Barrel Racing: Is Your Saddle Ready for Rodeo Season?

Annie, a long time supporter of Burns, races around the barrels at an Xtreme event in her Burns saddle.

Rodeo Season is here and there’s excitement in the air. Whether you’re an amateur or a seasoned pro, make sure you’ve got what it takes to compete. And while balance, agility and a four-legged partner that’s willing and able are among the top three factors that come into play, good gear can really enhance overall performance. 

How to choose a proper fitting saddle  

When it comes to barrel racing, hundredths or even thousandths of a second can make the difference between taking home a life-changing check or going home empty-handed. It all starts with a good rider who has a proper fitting saddle and equipment to ensure both rider and horse perform at the top of their game.

Quality, well-fitted equipment just delivers better and more consistent performance. It also reduces risk of injury to the horse. Like all athletes, rodeo athletes look for ways to gain an edge over the competition. A great fitting saddle is a key contender.

Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to choosing a barrel racing saddle:  

Do make sure that:

  • the saddle fits your horse well and allows the horse to move freely under the saddle;
  • distributes the weight of the rider evenly across the horse’s back;
  • the saddle is the appropriate size for the rider and places the rider in a well-balanced position, so he/she is stable throughout the barrel run; and
  • the saddle is made from high-quality materials and designed by a saddle maker who understands horse fit and performance.


  • buy a saddle that is made from low-quality materials; they could be unsafe;  or
  • buy a mass-produced saddle that wasn’t designed by a knowledgeable saddle maker (there are many production shops that will try and copy other makers’ work, but if they don’t understand fit and function, these knock offs can create problems for the horse and the rider.)

How can you tell a good quality saddle from bad?

High quality barrel racing saddles are made of high-quality leather that’s soft and supple. They should have smooth and well-designed ground seats that properly position the rider. Quality saddles should also have proper stirrup leather placement that balances the rider; a saddle that has poor stirrup leather position will pitch the rider forward or make it difficult for the rider to stand and balance in the saddle. They also have more attention to details (e.g., stitching on high quality saddles is evenly spaced and inset.)  And, high quality barrel racing saddles are typically a couple of pounds heavier than their lower quality counterparts. The extra pound or two is a good tradeoff for having a saddle that’s made with strong and durable materials.

“At Burns, we’ve spent the last 20 years developing and bettering our current model of barrel racing saddle,’ Braydan Shaw, Burns’ president, says. “We pay close attention to the way a saddle fits the horse and rider and are constantly improving our fit as both of their needs change.”  

Burns uses only the highest-quality materials on the market and each saddle is built by expert craftsmen and women who are constantly striving to be experts in their field. Burns also offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee and a lifetime warranty on the saddle tree and its workmanship.

And once you’ve found the ideal saddle, make sure that a high-quality saddle pad complements it. You want a pad that is thick enough to provide your horse the comfort it needs and deserves to make a fast run, yet won’t add any weight to slow you down.

Good luck out there. We’re rooting for you!  

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