All About Barrel Racing Saddles

Woman on top of a horse, and a quote about fitting the saddle to its horse beside her.

No rodeo event is complete without barrel racing. It’s an exciting, high-speed competition that showcases the connection between rider and horse. And with riders competing at such a fast pace, it’s no surprise that every second counts. In some rounds, the difference between first and second place comes down to a fraction of a second. Time is that important and so is your gear. If both horse and rider aren’t properly outfitted, then mistakes that cost time can happen. That’s why selecting the best barrel racing saddle is important. 

Whether you’re new to the sport or a barrel racing champion, understanding the differences between different barrel racing saddles is helpful. This article can help you spot differences and pick the best saddle for you. So keep reading! 

The History of Barrel Racing

Barrel racing started as a hobby among women, often done at the same time as men’s rodeo competitions. In the early 1930s it turned into a main event. Showcasing beauty and power, along with how well they handled their horses, women finally had a rodeo event of their own. Soon prizes for the best mount, outfit, and horsemanship were added and eventually the cloverleaf pattern was established. 

The sport has only evolved from there. Barrel racing now comes with prizes comparable to other rodeo events and has a huge following.

The Material

Barrel racing saddles are most often made out of leather, which is a durable and flexible material. Leather also has smooth finish that makes it more comfortable for the rider to sit on. Modern synthetic material is used as well and may be a good choice for many. The frame of the saddle is usually made from wood or fiberglass, which is covered in leather and padding.

The seat and jockey part of the saddle utilizes suede or rough-out covers to “stick” the rider to their seat. Rough-out allows a closer ride to the horse. Many riders use it to get a better connection and sense of their horse. Suede is often combined with padding for added comfort and grip. There’s also a combo option that has suede and padding while also using rough-out bits on the jockeys and fenders. These options can help the racer “stick” to their seat better, which is especially important when making such tight turns.

The main thing to consider when selecting a barrel racing saddle is the quality of the saddle. To meet the demands of the sport, you’ll want quality material and a proper fit for both you and the horse. Comfort for your horse is important too! Your horse needs a full range of movement so it can reach top speeds and maneuver around the barrels.

Back view of a woman, and a quote about barrel racing saddle features next to it.

The Parts of the Saddle

Different saddles are designed for different riding events. Barrel racing saddles are generally small, lightweight, and feature a deep seat, and a tall riding horn. High cantles help the rider stay put. 

One noticeable difference between barrel racing saddles and other saddles is the horn. It’s placed higher and is thinner to aid with grip. This style of horn gives the rider something to push against during turns. In addition, the stirrup leathers are thinner and positioned more forward. All of this leads to ultimate control and security for the rider. With a proper, comfortable saddle both horse and rider can better achieve their barrel racing potential.

Buying Second Hand

While buying new can help guarantee the quality of the saddle, not everyone has that kind of money to spend. That’s especially true if you’re just starting out. With the info in this post, hopefully you have a better idea of what to look for when scouting second-hand saddles. Many riders will sell their saddles when done with the sport or if their horse has outgrown it, so you can sometimes find a great deal. Of course you’ll want to pay special attention to obvious wear and tear. But in the end, due diligence and buying second-hand can potentially save you hundreds if not thousands. 

Final Thoughts

As we round the final barrel, so to speak, let’s review what makes for a good barrel racing saddle. To ensure that the rider and horse work as one, a secure fit is key. This helps with stability, comfort, and control. Also, look for a higher swell and cantle, deeper seat, higher horn, and seating material that’s comfortable yet has some grip. 

If you’re just starting your barrel racing journey or want to take your barrel racing to the next level, become a member of X Factor Barrel Racing. Members can take advantage of exclusive interviews, instructional videos, practice footage, our online coaching program, and much more. Plus, a trial membership is free! So what do you have to lose?

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