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Australian Stock Saddle vs. Western Saddle: Which Is Right for Your Needs?

Nicole Cosgrove

While some riders have the luxury of choosing their favorite saddle through comfort alone, others need to address the practicality of every feature that a saddle has to offer. Whether you plan on working in your saddle or simply want to know what’s out there, we break it all down for you here.

The last thing that you want is to get on the wrong saddle, whether you’re going out for a pleasure ride or a day of work on the range.

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Overview of Australian Stock Saddles

The Australian stock saddle is a bit of a cross between an English saddle and a Western saddle, but that still only tells you so much. Which features did it take from the English saddle and which ones from the Western?

More importantly, when do you want to use an Australian stock saddle? We go over everything that you need to know here.

What Makes Up an Australian Stock Saddle?

Western saddles are known more for work, while English saddles are all about performance. While that might not make much sense to non-riders, think of it this way: English saddles are great for endurance events and speed, and Western saddles are great for the cattle drive.

The Australian saddle combines features of both for an extremely comfortable ride that can easily take you through rough terrain. It has a low seat with knee pads for added security, and the stirrup is a bit farther up than that of a Western saddle.

This gives you a deep, comfortable way to sit for an extended period. Today, some Australian stock saddles will have a horn, but this wasn’t a traditional feature.

When Do You Want an Australian Stock Saddle?

If you’re going to be spending a great deal of time in your saddle traversing difficult terrain, then the Australian stock saddle is an ideal choice. It keeps you in place mile after mile, though it doesn’t give you as much flexibility to move around and work compared to a Western saddle.

If you’re looking for a more comfortable option for pleasure riding or you’ll be working in less-than-ideal locations, an Australian stock saddle might be the best choice. Just keep in mind that if you don’t get stirrups that are wide enough, your legs might get pinched from time to time, and standing in the saddle is a bit more challenging.

Pros
  • Added knee pads make riding a bit easier
  • Comfortable for long hours of riding
  • Deeper seats are more comfortable
Cons
  • Legs can get pinched if the stirrup isn’t wide enough
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Overview of Western Saddle

Western Saddle
Image Credit: JimKnopf, Pixabay

While the English saddle was an excellent option for events on the parade ground, American cowboys needed a working saddle to help them with cattle and other farming events. So, they completely redid the English saddle and made something far more useful for the range: the Western saddle.

We break down everything put into these saddles here.

What Makes Up a Western Saddle?

The Western saddle is a bit heavier than both the English and the Australian stock saddle, but it uses a design that spreads that weight out over more of the horse’s back, to keep them comfortable and fresh. Every Western saddle has a horn at the front for a rope.

These saddles are easily customizable for whatever you need, and that’s a huge advantage if you need to complete various tasks. They have plenty of comfort features for the rider, and this keeps you comfortable for longer periods.

However, while the deep stirrups enable you to move around more without the risk of falling out, if you do start to fall, the Western saddle might trap your legs.

When Do You Want a Western Saddle?

If you need a work saddle on a traditional range or while working cattle, you want a Western saddle. It has tons of features that enable you to bring all your gear along and get the leverage that you need to complete the job without falling out of your saddle.

However, while you can safely work out of this saddle all day, if you’re looking to compete in speed or endurance racing events, the added weight of the Western saddle quickly turns into a drawback.

Pros
  • Spread your weight out over a wider area
  • Great for long rides
  • Easily customizable
  • Provides a more comfortable ride
Cons
  • Heavier saddle
  • Feet can get stuck in the stirrups
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What Saddle Is Better for Beginners?

Western horse with saddle
Image Credit: JamesDeMers, Pixabay

While there’s certainly no wrong answer here, most riders and instructors will recommend that you learn to ride either an English saddle or a Western saddle instead of an Australian saddle.

The reason for this is that Australian saddles put you in a position between what the Western and English saddles offer. While this might not seem like a big deal, if you don’t already know how to ride, you’ll start to get complacent in the wrong position.

Once you know how to ride better, though, you’ll know how you’re supposed to sit, and you can correct this while riding in an Australian saddle. In short, an Australian saddle might get you into bad habits that you’ll have to break down the road.

Which Saddle Is More Affordable?

The price of an Australian stock saddle and a Western saddle is similar, so it’s all about the quality and features that you want in your saddle. Expect low-quality Western and Australian stock saddles to cost under $500, while higher-quality options can easily go for thousands.

Get a high-quality saddle the first time and take care of it; otherwise, you’ll be spending more money in the long run.

Which Saddle Is Safer?

While there’s undoubtedly a bit of debate here, the safest saddle is the one that you don’t fall out of, which is why we give the nod to the Australian saddle. Neither saddle is dangerous, but a Western saddle has a higher likelihood of getting your foot caught if you do fall.

The best thing that you can do, though, is to only ride at your level and have a qualified trainer teach you everything that you need to know as you progress from level to level.

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Conclusion

Today, most of us don’t have to worry about heading out to the range to complete a hard day’s work, but saddle features and options are still remnants of those days.

If you’re training with an experienced rider, go with the saddle that you’ll be most comfortable in. If you’re not sure what saddle that might be, try out both options before spending a ton of money on a saddle that you might not want.


Featured Image Credit: RebeccasPictures, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.