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Martha Josey Riding Cebe Reed in a barrel race

What to look for in a Barrel Saddle

Cebe Reed started my career in barrel racing. He was an outstanding horse with a unique style of running. In 1966 Cebe Reed and I won 52 barrel races in a row and seven horse trailers. Cebe ran an entire year without hitting a single barrel, making our winnings an astounding $12,727.92 which was a TON of money in the 1960's. But, it wasn't easy because I didn’t have a proper barrel racing saddle. 

Cebe was a very hard-turning horse which made it difficult to stay seated in the saddle. In the ’60s there weren't many barrel racing saddles to choose from. This is one of the many reasons I partnered with Circle Y Saddles. 

I wanted to design a saddle that gave riders a competitive advantage by giving them a deep seat that always kept them in the correct position, even on hard-turning horses.

 The first Josey Circle Y Saddle was announced in their 1987 catalog as the Supreme Martha Josey. The saddle featured a deep seat, double D rigging, and a tall saddle horn.

Martha Josey Barrel Saddle Catalog Image


Since 1987 the Josey Saddle has continued to evolve with new technology and new ideas. We now have several models, and styles to fit each barrel racer's style! 

So what should you look for in a barrel saddle?

These are the features on the Josey Saddles that give riders a competitive advantage. 

Deep Seat

The seat should help keep you centered both front to back and from side to side. On my saddles, the bars have been shaved away, allowing your thigh to rest correctly on the jockey below your seat. Your balance and body position automatically adjust every time your horse takes a step, providing a secure feeling. We all know how important security is when you are running 35 miles per hour and about to make a 360 degree turn. With your body in balance, your hands will be smoother, and you can concentrate on helping your horse. 

Forward-Hung Stirrups

For years, I have seen barrel racers get their feet thrown back toward their horse’s flanks as the horse drops for the turn. Because their feet are behind them, they fall forward and lose control of their horse. They can’t get up out of the saddle quickly to hustle to the next barrel, or they pull on the reins while trying to do so, which slows their horse and destroys a quick snappy turn. When we developed the Josey line of saddles with Circle Y we decided to use forward-hung stirrups, eliminating the problem of losing control with your feet. The fenders and stirrups are mounted on the saddle with a swivel hinge which balances your weight and helps to keep your feet in the proper, forward position.

Saddle Horn 

Our saddles are built with a 4" horn to give riders the ability to push on their saddle horn going into the turn and pull themselves up coming out of the turn. This helps riders to stay secure in their turns and lets them leave the turn quickly without pulling on their reins. 

 Locking Rider Buckle

 All our Josey Saddles are equipped with a High Tech Tack  locking Rider Buckle for safety. The Rider Buckle is a locking stirrup leather buckle that prevents the buckle from sliding off the stirrup leather during every day riding and barrel runs. 

Saddle Fit

Checking saddle fit is a crucial step in what you should look for in a barrel saddle. A saddle that is too wide will make a horse’s withers and areas of the back sore. A saddle that is too narrow can decrease stride length because it is pinching the top of the shoulders & withers and typically makes the area over the loin sore as well. A properly fitted saddle is one that keeps nice equal pressure front to back along the bars of the saddle with no pinching or bridging occurring. The best way to know if a saddle fits is to place it on the horse without a pad. This allows you to examine and feel for correct fit and even pressure versus gaps in pressure or extreme pressure points. We believe saddle fit is so important that we designate a class to saddle fit at all our Josey Clinics. 

The Josey Ranch is open Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm and Saturday 9:00 am - 3:00 pm. We offer free saddle fitting consultation during business hours and at all our Josey Clinics! 

“Quality, Craftsmanship, Style… Demand the best – I do! I’ll only ride in a Circle Y because of the way saddles fit our horses and help riders from beginner to advanced keep a correct seat.”   -Martha Josey 

Martha Josey Barrel Racing

(Martha Josey Competing in the 1998 NFR riding in a Josey Circle Y Saddle on Orange Smash.) 

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