Nothing puts the “show” into a horse show like quality western show saddles. Unleash your style with handsome silver trim and exquisite leather tooling – and try western pleasure show saddles that ride as good as your favorite, everyday work saddle.
When it comes to personal character and style, western pleasure classes allow us to get our “bling on” through complimentary tack and clothing choices. And while a working saddle is judged by its function and utility, the western show saddle is also judged by its “eye candy” appeal. It is designed to look elegant with intricate deep relief tooling patterns in conjunction with silver accents.
Because the western pleasure show saddle is artistic in nature, it is considered the Cadillac of saddles in the “looking good” department in the show ring.
Top Western Show Saddles Are Designed for Style and Performance
Just because they look good doesn’t mean that they can’t function well. A good show saddle is still constructed to help the rider balance in the seat correctly. Riding in the proper position is especially important in equitation classes, and some specialty western equitation saddles have an unusually deep seat to aid in rider position.
The deep seat also helps to contribute towards the appearance of a smooth ride for the exhibitor. The seat of the western show saddle is typically built up to some degree in the front, with the point of balance being situated in the center of the saddle.
The show saddle also has a smaller, shorter saddle horn positioned atop low profile swells for less interference with hands and reins. Western show saddles typically sport a suede seat for maximum grip. A show saddle will also have very deep and large skirts in order to showcase silver corner plates and elegant tooling on the leather.
In addition, there is a low cantle on most western show saddles. The rigging is almost always in skirt in order reduce bulk and promote close contact with the horse for much better communication.
Western Show Saddles for Sale
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Western Show Saddles with Silver
From saddle horn caps to stirrups – putting the “show” into western pleasure show tack involves decorating the saddle and bridle by adding silver. Several different types of silver are available such as German silver, alpaca silver, nickel plate, silver plate, sterling silver overlay, sterling silver, and pure silver.
- German silver / alpaca silver / nickel plate – All three of these are alloys of copper, nickel, and zinc. You will not find any silver in these alloys. They are very budget friendly! These alloys are acceptable for saddles used in entry level and fun shows and some sanctioned breed shows, but lack the proper color, look, and durability for western pleasure shows beyond these levels.
- Silver plate – Consists of a base that is a metal alloy electroplated with a thin layer of fine, or powdered silver, and then coated with a layer of protective lacquer to prevent tarnishing. This combination is also pocket book friendly and somewhat durable, but will show wear in time. Care must be taken to never use abrasive cleaners on this type of silver because they would ruin the protective finish, and degrade the look of the silver plate by turning the finish yellow. Proper care of this type of silver is to simply damp wipe with a clean cloth and thoroughly dry it with another clean cloth before storing it.
- Sterling silver overlay – This category of silver trim is an expensive investment, but with proper care it will last a lifetime. This type of silver is widely seen as the industry standard. Since sterling silver is soft in nature, this type of trim starts with a metal base which is covered by a layer of sterling silver. By utilizing this process, the trim piece is much stronger than just plain sterling silver, and becomes less prone to bending.Sterling overlay will tarnish over time and require cleaning.To clean sterling silver overlay, you should routinely clean with a silver spray or liquid silver cleaner. A tooth brush can be used to clean any intricate engraving.When using any kind of silver cleaner, take special care not to get the cleaner on the leather of the show saddle. If that happens, there is a good chance that it might darken it. If you are concerned about controlling a liquid, or have a heavy cleaning job, there are two alternatives; you might choose to use a wadding type cleaner or a paste cleaner.In either case, you should, once again, avoid getting any residue on the leather parts of your western show saddle. After cleaning, wipe dry and shine using a silver cloth.
- Sterling silver – Straight solid sterling silver is a high percentage of pure silver. Solid sterling is extremely soft and is easily bent. For this reason, it is not very durable, and rarely used for western show tack. It is sometimes found as an inlay. Sterling silver will tarnish over time.
- Pure silver – The pure form of silver cannot be used for saddle trim since it is simply too soft to be used. In certain instances, it might be used as an inlay. Pure silver tends to readily tarnish.
The Right Western Show Saddle for the Level of Competition
The price category, leather quality, and “bling” level of any western show saddles you might consider for purchase should fit the level of showing you aspire to.
There are several different levels of horse shows to participate in, including everything from local level fun shows, sanctioned breed shows, regional level shows, and the pinnacle of the show world that is represented by the national and world level shows.
- To compete in a local level or fun show, where the competition level is more relaxed, a clean, well-cared for saddle with very little or no silver, and limited tooling, is perfectly acceptable. Local level shows can be attended by all levels of riders and horses, but more often than not, these shows are a starting place for beginning riders, youth riders, and green horses. The local or fun show is expected to be affordable, and exhibitors showing with lower level saddles or all-around saddles can certainly be in the ribbons. But be aware that there will be some exhibitors sporting high end western show saddles too.
- The regional level exhibitor has a much higher bar to meet. When showing on a regional level, you are expected to be somewhere in the middle between the local level standards, and the national level standards. This midway level calls for several steps up in the amount and quality of silver, and an increased amount of the leather tooling on the show saddle versus the local level saddle. This is not to say that a good working outfit can’t be used, but you will probably fall short in managing to capture the judge’s eye, in comparison to other exhibitors showing with quality western show saddles.
Realistically speaking, when you decide to show on a regional level in the western pleasure and western equitation classes, you will definitely be riding against many exhibitors and mounts who are trying to qualify for the national or world level show in your respective breed. In fact you might feel like you are already at nationals or world level, since a large percentage of the tack being used by competitors will be suitable for top level shows. In the case of regional shows, if at all possible, you should go ahead and purchase as much saddle as you can afford in order to be competitive, and give yourself every edge that you can in the show pen.
- Needless to say, competing at the national and world levels will require the best in tack, and that point should be computed into your show horse tack choices. If you can realistically swing it, don’t cut corners on your saddle choice.
At the top levels competition is ON. You’ll encounter many horse and rider combinations sporting extremely ornate western pleasure saddles dripping in silver, combined with very intricate tooling and high quality leathers. You will surely be in “very deep water” alongside exhibitors showing off their best tack and show clothes. For this level of show, it may be time to “pull out all of the stops” that are feasible for you.
Just remember – at this level, saddles prices can range from a few thousand to $17,000 and even more for a custom show saddle. Just be true to yourself and your horse, because putting a $10K western show saddle on an average horse can to nothing to improve the end result. A great western pleasure horse and rider team performing in a clean, plain saddle should theoretically beat the average horse competing in the fanciest show saddle!
You should expect that, at the national or world level, the top riders will probably utilize and ride in the latest “fad” or “trend” in saddles that are current and popular. If at all possible, attempt to stay relatively close to the current saddle styles that might be relevant at the national or world show.
While acknowledging that it should be the performance of the horse and rider team that should count above all else; when showing at the top level you want to give yourself every edge possible. You and your horse’s overall picture, or look, should reflect exactly what you hope to be; the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the national or world champion!
Western show saddles can be a major investment!
When evaluating different western show saddles for purchase, be keenly aware of price and quality. If your preference is to find the cheapest saddle that you can locate to fit your needs, just bear in mind that the low price path might not be the best plan for the long run.
Sometimes the old saying “you get what you pay for” can be spot on depending on the situation. If you locate the perfect high quality show saddle, but the price tag is steep; make sure to take into account that the saddle could last a life time, and the high price of the saddle can be spread out over many years of good service. When you break it down to a yearly basis, it can seem more acceptable, versus purchasing an inferior product that will have to be replaced often.
5 Steps to Prolong the Life of your Western Show Saddle
It takes just a few preventative steps to give your saddle good care, so it can provide you with a lifetime of service:
- Properly clean and preserve the leather in the saddle – A regularly scheduled cleaning and conditioning routine can go farther than anything else in lengthening the life span of any saddle.
- Control the climate where the saddle is stored – You can greatly increase the longevity of the saddle by storing it in an area where the moisture level, extreme cold, and extreme heat can be managed. Some people find that this climate management is readily achieved by simply keeping their western show saddle inside their house where a constant climate is available. If you are not able to keep the saddle indoors, make sure to find an area where you can protect the saddle from moisture, bugs, and mold.
- Place your saddle on a stand – Try to purchase or make a saddle stand that will provide support for the entire spine of the saddle, while still allowing the stirrups, straps, and cinches to hang down straight. Always remember to never store a saddle upside-down, or on its side. Something else to definitely avoid is storing the saddle in a horse trailer for any length of time. Storing the saddle in the trailer will do damage to the leather due to the heat, and cause the silver to tarnish prematurely.
- Keep western show saddles covered – Make sure the cover you use will allow the saddle to breathe. Covering the saddle helps protect it from dirt and sunlight. Take measures to protect the saddle from sunlight because it will darken the saddle over a period of time. Try to avoid any cover that is non-porous, such as plastic. Do not completely wrap the saddle up in plastic, as this will promote mold and degrade the leather over time. Something as simple as a sheet can be used, or a saddle cover can be purchased from the tack store.
- You will need a specialty cover when traveling with the saddle – If at all possible, provide a specialized cushioned and padded saddle carrier that completely covers the saddle all the way around. Some types of carriers consist of two zippered halves that completely wrap around the saddle, encapsulating it, and protecting it from dirt, dings, and scratches. This type of saddle storage is like an insurance policy for western show saddle protection while on the road.