Over the past few years more riders have been choosing synthetic saddles over the traditional leather ones. Naturally, tack companies have responded by offering a larger selection of synthetic saddles. You can find Western, English, Aussie, Endurance and Hybrid saddles in synthetic forms. Treeless types are available as well as more specialized types of saddles like dressage or barrel racing.
If you are looking for your first saddle, a new one, or you're simply a tack hoarder (you know who you are!), why not consider a synthetic?
One of the main complaints about Western saddles is the sheer weight of them. It isn't uncommon for full-skirted Western saddles to weigh 30+ lbs. Needless to say, this can be difficult for young, elderly, or short riders to carry and place comfortably on the horse's back. There are plenty of special techniques to make saddling your horse easier but if you're only 5' tall trying to saddle a 16hh horse with 35lbs of leather nothing is going to help, save for using a mounting block.
Certain types of riding, endurance being an excellent example, requires lightweight tack to aid in keeping the horse well-conditioned during the ride. Competitive trail riders may want a light saddle for the same reason.
- Ease of Care
Leather care may be another downside for people. Personally, I enjoy cleaning and conditioning leather tack but for busy people or those who regularly get their saddles wet and dirty, this can be quite the chore. Majority of synthetic saddles can simply be wiped down with a wet cloth. A regular soap can be used as well to remove stains, mud and sweat.
Your average synthetic saddle is half the price or more off the same type in a leather version. For the first-time horse owner this can be a godsend. The inexpensive nature of synthetics also make them great for riding stables with school horses, people who ride different horses or families with various size riders, and those who start colts.
The main disadvantage of synthetics is that many people don't find them to be too attractive. Compared to leather saddles, they do lack in overall beauty. There isn't any doubt that a beautifully made leather saddle can make any equestrian drool. Well-maintained leather is simply stunning and comfortable. A high-quality saddle on a solid tree will last you for a lifetime. Leather saddles are more expensive but will last longer than a synthetic.
Have you ever used a synthetic saddle? If so, how did you like it? I rode for 3yrs in a Wintec Round Skirt synthetic and I loved it more than other saddles I had tried. Share your opinion in the comments below!