Western Dressage can be practiced in any saddle or style of riding—this is one of the best things about it. However, in order to compete, the saddle must meet certain requirements: WDAA Saddle Rules It must be recognizable as a standard, working, native or Australian stock saddle, or a Western Side Saddle. The saddle must have fenders but does not need a horn.
This type of saddle has evolved over hundreds of years to be perfectly suited to ranch and cow work, long rides and almost any kind of recreational riding. A good Western saddle is rock steady on the horse’s back and will stay that way through barrel racing, roping and steep, rugged terrain and it will remain in good working condition for years of hard use.
The Western tree is usually wood wrapped in rawhide or a modern flexible material. It has very sturdy construction but is quite rigid and offers very little padding between the tree and the horse’s back, which is why saddle pads/blankets that are made for Western saddles typically are very thick fabric or even layers of shock absorbing material like neoprene. This offers a more than serviceable fit in most cases.
Let’s compare this to English saddle construction. The tree of an English saddle is smaller than that of a Western saddle, and it is wrapped in multiple layers of material, as well as sitting on top of stuffed, or “flocked” panels. The flocked panels and smaller tree allow a “close contact” feeling, which increases how much the rider can feel and communicate through the seat. Many English riders appreciate this, especially dressage riders, who place utmost importance on communication with the horse. Flocked panels have the added benefit of being customizable to an individual horse by a saddle fitter.
As Western Dressage has exploded in popularity, many riders, especially those who have converted from English disciplines (of which there are many) have expressed a desire for a Western saddle that offers a closer contact. The answer came in the form of the Quantum Western by DP Saddlery.
Cathy had been searching for both a saddle for her own mare, Asia, and one that she could recommend to her Western Dressage students. After trying a slew of Western saddles of different sizes and brands, she was always dissatisfied with the feel through her seat, and her mare was never totally comfortable with the shape of the Western tree, possibly due to her very short back. Then she came across the Quantum, a fully adjustable Western saddle built on an English tree, with flocked panels.
The Quantum Western was the answer to Cathy’s prayers. And now you can custom order these Saddles through Cathy!
DP Saddlery refers to their saddles as “smart saddles” and they really are. The magic begins with the tree, which is made of an extremely sturdy but slightly flexible carbon fibre that supports the weight of the rider while allowing the horse’s back to move. The tree is also fully, continuously adjustable with an Allen wrench socket on the pommel of the saddle. Not only are the adjustments incredibly fine (or dramatic, if needed) but they are easy to make. You don’t have to take the saddle apart or even take it off the horse! With this adjustability the saddle is already a convenient one for trainers or any other rider who frequently rides different horses, as most horses will be comfortable in the Quantum Western without custom flocking.
The panels of the saddle are anatomically designed and stuffed with high quality synthetic wool. This means two things: that the stuffing can be modified for an asymmetrical or extremely atypical back, and also that the saddle can be reflocked later in its life as the material compresses with age and use, a common problem with any padding in a saddle that is regularly used.
These are the most important features of the Quantum Western but there are even more, giving it quite the edge even over the highest quality traditional Western saddles.
- The Quantum is very light compared to most Western saddles, ranging from 18 to 22 pounds.
- Because of the soft panels, it doesn’t require expensive, cumbersome pads, only a simple blanket.
- Dressage style girthing system with two buckles in a Y shape, holding the saddle very securely.
- The fenders are easily adjustable with a plain buckle instead of blevin fenders, and also are attached high up, directly to the tree, allowing the fender and rider’s leg to move freely back and forth as needed. This is a distinct advantage to a dressage rider, as the rider can achieve their most balanced, comfortable position instead of fighting with the saddle.
It is important to note that the Quantum Western has a very different feel to that of a traditional Western saddle, which some lifelong Western riders will find uncomfortable at first. This is absolutely normal and while the Quantum has many benefits, it is not necessary to compromise your or your horse’s comfort and balance. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, though it is always an interesting and informative exercise to play around with the tack that you use and try new things.
Quantum Western Short and Light
If you prefer the feel of a traditional Western saddle or have tried the Quantum and you just can’t get used to it, DP saddlery offers a saddle with a Western style tree that is also adjustable, giving you the feel of the Western saddle with the benefits of a fully adjustable gullet. Western Flex Fit Saddles
Cathy is a DP dealer and can help people to order the saddle that would work best for them and their horse. Order your Saddle from a large selection of in-stock saddles. Let Cathy help you find the right saddle for you and if it isn’t available let her place a special custom order.
Cathy has a Quantum Sport by DP Saddlery available for sale