Aug 15 2009

The New Saddle

Published by at 3:29 pm under Mongolia,Western Mongolia

When I went to Mongolia in 2008, one of my memories was that I felt a bit sore after some of the longer days in the saddle. The saddles are supplied by the local Kazakh guides and are called “Russian cavalry” saddles. They are basically a steel and wood frame with a leather cushion on top and they’re somewhat comfortable in spite of that description. One of our American guides last year brought his own saddle – a gift from a previous client. I tried riding it for about 15 minutes at the end of the trip and thought that if I came back again, I’d bring my own saddle as well. So earlier this year, when I found myself planning to go back, I put this at the top of my packing list.

I was reading in one of my Mongolia guide books about people who bring their own riding gear and they interviewed a guide who said that the best saddle for comfort would be an Australian saddle. Meredith and I have a friend Sharon who is a serious rider and when I spoke to her and mentioned an Australian saddle, Sharon said, “no question, long days in terrain with lots of ups and downs? You want an Australian saddle.” I’d never heard of Australian saddles before. All I knew about was English or Western. It turns out that Australian saddles are modified English saddles, created when settlers brought English saddles to Australia and found that they didn’t work well for working cattle all day. They modified the design to maximize comfort and to make it safer, i.e. hard to get out of the saddle unless you actually want to. Ok, sounds good. It was tough to find one in New England though – it’s hard enough to find Western gear here. Almost everyone here rides English. I tried several shops around which had a couple of used saddles but none fit well. I got lucky when a woman in Rhode Island advertised a used Australian saddle on Craig’s List. I drove down one Saturday morning, rode it for a few minutes and bought it.

Getting it to Mongolia was a bit of an adventure. I sent it as checked luggage in a big cardboard box and with a lot of other gear packed around it for protection, the box weighed 65 pounds. (Luckily, Japan Air’s limit for trans-pacific flights was 70 lbs. or this was going to be expensive.) I was pretty relieved when I unpacked it 5 flights later at our first campsite in the park and it was intact.

The verdict after riding it for 10 days of 4-7 hours per day? It made a huge difference and was worth all the effort to find it and haul it over there. I’ve left it there in storage for my next trip back.


The saddle on my horse. This was a real Plush-o-Matic. In addition to the very high seat back an Australian saddle has, I also bought a foam rubber pad for the seat (called a Seat Saver or, less manly, a Tush Cushion). The saddle blanket was thrown in by the woman who sold me the saddle. Note the built-in saddle bags – sweet!


Yours truly all saddled up and at the very end of our ride. It was cold and windy that day and I’m wearing about 5 layers.

– Dave

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “The New Saddle”

  1. Davka says:

    Dear Dave,

    I’m a Mongolian. I like your saddle for Mongolian horse.
    Please, tell me your saddle size?

    Best wishes,

    • admin says:

      Hi, Davka.

      My saddle is a Sydney Saddleworks 18″ Australian saddle. I recommend it – very comfortable for those long rides in the Altai Mountains!


  2. Davka says:

    Dear Dave,

    Thank you very much for good information.

    Best wishes,