Western Saddles – Getting the Right Fit

In this example we will be referring to the western saddle. There are many types of saddles of which each requires its own unique fit. The withers are structured with small bones which fan forward, straight and back, much like the fingers on your hand. These small bones are very sensitive to pressure; if your saddle is pressing on these small bones it can cause your horse a lot of pain and discomfort. A high withered horse will need a saddle that is high enough in the gullet to prevent any contact with the small bones in the withers. Any saddle should have at least 2 to 3 fingers, about 1 inch, distance between the gullet and the withers when placed in the proper position. Your saddle pad can also put pressure on the wither bones. When you sit in your saddle your weight will push the bars of the saddle down on the horses back. If your pad is placed tight to the withers and then your sit in your saddle it will pull your pad tighter and apply more pressure on the withers.

Be sure to check this area once you are in the saddle to make sure your saddle is not touching and your pad is not tight against the delicate wither bones. When placing your saddle on your horse make a tent with the pad, pulling it up inside the gullet of the saddle. Then when you cinch your saddle and sit in it your pad will still be loose over the withers. There are many different saddletrees which are all designed to distribute your weight across the horses back. If your tree is not the proper fit for your horse your weight will not be distributed across the whole tree A saddle that is too narrow will contact the back at the bottom of the bar and there will be more of your weight at the bottom of the bars. A saddle that is too wide will have more contact with the back at the top of the bars and not the bottom. Anytime the bars are not flat they are not distributing the riders weight evenly and will pinch your horses back causing sore spots and eventually white hairs. If you are not sure about what size tree your horse will need please contact us and we can help you to measure your horse for proper fit.

Placing Your Saddle Correctly
The saddle should be placed with the tree of the saddle 2 inches behind your horse’s shoulder or scapula bone (the large bone below the withers and in front of the rib cage). It does not matter what confirmation your horse has, or the type of discipline you ride, the corner of the tree is always placed 2 inches behind the shoulder bone. With the saddle in its proper position it will allow the horse’s shoulder to move freely without pressure and without restricting movement.

The Length of The Back Varies With Each Horse
Consideration needs to be taken as to the length of your horse’s back. Horses have different size backs, some have a short back, others horses have long backs. A short back horse will sterke sticker usually have trouble with a large skirt on the saddle and will require a rounded skirt in order to prevent rubbing on the hipbones, which can cause sores on the hindquarters. Look at your horse and divide his body into three equal parts, if the back is longer than one third of your horse’s overall body length, he has a long back. If the back area is shorter than a third of the horse then he has a short back, with the back area being from the point of the hip to the top of the withers. Short back horses are usually more agile but tend to loose some flexibility.

Custom Fit Is A Great Answer
Find a source that give you trees in various sizes with the most common being the semi quarter horse tree (usually 6.5″). There is no universal sizing in trees. Find an outlet that not only gives you various tree sizes and having stirrups, skirts, fenders and rigging choices are nice. Rigging is typically 7/8″ but can be 3/4″, center fire or full. With these choices along with tooling, color and silver, if desired, your saddle will be unique and one of a kind, designed to your specifications for you and your horse. Here is one resource for a US made saddle with all the above mentioned choices.


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