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What are Wade Saddles?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
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A saddle serves as a seat for the rider of a horse, cinched on to the back using some sort of a strap, and providing support to help the rider stay atop the horse during riding. There are five general types of saddles: English, Western, sidesaddle, military, and Australian stock.

A Wade saddle is a type of Western saddle, inspired by the old Californio school of riding. The Californios were Spanish-speaking inhabitants of California before it was incorporated into the United States. They belonged to the school of natural horsemanship, and had strong working relationships with their animals. Their saddles are easy on both the rider and the horse, providing a nice balance.

Like all Western saddles, Wade saddles have no built-in padding, and should be used with a blanket or other form of padding between themselves and the horse's back. The girth is a leather cinch, and Wade saddles are meant to be used with stirrups.

This type of saddle features a dipped seat and a strong plate rigging system. This rigging system helps evenly disperse the pull of the saddle evenly, reducing impact on the horse. Most often the fork of the saddle sits very low on the horse. A large horn is featured to aid in roping. Stirrups are hung directly under the rider, allowing one to use their feet for support while letting them sit comfortably, in a fusion of Western and English styles.

Above all, Wade saddles are built with maximum comfort on extensive rides in mind. Every aspect of the saddle is built around buckaroos riding rough terrain for full day rides. It is no surprise then, that they are most favored amongst Western riders in the American south-west. Though for some time they were of secondary popularity to other Western styles, they have recently enjoyed a resurgence of interest; many top-end saddle makers now produce high-quality Wade saddles in a variety of sizes.

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Discussion Comments
By anon11866 — On Apr 24, 2008

The Wade wasn't based on Californios but on a saddle inherited by Clifford Wade from his father and redesigned in part by Tom Dorrance and made more popular by Ray Hunt's use in demonstrations.

By anon6100 — On Dec 15, 2007

I'd like to say that the girth of a wade is not a leather cinch! The cinch can be any type of material used for cinches. Wool stringed, mohair, neoprene, nylon with wool or felt lining name most types. I have personally never seen a leather cinch on a western saddle. Perhaps that's what was used in the past - but not anymore. Leather girths yes - for english. Leather stretches too much to be a cinch, because of hard action like roping, the cinch would become useless quickly.

I am a horse trainer, and this is what I have seen and noticed in my experience.

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