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Hi, I have been going through your Questions and Answers and noted your comments on the Australian Stock Saddle. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the hornless saddles. My husband was injured when my mare reared up and went over backwards, landing on top of him. She is a 1200 lb., 15.3 quarter horse. He received a groin injury from the saddlehorn that required surgery and was black and blue from the beltline to the knee. The mare didn't move for almost ten minutes after falling. I seriously thought I had lost both of them. And believe me, I realize it could very well have happened that way. We have since figured out the problem and believe we have corrected it, but now I am leery about saddlehorns. I have been considering either a western hornless Australian Stock Saddle or a western hornless Endurance Saddle. We use our horses for pleasure, mostly just trail riding around the area. Would those be appropriate saddles for us?

D. C.


Saddle with horn sawed offNow you know exactly why the old-time bronc-busters wrapped a blanket or other "bucking roll" around the saddle horn. In rodeo saddle bronc riding, it didn't take long before competitors started sawing the horns off their saddles, and eventually the hornless "association" saddle was created. (At the 2007 Effie rodeo, one calf roper's horse came to a sudden stop and pitched the rider's belly against the saddle horn. The rider suffered a ruptured spleen and had to be airlifted to a hospital in Duluth -- fortunately, he recovered.)

Either the Australian stock saddle, or an endurance saddle or association saddle with an undercut pommel would work, but the Australian stock saddle, to my way of thinking, is a bit more secure. That still is no guarantee of safety, however. From what I've heard, in the filming of "Return to Snowy River," Jim Craig's horse actually did die in the dramatic dash down the mountain -- and the stunt rider could have. The Australian stock saddle may have given the rider a little more protection, but didn't make a whole lot of difference for the horse.

For what it's worth, I wonder if the saddle horn really was the cause of your husband's "belt to knee" injury. The saddle horn can do serious injury to the rider's midsection, but what you describe sounds like it was probably caused by the side of the pommel -- or the rider. I've had a couple of times when I had a bruise or black-and-blue pulled muscle in that area, and in both cases it was because I gripped the horse too tightly with my legs in an emergency. In one case, I wasn't even riding with a saddle -- I was bareback! The key to avoiding that type of injury is building your various leg muscles as much as possible -- and avoiding risky riding situations!

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