Wade vs Association Saddle: Your Ultimate Guide for Western Riding

Jan 03, 2024 | Super Equestrian


wade-vs-association-saddle

Wondering which saddle would be perfect for your particular western riding activities? Is it a Wade saddle or an association one? Both Wade and association saddles are useful for distinct disciplines of Western riding. 

Many years ago ancient artisans used to make various designs on the wade tree to prepare the wade saddles. In the 20th century, two renowned equestrians Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt made this saddle popular. 

Following the evolution of the Wade saddle, the association saddle is prepared by adding some modern features to it. In this article, we are going to provide you with the ultimate guide to these two western riding saddles. Let's begin the saddle exploration!

Wade Saddles

The Wade saddle is the classical saddle, getting popularity as a cowboy saddle. It is widely used in ranch work and other western riding activities. Let's examine some unique facts about Wade saddle in detail: 

What's the Deal with Wade Saddle?: What Makes It Special

Wade saddles have a few features that make them special. Let's discuss those features in detail:

  • Prolonged lifespan: The primary material of these saddles is high-quality leather, Additionally other tooling is also used to increase its durability. This property makes the saddle stand out for years retaining its quality.
  • Simple tooling: This type of saddle does not require additional maintenance due to its limited features.
  • Cushioning property: Some Wade saddles contain a layer of additional padding that provides great shock-absorbing benefits, which can protect the horse and the rider from any kind of pain or discomfort.
Wade Saddles

Although you will get the convenience of doing both ranch and roping activities by using the same Wade saddle, there are some specific saddles available for doing those activities. If you want to know more about those saddles you can read: Ranch saddle Vs roping saddle.

Why Riders Love the Wade Saddle:

There are several reasons why riders prefer this Wade saddle. But most of the equine enthusiasts do not have any idea about it. Let's unravel the secrets of the Wade saddles demand among the riders: 

  • Suitable for staying extended periods in the saddle: In the case of ranch work or long-distance trail riding, you need to stay long hours in the ranch. These saddles keep your posture in a perfect way so that you do not feel any discomfort or pain due to the long time you have spent in a saddle.  
  • Provide stability in roping: These saddles are designed in such a way that a rider can easily get security and comfort during roping activities. Its deep seat, high cantle, and low horn provide a huge stability for roping. 
  • Even weight distribution: This type of saddle has a greater surface area which provides a better distribution of weight over the saddle. This property makes it perfect for riding in the rough terrain.
  • Ensures safety: These saddles play a great role in keeping balance while roping or ranch work, which reduces the chances of any uncertain incidence. 
  • Great for hunting: Wade saddles that have no extra padding on the seat are perfect for hunting. So, riders can buy padded or unpadded seated wade saddles based on their requirements.
  • Creates good bonding with the horse: Since the Wade saddle is suitable for long-term staying with your equine partner, it creates a good and friendly relationship with the horse. 

But you should keep in mind that only choosing a horse-friendly saddle is not enough for making a good bond with your equine buddy. 

You must ensure sufficient training to make your horse follow your instructions and perform accordingly. You can read natural horsemanship vs positive reinforcement to get a good understanding of these training strategies.

The Not-Good Bits about Wade Saddles:

Despite being so popular, Wade saddles have some downsides. Let's discuss them in detail:

  • The Wade saddle doesn't fit in those rides where you need to move more frequently. In the rodeo competitions, you need to do frequent mounting and dismounting from the horse. Since this saddle has a deep seat with a high cantle, this feature will create an obstruction for you in frequent movements.
  • These saddles are heavy in weight, which is why you can not keep balance and control in case of athletic rodeo events.
  • This saddle is not suitable for some horse breeds who express some abnormal characteristics. Most of the horse breeds with well-muscled bodies have some behavioral abnormalities like frequent bucking tendencies. 

These horse breeds are basically suitable for skillful athletic activities like performing in rodeo events. 

Since this saddle is not perfect for rodeo competitions, if you perform this with those aggressive breeds, you can not keep balance and may get injured from falling from the horse. If you want to know more about such horse breeds, you can read this article, Why do Hancock bred horses buck? 

The Not-Good Bits about Wade Saddles
  • If you do athletic riding activities regularly, this saddle may not be right for you. But if you handle cattle in the ranch or do trail riding, you can purchase a Wade saddle. 

Association Saddles

Association saddles are the modern version of traditional Western saddles. Let's have a good understanding of the association saddles:

Getting to Know the Association Saddle:

The Association saddle is basically modified by including some additional features in the classic Wade saddle. This saddle is being used for versatile western riding disciplines, where riders need to do competitive activities with speed and flexibility of movements. 

Let's examine the additional features that an association saddle provides:

  • Knee rolls: Association saddles contain a "knee roll" to protect the rider's knees during quick jumping or movement during the period of any competitive activities. Ultimately it plays a huge role in supporting the rider by ensuring correct positioning of his legs. 

Additional padding: All the association saddles have extra padding over the seat and other parts of the saddle, which helps in shock absorption when performing athletic activities.

Association Saddles

Good Stuff About Association Saddles:

  • This saddle is suitable for horses that have a bucking tendency in their nature.
  • It is perfect for different skillful horse riding competitions.
  • It is light in weight, which makes it a correct fit for rodeo events and other athletic activities, where you need to utilize a lot of energy.
  • Its short cantle and thin horn increase balance and flexibility during the riding competitions.
  • It is suitable for versatile riding activities without any tendency to get injured. This saddle is used for long rides as well. 

You can make a close connection with those horses who have aggressive characteristics by handling them correctly under the association saddle. 

A good horse trainer can assist you in handling those breeds during rodeo events or other riding contests. If you are interested in getting professional assistance, you can read this article on how to find a reputable horse trainer.

Good Stuff About Association Saddles

The Not-So-Good Side of Association Saddles:

  • Addition of extra features made it expensive.
  • The construction strategy of the saddle is complicated. 
  • Since the saddle is standardized with some additional features, it requires experienced personnel to fix the saddle to the horse's back.
  • Require additional maintenance due to incorporating extra materials and objects into the saddle.
  • This saddle is not the best for certain rides where the rider needs to spend a long time in the saddle. Additionally, it's not suitable for English riding disciplines such as dressage(training where horses learn versatile body movements following the handler's cues), eventing (equestrian sports including dressage), and show jumping. 

Wade vs Association Saddles: Let's Compare

Both the Wade and association saddles are popular for western riding but they have a lot of similarities and dissimilarities. Let's have a well-researched comparison between Wade and association saddles.

Fundamental FactorsWade SaddleAssociation Saddle
Ideal forRanch and roping activities, pleasure rides, hunting, and trail riding.Competitive racing contests with great speed such as performing in rodeo competitions.
Design of the seatDeep and polished ground seatSquare shaped flat seat
BenefitStable and secure fitMore flexibility and control
Diameter of the hornThickThin
CantleHigh Lower
Position of stirrupSlightly forward of the saddle tree(the part of the saddle that is capable of holding the rider's weight)Directly under the rider.
WeightHeavier Lighter
Additional featureNoYes
Capability of shock absorption Some Wade saddles have this capability, but not all.True for all association saddle
CostAffordable Quite expensive 
ComfortMoreLess
Durability MoreLess

Choosing the Right Saddle for You

You should select the saddle considering the pattern of your riding because you can not perform all kinds of riding with the same saddle. 

But if you are a beginner in horse riding you can use the Wade saddle, because it would be safer for you and you can gradually learn advanced-level riding with the same saddle. So, you can use this Wade saddle for general riding activities along with trail riding as well.

Choosing the Right Saddle for You

On the other hand, if you think you are able to participate in skillful riding contests you can use the association saddle because it will provide you more flexibility and control. 

Simply, you can choose any saddle according to your riding purpose, riding frequency (how much you ride), preference, and considering your horse's comfort. But the most important thing you need to keep in mind is that whatever the saddle is, make sure it fits perfectly to your horse. 

If the particular saddle fits you and your horse well, you can easily perform any riding activities by using that saddle. If you want to know the steps of adjusting western saddles to the horse's back with the correct fit, watch this video: Western saddle fit- the essentials.

In summary

Wade and association saddle both play an important role in versatile equestrian activities. This article covers the ultimate guide about these two popular western riding saddles and suggests which one would be the right choice for individual riders. 

You can share your valuable opinion regarding this article in the comment box. Feel free to share this post with your known people who are concerned about these saddles and looking for a good suggestion about which one to purchase according to their requirements.

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