That big Western saddle in your tack room might have a reputation for evening out the pressure over the horse’s back compared to the English saddles. But according to a new study by Swiss researchers, that’s just an old rider’s tale. Research by Katja Geser-von Peinen, DVM, of the Vetsuisse Faculty in Zurich, and her colleagues checked the distribution of forces in 10 horses ridden under their usual Western saddles. They found that forces in the first third of the saddle were twice as high as in the rear third. What’s more, depending on the gait, those forces could go up to three times the actual weight of the rider in that front third! Previous studies on well-fitting, standard-tree English saddles showed better overall pressure distribution, she said. “People often choose a western saddle to improve weight distribution and relieve pressure on the horse’s back, but they’re relying on subjective experiences and statements and not actual research,” Geser von-Peinen said.