Wade vs Association Saddle: Similarities & Differences

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 06/07/23 •  7 min read

Western saddle is literally the cowboy saddle we see in classic movies.

And the two of the most popular styles of western saddles are- The wade and the association Saddle. They both offer a great fit with classic styling that looks good in any setting.

And looks pretty similar too!

So, Wade vs Association Saddle- what’s the main difference?

The most apparent difference between the wade and association saddles is their design. The wade saddle is designed with a smooth ground seat (made from a wade tree), uses a thick horn, and has rough jockeys and fenders. The association saddle, on the other hand, crafted from premium leather, stands out among other saddles. With its raised and squared seat, thin horn, smooth jockeys & fenders, and lower cantle than that of a wade saddle.

So, What Is an Association Saddle by the way?

In a word…….An association saddle is a modern take on the classic western look. 

These saddles are designed with a high cantle, knee rolls, and reinforced stirrup leathers for events that need more stability and protection. 

Guess what’s the best part of this saddle?

It will allow you to feel secure while competing or participating in speed competitions.

That’s not all, this saddle is more comfortable to ride in

Plus, the seat!!!!

The deeper seat provides a greater sense of balance and stability while riding at high speeds. The front of the saddle elevates to match the shape and size of a rider’s body. 

What are Association ranch saddles good for?

Association saddle is known for its great control and finesse over other Western saddles. The extra padding on the seat also helps absorb shock from rough terrain.

Wade vs Association

What makes a wade saddle different?

The Wade saddle is a classic, traditional western design that has been around for generations. 

Let’s go back to the history lesson.

On one of his long, arduous treks from Oregon to South Dakota in the late 1800s, Aaron Wade encountered an intriguing saddlemaker and purchased a seat. 

Who created this masterpiece is unknown, but he rode it until his death some years later.

In the 1930s, Clifford wade inherited it after rummaging through all their possessions. Yet, much to his surprise, he discovered that many horses still fit with this old-fashioned leather gear!

When holding a roped animal, it is designed to sit low on the horse’s back for the most leverage and stability. Its horn, out of the way during lassoing, formed with an elevated edge, making dallying easier.

  1. Its lightweight design allows for easy maneuverability in the saddle.
  2. The deep pocket of the Wade makes it ideal for riders who need more balance or security.
  3. The horn on this type of saddle is often thicker than other types, allowing for a greater grip and a firmer fit.

Wade vs association saddle: what are the differences?

The wade saddle is designed for roping and working cattle, allowing the wearer to maneuver while in the saddle. It offers a comfortable fit with a secure grip, better balance, and enhanced stability. 

Association saddles are intended for competitive racing and speed events where riders must move quickly. Let us show a head-to-head difference.

CriteriaWade saddleAssociation saddle
Tree StyleHas a full quarter horse bar and a narrower gulletDesign a wider gullet and a semi-quarter horse bar
Seat StyleTypically has a deep seat with a high cantle and tall hornHas a flatter seat with a lower cantle and shorter horn
Stirrup PositionPositioned slightly forward on the tree, allowing for a more balanced and centered rideDirectly under the rider, providing a closer contact feel
RiggingTypically features a full-rigging system, providing a more secure and stable fitFeatures a 7/8-rigging system, allowing for more flexibility and movement
Intended UseIdeal for ranch work, roping, and trail ridingSuitable for pleasure riding, showing, and all-around use
WeightTends to be heavier due to the full-rigging system and larger hornQuite lighter due to the 7/8-rigging system and smaller horn


The Wade Saddle is a classic Western design with a beautiful wade tree ground seat and a 5-inch horn with a rounded top. The fork and horn are crafted only of wood, while jockeys, skirts, and fenders keep it elegant.

On the other hand……

Equestrian saddles with a raised cantle are made to give the rider more security during races or competitions. Additionally, the seats are equipped with extra cushioning to absorb shocks from bumpy terrain.

Related: Uncover the best horse saddles on the market with this comprehensive guide. Discover the features and benefits of each brand, and find the perfect fit for you and your horse!


The Wade saddle is noticeably lighter than an association saddle due to its simplified design. 

But, with its rugged construction, an association saddle provides more stability when challenging in fast-paced competitions or speed events.


The Wade saddle stands out for its more affordable price than association saddles. This is because of its simpler construction and use of conventional materials. Association saddles come with a slew of extra features that make them much pricier than their counterparts from the Wade range.

Comfort and stability

The Wade saddle generally offers more comfort and stability than an association saddle due to its lightweight design and ample horn. This makes it ideal for riders who need more balance or security while riding long distances. 

The association saddle gives riders more control and finesse during fast activities or races.


The Wade saddle is durable due to its leather construction and simple design. And it suits riders looking for a long-term investment with minimal maintenance requirements. 

Association saddles are made of heavier materials to stabilize them during hard activities. Yet, this also means they need more maintenance to keep them in good condition.


The Wade saddle is a classic, with its smooth leather ground seat, great horn, and jockeys. This style brings delight to traditional riders who value the elegance of timelessness. 

By contrast, 1 offer a modernized design. Even it differentiates them from traditional Western-style options.

Related: Explore the wide variety of horse saddle accessories & learn the terminology with this comprehensive glossary. Get to know your tack & ride in style!

Are there any similarities between them?

As both are Western saddles, they share some common characteristics. Here are a few of them……

So, what’s the final verdict? 

Both Wade and association saddles offer riders unique benefits that make them ideal for different purposes. 

If you seek an ideal balance of comfort and style, the wade saddle is just what you need. And if you want to win the race by being fast and quick on your feet, choose an association saddle with a heavy frame and good stability. 

Believe us or not- The right saddle can make all the difference in a pleasant ride!

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

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