Western saddles are used for a type of riding known as western riding. This style of horseback riding is mainly considered to be carried out for work purposes. The saddle is designed to enhance and accommodate working needs on cattle ranches. The name derived from the vast amount of these ranches in the western United States.

The seat of the saddle was created to provide cowboys with added security and comfort when conducting long trail rides of rounding up cows. The idea for this saddle actually is a combination of the Moorish style of riding, which allowed the horse to move more freely, and the jousting style, which gave the rider a secure fit and more control over the horse.

The horn added to the front of the western saddle also serves as a working tool. While many today believe that the horn is an added handle to prevent falling from the saddle, it was actually developed to hold the lasso when roping cows. Although many people do not rope cattle, except for sport, today, the horn is still a prominent characteristic of a western saddle.

The seat of the saddle has added padding for rider comfort. The affixed stirrups are wider than those of other saddles. They are created to allow the boots of the cowboy a sure foot and firm leg control to prevent slipping. Western saddles are larger and cover more area of the horse than English saddles. They were made to hold saddle bags of food and supplies for the trail. Most western saddles are decorated with imprints and designs and are made of rawhide.

Within the western saddle group are subgroups of saddle types. Each western saddle type fits the needs of the work to be conducted. Roping saddles are heavy and have a thicker horn. This horn allows more support for holding the rope. Cutting saddles have deeper seats in order to allow the rider more support when making sharp turns. Barrel racing saddles are lightweight and allow for the horse to quickly make turns of speed. Trail saddles are designed with complete comfort in mind.

The western saddle is a true mark of the cowboy era. Its entire creation was based upon the needs of the working horseman of the west. Its broad design, imprinted embellishments, seat padding, and front horn can undoubtedly identify it. With the western saddle, one can rope, cut, barrel race, and trail ride with confidence.