Ever wondered what the Australian Saddle was, or how different it is from the typical Western or English riding saddles? In this article, you will learn the main features that distinguish the Australian Saddle from the other riding saddles, the similarities it shares, the origin of this great piece of work and the uniqueness of it amongst its much competition.
The popularity of the Australian Stock Saddle came about right after the release of the movie, “The Man from Snowy River” in 1982. This great movie has one of the best horseback riding scenes as far as time can tell, and all of its riding was done on Australian saddles. The news of this saddle type soon spread like wild fire, and the Australian Saddle gained its name amongst the existing equestrian world.
The origin of the Australian Saddle came about shortly after the English settled in Australia in 1788. The English brought with them horses, saddles and equestrian tacks of all kind. Not so long after their arrival, they soon realized that there was huge and distinct difference between their homeland and Australia. So, the commitment and drive to mold the existing English saddle into something which suits the harsh environment came about. They began changing the design of their saddles and equestrian tack into something that would march-up with the harsh, rigid and rugged environment; hence an evolution of the existing English saddle surfaced with its variations and was populated with the name, “Australian Saddle”. They needed a saddle that would be comfortable while working long hours on horseback for both the rider and the horse itself. This saddle had to be tough and durable for the intended rugged use, yet again be light weight and easy to girth.
The Australian Saddle has been in existence for over a hundred years. The fundamental English saddle was made tougher and more robust so it could be capable of withstanding the considerable stress and hardship of the Australian environment. Fittings [like d-rings and bridge staples] were added so riders could carry their gear with them. However, the major difference the Australian Saddle poses is in the introduction of the device called ‘poleys’. The ‘poleys’ [or a type of knee pad] provides a more secure and safe horseback riding on sloppy and inclined areas. They are placed in front of the saddle and parallel to the thighs of the rider, about ¾” Inches away. The ‘poleys’ give the major difference the Australian Saddle has in contrast with the other types of horse riding saddles like the Western Saddle or the typical English saddle. With the ‘poleys’, one can easily distinguish the Australian Saddle from these other horse riding saddles.
The Australian horse riding saddle has a simple [highly efficient] double ‘girthing’ which is used to attach it to the horse. The billet straps (which are sewn to the saddle) and the over girth (a strap going across the top of the saddle) both buckle directly to the girth. This double system allows the rider to girth the saddle more effectively, which helps eliminate slippage. Should a billet strap break, the over-girth provides additional safety.
Australian saddles rest more on the horse’s shoulders in contrast with the general and popular type saddles [like the western] which sits on the horse’s spine area. So it is widely known that the Australian saddle is placed more forward than the others, and the stirrups are attached in a more forward position as well. This puts the rider’s center of mass right on the spot where the weight could be distributed evenly throughout the horse’s body, and it is a popular dogma that this saddle position type provides comfort to the horse which in turn improves and enhance the horse’s performance.
Most people find that the Australian riding position is also more comfortable for the rider. With the riders feet forward of the hips there is better weight distribution, resulting in less stress on the knees. And the 2 ½” Inches leathers make it easy to turn the stirrups in the correct position. Many riders who experience knee problems with Western and English saddles do not have problems with Australian saddle. However, if you like to be able to move forward in your seat when going up steep hills, it’s very hard to do in an Australian saddle because of the ‘poleys’. They generally come in a few different widths just like Western saddles. The ‘poleys’ have also evolved from time to time by moving up from the rider’s thigh towards the upper part of the legs.
(More to come in the next release of the Australian Saddle pt2)