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Saddle Fitting High Withered Horses – What’s the Best Saddle?

saddle fitting high withered horses

While high withers can potentially enhance a horse’s performance, saddle fitting high-withered horses can be challenging.  Why is saddle fitting high withered horses so challenging?

High withers give a horse extra length in his stride, making him potentially faster than his rivals. In events like barrel racing and roping, this can shave valuable seconds off your best time.

As saddle fitting high-withered horses is difficult, many riders end up using an ill-fitting saddle that may pinch on the shoulders or press on the withers, leading to discomfort and behavioral issues as well as slow speeds.

How To Fit a Saddle On a Horse With High Withers

Saddle fitting high withered horses is the same as fitting a saddle to any other horse – there should be 2-3 fingers clearance over the wither and visible daylight along the gusset. 

A saddle that fits any more snugly than that may rub on your horse’s withers, pinch his shoulders, or cause him pain along the spine. 

It is tempting to fit a narrower saddle onto high-withered horses as the unnaturally elevation at the points of the withers is narrow.

This often gives way to a wide, athletic back, however, so many horses with high withers benefit from a saddle with a thicker gusset which compensates for the hollows that occur behind the shoulders as a result of that elevation.

How To Adjust A Saddle To Fit A High Withered Horse

If the thought of saddle fitting a high withered horse causes you too much distress, don’t despair, a cut-back saddle pad could do the trick for you.

The Wool Blend Contour Pad from Tucker, for example, comes with either a cutback or a wither cut out. Both of these can “provide pressure relief in the sensitive wither area”.

They can also resolve many of the issues related to saddle fitting high withered horses, and particularly horses with both high withers and narrow builds.

Big Horn also have a couple of cut out options available that will reduce pressure on the withers and give your horse a little more room to move.

The Big Horn Tuffy High Withers Pad is the more affordable option, but the Big Horn Tuffy Cut Back and Built Up Pad includes a built-up section in the front that raises the saddle, allowing for even more clearance.

Some experts even recommend saddle fitting high withered horses “with a too-wide saddle and using shims to lift the front,” saying the extra padding up front helps to balance the rider, “while the extra width in the tree gives the horse great comfort and freedom of movement.”

What To Look For When Saddle Fitting High Withered Horses

The difficulties involved in saddle fitting high withered horses are often exacerbated by the fact that many such horses also have narrow backs.

Both these conformational features can be accommodated by a saddle with a higher-than-average gullet which offers more room for manuever, particularly in the shoulder and wither areas.

This is particularly important if you’re looking for a roping saddle which needs to withstand a lot of pressure on the horn. 

If you’re after a more general purpose saddle, barrel racers and gaited saddles are a good place to start. These tend to offer more clearance at the withers but may not fit high-withered horses that taper off gradually as well as those with “shark withers that drop off sharply.”

While V-shaped trees are better for horses that are both angular and have high withers – like a Thoroughbred – hoop-shaped trees can be better for those with high withers and broad backs. 

Treeless saddles can reduce some of the headaches associated with saddle fitting high withered horses as they often fit horses that other saddles won’t.

They can still cause pressure points, however,  so you need to be careful about how you attach it. Some treeless saddles are also less secure than traditional ones, so may cause problems on rough terrain or when barrel racing.

The Best Saddles for High-Withered Horses

Saddle Fitting High Withered Horses #1

Big Horn Cordura Gaited Horse Saddle High Withers 257

This lightweight saddle is ideal for horses with high withers. Designed for gaited horses in particular, this stylish saddle has a higher gullet and adjusted bar angle to provide extra movement in the neck and shoulder. The design also gives high-withered horses the space they need to perform to the best of their abilities.

Built on a wooden tree that’s reinforced with fibre-glass, this saddle is as durable as it comfortable. It’s also affordable and versatile.

Saddle Fitting High Withered Horses #2

Billy Cook Barrel Saddle 1524

The Billy Cook barrel saddle 1524 has a higher gullet and horn than most saddles, making it suitable when saddle fitting high-withered horses. A versatile saddle, it can be used “on a daily basis for training and trail riding” or “at rodeos for barrel racing and pole bending.”

This unique saddle won’t just fit your high-withered horse, it will make him look like a winner with its silver-laced cantle and quilted seat. The fleece lining makes it comfortable on your horse’s back and reduces the risk of rubs and chafing.

Saddle Fitting High Withered Horses #3

Circle Y Fischer Treeless Barrel 1311

This barrel saddle from Circle Y features Tammy Fischer’s treeless design which combines security for the rider with freedom of movement for the horse. The tall cantle will enable you to sit deep in the saddle while the treeless design means you can feel your horse and move with him.

The neoprene skirts are designed to distribute weight more evenly across the horse’s back, alleviating the pressure points and rubs that are often associated with saddle fitting high-withered horses. 

Finished with crystal mosaic conchos and peace heart inlays, this saddle will turn heads even when your performance doesn’t.


A high-withered horse has the potential to out-perform more conventionally shaped horses, with the added wither height giving him extra reach in his stride. 

Saddle fitting a high withered horse, however, is not without its complications. 

Look out for gaited saddles and even treeless ones that give you a little more around the neck and shoulder area, or used cut-out saddle pads to improve a wider saddle’s fit.

A uncomfortable horse isn’t only going to deliver a sub-standard performance – he could develop more serious physical and behavioral issues as a result – which is why you must be careful saddle fitting high withered horses, especially if you want to compete.

Was this post helpful in saddle fitting high withered horses? If not, please read my post on Big Horn Cordura Saddles which are great for saddle fitting high withered horses.

I’d love to hear about your experience. Please put your comments below.


  • Leahrae says:

    I am learning a lot just from reading your posts! Although I have to ask what is the different between a high withered horse, and say any other type of horse? If I get one saddle to use while riding, will it be good on most horses I ride?

    • Shalisha Alston says:

      Hi Leahrae. Horses come in all different shapes and sizes. If you have a high-withered horse, it will mean you will have to buy a saddle specifically for that horse. Generally speaking, a horse who has a high withers has a slightly narrower back than a horse with a flat withers. Saddles with semi-quarter horse bars have a more angled and slightly narrower fit, making them more likely to fit a horse with a high withers properly. So no, it will not be good on most other horses you ride – unless those horses have high withers.

  • Shalisha says:

    I am not familiar with saddles or horses too much. I think that your site is laid out nicely and that your explanation of the different features associated with various saddles and accessories is something readers familiar with horses and equipment for riding will find educational and helpful. Many times, when people are searching for something to buy and end up on sites such as this really appreciate the information not always available on a regular sales site.

    • Shalisha Alston says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by and giving me feedback. It’s really important that people get lots of information before buying a saddle.  I’m so glad I have been able to provide a valuable service. 

  • Sw33t_Mints says:

    Can I first start off by saying your graphics alone are eye-catching? Really amazing vibrant pictures. Your descriptions of the saddles definitely come hand in hand especially when it comes to which saddle is more affordable and which saddle is the best quality. I personally have no horses but would definitely recommend this to a friend of mine who does own horses.

    • Shalisha Alston says:

      Hi there. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Thanks for the compliment on the graphics.  I really try my best to give the reader the best, brightest colors of the saddles so that they will see their high quality.  Yes, please do recommend this site to your friends.

  • Astrostar says:

    Hey there!

    Thanks for sharing this article with us here.  Honestly, I’ve never climbed on a horse in my entire life. I’m actually scared of those magnificent creatures.  I do see people holding and using various types of saddles, but I’ve only watched from a distance.  Still, I’m still able to identify and compare each one I see from another one.  I just hope one day I will have the courage to ride a horse 

    • Shalisha Alston says:

      Hi Astrostar. Thanks so much for your comment. Hopefully, one day you’ll get over your fear of horses and hop on one and ride. But be sure to come back to my site and purchase a used saddle until you know exactly what type of saddle you’ll need.  

  • Tom says:


    My sister in law and my niece will love this article. With the riding lessons my niece was having, she got more and more into it. She wanted her own saddle but didn’t really know the best one to get. So, I am going to share this article with them and I hope you can help them decide. This article can also help them with how to fit the saddle and adjust it etc, so it is a win-win article.

    I will encourage them to comment and if they have any questions or issues then I will advise them to get in touch. If that is OK with you?

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,


    • Shalisha Alston says:

      Thank you for your comment Tom. I would love it if you referred them to this site.

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