If you’re in the market for a new saddle, or a used saddle, it’s important to learn how to measure a Western saddle seat, both for your sake and your horse’s sake. The reason the saddle has to fit you correctly, is so that you can maintain correct posture, sit in balance, and sit the stop (especially if you’re participating in rodeo events).
The reason the saddle has to fit the horse correctly is so that the horse doesn’t end up with a sore back, blisters and soars. So I’m going to give you some helpful tips that will help you learn how to measure a Western saddle seat before you make your purchase.
How to Measure a Western Saddle Seat for the Rider
If you have the fortune of being able to sit in a saddle while saddle shopping, it’s to your advantage. If you’re not, you can still benefit from the tips I’m about to share with you.
Here’s how to measure a Western saddle seat to make sure it fits you.
First, sit in the middle of the pocket with your stirrups adjusted correctly. You want to look at how much space you have between your thigh and the edge of the swells.
You should be able to get two to three fingers between your swell and your thighs. But, what if your hands are bigger, or smaller? If the measurement is between one and three inches, it can be okay.
But what’s really going to dictate your seat size is the measurement from the edge of the cantle to the edge of the saddle (at the swells). In addition, you should be able to fit approximately 4 fingers between the back of your seat and the top of the cantle.
Keep in mind that another thing that dictates the seat size is the angle of the cantle. For instance, let’s say you have a 17-inch saddle. If the cantle was more upright, it might measure only 16 or 16.5 inches – even though nothing else has changed.
It’s also important to keep in mind that saddles vary in width. A slim rider with a narrow pelvis might be more comfortable in a narrow seat. And a heavier rider might feel more comfortable with a wider seat.
How to Measure a Western Saddle Seat for the Horse
The type of horse and the shape of its back will determine what type saddle seat you’ll need. But it all starts with the tree. Your saddler will help you decide what kind of tree you’ll need based on the shape of your horse’s back and its withers.
Many horses with defined withers do well with a regular tree. If you have a horse with wide or rounded withers and a flat back, your horse needs a wide tree.
Some horses, such as draft horses, need an extra wide or draft tree. You can always use an extra pad to fill in the space if a horse has narrow withers.
Place The Saddle Tree On Your Horse’s Back
To make sure you have the correct size saddle for your horse, place the saddle or saddle tree on your horse’s back. If you can place two or three fingers in between the horse’s gullet and your horse’s withers, that means it’s a good fit.
However, if the space is larger, that means the tree is too narrow. And if you can fit only one finger (or less) in the gap, that means the tree is too wide.
Construction of Tree Bars
The bars of the saddle are made up of the two slats that lay against the horses back on either side of his spine. Correct saddle fit for the horse means that the bars need to be at the correct angle.
The correct angle will ensure that the bar is distributing the weight of the rider evenly over the horse’s back. There shouldn’t be any gaps when you lay the tree saddle on top of the horse’s back.
For certain horses, like gaited horses, I would get a custom designed saddle.
How to Measure a Western Saddle for Gaited Horses
If you have a gaited horse, such as a Tennessee Walker or Fox Trotter, you might need a tree designed especially for these horses. The trees for saddles made for gaited horses have a higher gullet.
In addition, the bars of the tree for this particular type saddle have flare in the front of the bars in order to allow free and greater movement of the horse’s shoulders, and more rock, or curvature in the bars to conform to the horse’s back.
Of course, every horse is different. What’s super important is that you buy your saddle from a reputable online dealer. Be sure the saddler has a money-back guarantee policy as well as excellent customer service. For more information on how to measure a Western saddle seat, click here.
Have you ever had difficulty finding the right saddle fit for you and your horse? Please share your experience. I’d love to hear from you.