Lugging a 40-pound Western saddle anywhere can be a major investment in muscle power. Not only is a Western saddle heavy, the high dollars some showmen spend on their custom saddles with carved leather and sterling silver decorations makes protecting that saddle a priority.
The best way to do that is to keep the saddle covered when it isn’t being used and fully enclosing it in a padded carrier when toting it to shows and rides. Carriers keep it from getting dinged, damp or dirty during loading, transport and unloading.
We zipped many Western saddles into, and out of, various styles of saddle carrying bags to see how easy it was to do — and how much it helped, or interfered with, toting the saddle.
Some of our testers, men and women alike, claimed they had no use for carriers when we asked them to help with our trial. To them just putting one hand under the fork and the other under the rear skirts was how you carried a saddle.
To their surprise, most testers found it was easier to carry a saddle in a bag with a shoulder strap. With the saddle off to one side on the shoulder and hip they could better see where they were walking. Larger bags allowed them to stow bridle, breastplate, cinch and even a saddle pad in with the saddle, which made transporting gear a lot easier.
When evaluating saddle carriers we looked at ease of use, the straps, zippers, padding and durability. Zippers were a big concern. When a carrier is loaded with that much weight, the quality of the zipper is important. We liked having one zipper with two pulls so it would open all the way around from either side.
The BMB Complete Saddle Carrier had a great zipper — heavy-duty, smooth operating and with two very large pulls that were easy to locate along the track. The Western Saddle Case #KR3067 from KR’s Customs also had a great zipper.
One thing we uncovered during our cover-up trial was that a shoulder strap is a definite plus. The Dura-Tech Supreme Western Saddle Case from Schneiders was the only one with a padded shoulder strap, something everyone appreciated.
Some of the bags were cut closely and quilted into a saddle shape, while others were much “baggier.” The trimly shaped, quilted bags from High Spirit and BMB both had that neat, contained look and were easy to carry. The looser shape of the Dura-Tech case from Schneiders and the Western Saddle Case from KR’s Customs were softer and more flexible and you could get a good-sized saddle pad in it along with the saddle. Both accommodated larger stirrups and fenders, too. The KR’s case had a fleece lining, which we liked.
Of the covers we tried, some were designed to go over the entire saddle, fenders, stirrups and all. Others just dropped over the top to keep off dust. Saddle size matters here, too, as not all covers fit all-sized saddles.
The heavy, handsome KR’s Western Saddle Cover #KR3172 with its quilted lining and long, wide fender flaps was one of our favorites. It went on easily, covered the top and sides of the saddle completely and fit over every saddle we tried it on.
Another complete cover that we liked was the Beautiful Tails Western Saddle Jacket from Norman Equine Designs. This little cover is like a leotard for your saddle, stretching over the horn, cantle and down over the fenders with deep pockets for the stirrups. It was simple to stretch it over the entire saddle. The cover itself got dusty, but it was easy to toss in the washer.
The three-piece Saddle Cover #1079 from Saratoga Horseworks was an unusual three-piece design. There was a long tube-type cover for each fender and a separate cover for the top of the saddle. And it was virtually waterproof. But those three pieces require extra effort you may not want for everyday use. We’d save this one for long-term storage, unless you have a need for everyday heavy coverage.
The unexpected stars of our test were two nylon covers that folded up into their saddle horn pockets, the way a people jacket folds up into its own pocket. The two we used were from Toklat Originals and Fabri-Tech.
While they could be used to cover a saddle in the tack room or trailer, we think their niche is out of the tack room and onto the trail. They are small enough to tuck into a saddlebag or hang easily from a saddle ring.
Our first choice in saddle carriers is the BMB bag. It’s an impressive bag that’s durable and easy to use. For a Best Buy, the Schneiders Dura-Tech Supreme case is wonderful. It’s also the way to go if you’re especially interested in extra padding in the shoulder strap.
The cover competition was tougher. We found cover features varied enough that you may want to consider what’s most important to you, although we weren’t overly enthused about covers that neglect the fenders.
If you’re planning on riding in your cover in wet weather, the Fabri-Tech Self-Contained Saddle Cover is your best choice, as it’s easy to tote and covers the entire saddle. It earns Best Buy in covers.
If you just want a dust cover for the tack room, consider the Beautiful Tails spandex cover and the elegant KR’s Customs cover. While some testers liked the easy-drape KR’s cover, most insisted that the Beautiful Tails spandex was the best choice, and it’s less expensive.