Sponsored by Martin Saddlery

Style plays a role in barrel racing in so many ways—from the way you sit, to what kind of horse you prefer, and how you navigate the pattern. Martin Saddlery barrel saddles offer almost endless style options to help ensure they have a saddle that fits all aspects of your needs. We will cover style options including saddle type, stirrups and fenders, seats, trees, and skirts.

Saddle Type

Did you know there are six (6) different styles of barrel saddles in Martin’s current line? No matter what brand you’re shopping, one barrel saddle doesn’t fit all. Identifying a few key preferences can help lead you to a specific style.

Do you prefer your fenders hanging straight below your body or out in front?

Do you like your stirrups adjusted very short or long?

Do you like to stay in the back of the saddle, or do you tend to pull yourself to the front?

Do you have trouble getting “thrown forward” going into your turns, or is it more getting “left behind”?

Do you ride horses that are free runners, or do you prefer push-style?

Do you prefer a deep seat with a close contact feel, or a flat seat with lower profile swells which gives you the freedom to move around?

It is questions like these that can help direct you to the perfect fit!

Martin Saddlery barrel racing saddle chart

Stirrups and Fenders

Your stirrups and fenders are key to helping you keep position. Your riding style can determine what is best to achieve that goal in a saddle. If you ride more vertically, a specific fender design (as found in the Martin Crown C), can keep your feet below and just in front of your center of gravity. If you’re after a slightly more forward angle than the Crown C, try the Fearless. For a more forward-angled stirrup, check out the Stingray or FX3. And for an extreme forward angle and fenders that easily swing forward to help you stay down in the back of the saddle, consider the BTR.

Sherry Cervi's stirrup riding style
A vertical rider prefers a longer stirrup and their feet set down, and just in front of their center of balance. Sherry Cervi’s Crown C helps her get to the front of the saddle, with very little effort. Her movements in the saddle are very few and the Crown C puts her body and feet right where she wants them to be.

All Martin barrel saddles offer a patent-pending, stirrup-positioning rig slot (SPRS) to keep fenders where they belong based on the saddle’s style, yet still allowing you to move your feet where you need them to be. All Martin saddles also have the option for “short twist” stirrups, which pre-sets your stirrups, so no need for days and nights of broom-handle twisting on new fenders.


Your seat makes up the biggest part of your saddle and provides you with the stability you need to pilot your horse through a pattern. All Martin barrel saddles offer a secure cantle to keep you from getting behind your horse while maintaining control. Some seats feel deeper than others, and it is much more about shape than a measurement.

Jayci Byler is young so her riding style matches the Martin Saddlery Guardian
In this photo, a young Jayci Byler navigates the poles with confidence. She completed in the Guardian from a very young age until high school. The combination of over exaggerated front swells and extremely forward angled stirrups helps keep both young and aged barrel racers secure and still able to ride at a top level. It is ideal for those who are not very strong yet, and also for those who are not as strong as they once were. 

Some riders prefer a flatter seat, and some will choose one with a rise in the ground seat. For a flatter seat and thus more freedom to do what you want without feeling locked in, try the FX3, Fearless, or BTR. If you ride futurity horses and young colts, a flatter seat might give you the best fit for your needs. Seats with rise in the ground seat can create a more snug, narrow feel in the saddle. If you like a narrow feel try the Stingray, BTR or Crown C.

The Stingray has the most shape in all the combined components that make up how the rider’s body sits. It rotates your pelvis to sit you down and back in the sweet spot of the saddle. It is popular because it naturally sits you secure and balanced in practice or competition.

*Note: When trying a saddle with rise in the ground seat, do not adjust your seat size—sit in the size you usually ride, and feel it for what it is. Do not adjust your seat size due to the rise in ground seat or lack thereof. Sit in all types and think about what the style of that specific saddle is supposed to do for the rider. See what feels most natural to you.

*Note: Riding in too small of a seat size could hamper your security instead of giving more. You should have 2-3 fingers width of space between your inner thigh and the swell.

Jolene Montgomery's saddle riding style
Some trainers prefer a flatter seat, with lots of freedom to adjust their position at any moment. Jolene Montgomery likes a short stirrup, her feet free to move, and set far forward. Jolene trains and competes in a 14” BTR. It lets her  ride a long seat, which helps her stay in the back of the saddle, and ready for anything.


A saddle’s skirts come down to an aesthetic preference but can also help with stability or reduce the saddle’s overall weight. If you prefer a larger skirt, consider the Crown C, Stingray, FX3, and Fearless. For smaller skirt and sporty look, or to reduce weight, look at the BTR or Guardian. The Stingray also offers the opportunity to choose between large or small skirts.

Talk to your local Martin Saddlery dealer to figure out the best attributes for your ride and determine which style saddle best fits your needs.

At the end of the day, choosing a saddle based on your riding style can equal confidence, and increased success.


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