in a package for around $700. It is a nice pleasure/trail saddle, and it is quality workmanship for the price.

  • 09-13-2007 12:40 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    There's quite a few hits to this thread, so folks are reading it Cool If I'm at work and busy, I can't always take the time to comment because I can't just say one sentence worth and quit there Wink

    Boy I can see the difference in your seat on the Big Horn! Who's riding Gunslinger in the Flag picture? I hate to say it but he doesn't sit anywhere near as neat and tidy as you do plus you LOOK like you are truly enjoying yourself in every picture Grin


    There is an Amish saddlemaker up in Kentucky

    Yes, there is and I can't remember his name. I'd have to hunting on the Net Stick out tounge

    There's also Allegheny Trail Saddles and Crestridge Saddlery.

    I bought a used Crestridge, extra wide saddle that is part synthetic. I bought it for Duke for when company comes, but now that he has EMS, it isn't likely I will allow anyone to ride the Dollface. The saddle does fit his very wide shoulders well, but I haven't had the chance to see how it fits when he's "walking on". Duke has a huge stride and makes 120% use of his shoulders. Except for Parades, I always ride him bareback, so saddle fit has never been an issue.

    I ride everyone bareback and have no business having all the saddles I have --- four of which are for gaited horses:
    1. Buena Vista Plantation Saddle for parades only.
    2. Ortho-Flex (made by the original company)
    3. Crestridge synthetic
    4. Ameri-Tec synthetic endurance saddle that only weighs 11 pounds Grin

    I really like my plantation saddle for good all-around fit for Duke and myself, but I treasure it and refuse to let anyone trail ride in it Stick out tounge
  • 09-16-2007 1:08 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse


    I have a Granada Paragon, and a Whitman Helen Crabtree Equitation, both bought from National Bridle, although I would have preferred to have the deeper seat version of the Whitman. Didn't have any problems with Mystic that I know of in either.

  • 09-17-2007 1:44 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    Absolutely, your post is most helpful. Had a daughter's wedding last week and haven't been posting much, but have snuck a look when I could.

    I was fortunate to buy Minx from a woman who also has saddles made for her horses and her customers' horses. The saddle I bought from her is pretty inexpensive (less than $600) and comfortable for both me and Minx. It's got a flexible tree, round skirt and has a nicely padded lether seat with cordura skirts. I got the endurance model because I'm a klutz and have been known to get my shirt caught on a horn during dismount.

    I'm real interested in your suggestions because we just bought another Kentucky and will probably get a third one next year. Good to have tack choices.
  • 09-25-2007 10:47 AM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    Well, you are not talking to just took me a week to figure this new system out.

    I am a little confused because it sounds to me that you are suggesting a "wider" saddle for our gaited horses. I have always heard that gaited horses are generally more narrow than our stock buddies and they require a narrower tree.

     Someday, I would like to buy a Tennessean...but it's just not in the budget right now. I have heard good comments about the Tucker saddles...however, I haven't seen a style that I like because I prefer the "cheyenne roll" and they only make a few models like that.


    Horse-n-a-Hound Farm
  • 09-25-2007 1:28 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    "I am a little confused because it sounds to me that you are suggesting a "wider" saddle for our gaited horses. I have always heard that gaited horses are generally more narrow than our stock buddies and they require a narrower tree."

    That isn't always the case.  I have two "Widebodies" (anyone remember the "Widebody" cartoons in Western Horseman back in the 60's??).

    Duke was really mutton-withered until he lost all that weight from EMS this past Spring.  He still is wide-shouldered.  Joker is the same way.  Very wide shouldered.

    I blame their Foundation Grande Dam, the Morgan Maggie Marshall for that because they are both stout-built like the old Justin Morgan (Figure) lineStick out tongue

     Duke got so obese for a time that my Buena Vista Plantation saddle wouldn't fit him, which is why I bought the used Crestridge.  It has been custom-made for a broad shouldered TWH, but the lady sold the horse and didn't need the saddle anymore.   I scooped it up because the price was right and it fit Duke and Joker both.

    Now that Duke's lost over 100 pounds, I can put the Buena Vista back on him.  I still need that wide Crestridge for Joker who weighs in at 1200 pounds according to the weight tape and he's only around 15.1HEmbarrassed  They get plenty of exercise on this 14 acres of rolling hills.  They can't get from Point "A" to Point "B" without walking up, down, or sideway, on a hill side - lol lol

    Rusty is slender shouldered.  The old Orthoflex is the saddle I use for him when company comes.

    EDITED TO SAY:  That is Duke in my avatar, four years ago at 16 and still very well muscled.   Even though it's not a close-up you can see he is really a stout built Tennessee Walker.

    I have had to correct a some folks down thru the years who weren't quite sure what breed Duke is - lol.   A few times I have been complimented on my gorgeous gaited Morgan:)  And a few times I was asked how I taught that Quarter Horse to gait! :(

  • 09-25-2007 4:43 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    Minx is pretty wide also. But she's got a short back like most Kentuckies/Rockies. So the round skirt works well. A square-skirted Western saddle would jab her in the hips.

    I'm finding that that nice broad back of hers is pretty comfy for bareback riding. I may have to try a bareback pad when I get braver about riding with no saddle. 

  • 10-14-2007 8:40 AM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

     I've followed this thread with interest and got a lot to think about. My horses are non-gaited short/wide backs and I got so frustrated trying to fit a saddle on them that I went treeless. I think a gaited horse is in my future. How do you feel about a treeless on a gaited horse? I bet that question shows my ignorance!

    Horses give us the wings we lack.
  • 10-14-2007 4:05 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse


      I think a gaited horse is in my future. How do you feel about a treeless on a gaited horse?

    I am acquainted, via the message boards, with a handful of folks that ride their gaited horses with treeless saddles.

    One gal that comes to mind just bought a Hilason?  and she LOVES it!.  Says, that except for riding him bareback, this saddle is the first time her gaited horse has been able to gait properly and has quit "bucking up" on herBig Smile

  • 10-15-2007 9:58 AM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    I bet that question shows my ignorance!

    Not at all! It seems like a treeless should work pretty nicely on a gaited horse. I read somewhere that a gaited horse has more movement in his back than a trotting horse and that's why a flexible tree is a good idea. Seems like treeless would be even better. I don't have any experience with treeless, but may have to try one one of these days.

  • 10-16-2007 9:45 AM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    It is a Hilason.  Here's the link for them

    And here's a snippet from the local message board I belong to.  This is a Hilason.  Please note her comment about how her Tennessee Walker feels about the saddle - lol


    Just wanted to say that I love my new saddle! Very comfy with the close contact that I had been missing in my aussie. I'm not sure that I would ever even want to buy another saddle with a tree in it again LOL. And this treeless is WAY more affordable than the Bob Marshal.

    I didn't like the saddle pad I bought to go with it ($78 saddle pad + shipping!!!!), it was just too bulky, so I'm using a simple english pad right now.

    On the first ride I noticed Rex doing something I had never seen him do before.... he was flopping his ears around so contently (my jaw kinda dropped)lol. And by our 2nd ride he was back to doing his wonderful running walk. I'm so very happy to have this saddle, especially after owning such a POS before! LOL 


  • 10-20-2007 1:10 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    Okay I too am not knowledgable on the whole gaited horse thing.  But I do have question so please pardon the ignorance.  I have a retired Standardbred.  When he was on the track he was a pacer.  Although since I adopted him I've tried to avoid the pace.  As I have never had any training with gaited horses, plus I wanted to get as far away from track behavior as possible to start with.  In your oppion would the princples stated here apply to him as well?

  • 10-20-2007 4:33 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    Based on what I have read from others who have Standardbreds that gait, yes the principles apply to them too.

    Your SB was most likely a hard lateral pacer on the track.  There's a good possiblity he could be re-schooled to do something that isn't so jarring.  They can rack and step-pace.

    One of my Tennessee Walkers is a hard lateral pacer in the pasture but when I ride him, he step-paces and is actually a lot smoother than one of my other Walkers that does the 4-beat running walk.

    I've owned this horse 17 of his 20 years and occasionally he will lateral pace with me.  I immediately bring him down to a dog walk, then slowly allow him to pick up speed into the stepping pace. 

    The best way I can explain getting him to go into his stepping pace when he's really amped up and doesn't want to listen, is that I use the power brake principle, like you would in a car while sitting at the traffic light.  Except I do with the reins and leg cues.  I lightly encourage him to go forward with my legs, while lightly pulling back on the reins until I feel his body hit "turbo boost", then I know he's gone into his stepping pace.  Turbo boost is when I literally can feel his back end "come up underneath of himself" and he's off like a shot in what I call his good gait - lol lol

    Hope that helps you some in deciding if you want to re-train your guy to gait.  I'm betting it won't take muchBig Smile

  • 10-23-2007 12:27 PM In reply to

    Re: Saddles for the Gaited Horse

    Just a couple thoughts...  Frist: I had read that with gaited horses it is best to establish w/t/c before training the other gaits.  Does that sound right?  And second:  based on what I've read here it sounds like the saddle makes even more of a difference with gaited horses.  My background is in dressage / english pleasure, but I'm not so set on either that I wouldn't change to help my boy.  So my question is: are there any options, other than the Stubben, that fall more into those catagories.  I had thought of going treeless with the Hilason, but I don't know anything about them.  Especially when it comes to fitting...

    No hurry on an answer to this, as I am currently dealing with another issue with him and may not be able to ride for a while.  I have had some issues finding a saddle that works for him and had to go with an eventing saddle for the time being, so any thoughts would be helpful.


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