Early day horseman rode bareback. From traveling to waging war, for hundreds of years, man rode without a saddle.
The first saddle is believed to have been invented in 365 AD by the Sarmations. Proud horsemen who used their horses in battle and also sacrificed them to the gods, their saddle creations were brought back to Europe by the Huns. Finding the metal stirrups great for mounting, as well as for increasing overall balance, the Europeans discovered that they were able to wield war weapons with more skill and accuracy.
In the beginning, leather tanning was undeveloped, at best. As the years passed, saddlers perfected the process, resulting in soft, supple, durable hides. The saddle’s tree, generally made from a carved piece of wood, evolved into wood covered rawhide, fiberglass, carbon fiber, and, most recently, a complete removal of the tree.
The western saddle we know today is an evolved version of the Spanish Vaquero’s working saddle. As the working cowboys used their saddles, they underwent a gradual change in order to continue to meet the demands of life in the Old West. Specialized jobs, such as roping cattle, resulted in specialized saddle types.
Then came the invention of rodeos. Initially intended for working cowboys to showcase their skills, the invent of individualized events lead to the evolution of more saddle types, from barrel to roping models.
As riders’ demands changed from working to pleasure, and chosen mounts continue to evolve, the saddle has advanced, as well. One only has to look as far as a retail catalog or website to see the dizzying array of models available today.