1/2" Rope Reins
5/8" Rope Reins
5/8" Flat Rope Reins
Leather Split Reins

Leather Trail Bridles

Padded Nylon Halters
Breakaway Halters

Hoof Protection
Easycare Hoof Boots
Easyboot EPIC
Easyboot GLOVE
Easyboot Back County GLOVE
Easyboot Glove Glue On
Easy SHOE Performance NG

Yacht Rope Lead Ropes

PRI Dressage Pads
PRI AP/English Pads
Equipedic Pads

Western Square Pads
Western/ Endurance Barrel Pads

Stirrups & LEATHERS
MDC Stirrups

Trailer Safety
Trailer Eyes - wireless monitor

TE-0811 B2

Saddle fitting tips
Hoof Care info & links

Return Policy

Contact us

Some basic tips for checking saddle fit

How do I know if my saddle fits? Here are a few tips to take the mystery out of checking for basic fit.

What does your horse say?
Look at your current saddle and evaluate what your horse is telling you about it with his body language. Is he moving forward less freely under saddle than you'd like? Is he unhappy with the saddling process (pinning ears, tail swishing, moving away, hollowing back, nipping at the girth etc.)? When you mount your horse does he toss his head and hollow his back? Look at the sweat pattern on your horses back after a long ride. Can you see an even contact pattern of the saddles tree from front to back of the saddle? No? These signs may point to an ill-fitting saddle. Is he lame or sore? Be aware, however, that not all unhappy body language is always related to saddle fit but fixing an ill-fitting saddle is a step on the road to improvement.

All of the following steps should be performed with your horse standing squarely on level ground. Be sure to check both sides of your horse, as many horses are slightly asymmetrical. All these steps of saddle fit should be done with the saddle in direct contact with the horse's back- no pad.

1. Position of the Saddle
First place the saddle slightly forward on the horse's withers. Next press down on the pommel and slide the saddle rearward until it stops at the resting-place, which is dictated by each horse's conformation. Repeat this procedure several times until you feel the saddle stop in the same spot repeatedly, well behind the shoulder blade. Resist the temptation to place the saddle too far forward on the withers. This is a very common fitting mistake and can interfere with your horse's soundness and movement.

2. Point Angle/ gullet width
The pommel "points" of the saddle (the two sides of the tree) should lie parallel to the withers, and not sitting on top or sticking into the musculature. If the angles are too narrow, the points will dig into the musculature, and will cause a pressure point with the riders weight in the saddle. If they are too wide the saddle will tip down in front putting pressure on top of the withers, and often give the rider a feeling of tipping forward in the seat.

3. Panel Pressure
(NOTE: The panels are the stuffed bottoms of the saddle, which rests on the horse's back.) With pressure on the top of the saddle, run your hand down the front of the panel between the horses skin and the saddle, and feel for any uneven pressure. The front edge of the panel l should not pinch the withers in any area. If it pinches toward the top, and feels like there is no pressure or uneven pressure at the bottom, it is probably too wide. In this case the saddle will also most likely have less than 3 fingers clearance between the pommel and the withers. if it pinches toward the bottom of the points, and feels "looser" at the top, it is probably too narrow and in this case it may also have more than 3 fingers clearance between the withers and the pommel. You may also notice that the seat is tipping back towards the rear of the horse. With pressure on the top of the saddle, run your hand, palm up, along the entire panel raising the sweat flap to ensure that the panels fit snugly and evenly on both sides of the withers and along the back. Check for Bridging in the middle. Also be sure that the Angle of the panels lie closely to the sides of the withers when viewed from the front and also the rear. Notice how much area the panels are actually contacting with the horses back. Panels that are at the wrong angle or have too much flocking (too round) will have less contact area. This can make a difference in how the saddle distributes the weight of the rider- the more contact area that you have, the better the weight of the rider is distributed. This is especially important for a heavy rider that is using an english saddle with small panels.

4. Level Seat
The seat itself (the part of the seat that your sit bones are sitting on, ) should be level. Even a subtle tilt forward or back can make a difference. If the tree gullet in the saddle is too narrow and causes the saddle to sit too high in front and too low behind, the lowest point of the saddle is displaced toward the rear, placing most of the rider's weight back into a very vulnerable part of the horse's back.
Saddles that sit too high in front because of a gullet that is too narrow, often slide forward. Despite the fact that the saddle is sitting low behind, the rider often feels he is tipping forward. Tipping forward is a bodys' natural response to compensate for the saddle sitting too low behind. Unfortunately, this causes the rider to break forward over the waist at the sitting trot, absorbing the movement in his or her lower back instead of going with the movement. Another compensatory response is for the leg to creep up because the flap is forwardly displaced.

Trying to correct this problem by using a bounce pad under the rear of the saddle, can cause bridging in the center, and also lifts the back of the saddle up, which only adds more pressure to the withers and makes the entire saddle laterally unstable, tipping side to side-. The correct solution is a wider, properly fitted tree.

WHITE HAIRS. Check for white hairs anywhere that your saddle is contacting your horses back. Most commonly found in the withers area, but you can find them anywhere. When there is a pressure point sufficient enough to cause scarring in the skin tissue, pigmented hair is unable to grow, and the hair will grow out white in that area. Catching it early and fixing the problem is the only solution for white hairs. (unless of course your entire horse is white! ) Then you just have to check for sensitive spots after and before each ride.

5. Wither Clearance
There should be approximately two to three fingers' clearance between the underside of the pommel and the horse's withers. Adequate clearance should extend all the way through the gullet of the saddle along the horses spine, between the two panels. More than three fingers' clearance may mean the pommel is too high, i.e. the tree is too narrow- but check for the other indications mentioned above before you assume the saddle gullet is too narrow.. A saddle with less than 2-3 fingers may mean that the saddle is too wide.But again, check for the other symptoms as well. For some horses, as long as the saddle is sitting level, and is not contacting the withers or spine, you can have less than 3 fingers clearance. The two to three finger rule may not apply to horses with flat round withers. Also, if a horse is underweight, and its muscles along each side of the spine are not well developed, the saddle can have the correct gullet width but not have the spine clearancein back or the wither clearance in front. You would see this at both the front and the back of the saddle. This is one of the few cases when a saddle pad with inserts along the entire length of the spine will work. It will lift up the entire saddle and fill the area parallel to the spine- use it until the horse gains weight, and the saddle should fit just fine without adjustmen to the flocking.

Note that a saddle will settle lower with the weight of the rider, so check these measurements with and without someone on the horses back.

6. Channel Clearance/Gullet Width
There should also be adequate clearance over the spine and connective tissue throughout the channel of the saddle. A channel that is too narrow will impede the horse's movement dramatically and may even cause the spine to be observably sore. Feel the width of the spine and connective tissue with your fingers and estimate its width. The channel of the saddle should completely clear this width, resting on the long back muscle instead.

7. Length of the Saddle
The saddle should never go behind the 18th thoracic vertebrae, which is essentially the back of the ribcage. Behind this vertebra are the lumbar vertebras, which do not have adequate, supporting bony structures. The tree of the Sommer saddles works for the short backed horse or the gaited horse and does not interfere.

8. Feel what your horse is doing.
Again, with the rider up and the saddle correctly evaluated, observe your horse's body language. Is he moving more freely, extending his front legs and reaching under himself with his hind legs? Is he lifting his back, or is he traveling "hollow"? Does he have more freedom to move with a correctly fitted saddle? After a few minutes in a correctly fitted saddle, he should tell you if he's happy.
Again, be aware that that not all unhappy body language is always related to saddle fit but fixing an ill-fitting saddle is the first step on the road to improvement. Check for soreness, lamness before buying a new saddle. Dont test ride a new saddle on a horse that already has a back problem from a previous saddle- the new saddle will not fix the problem- give the horse time to heal so that you can faily evaluate the new saddle.

Rider Comfort
Most rider discomfort can be alleviated with proper saddle fit and design. The most common problems associated with saddle fit are: seats too small, saddles sitting too high in front and saddles in which the rise to the pommel extends too far back. A saddle with a very wide twist can cause hip soreness, but sometimes that same feeling is caused by a saddle with a seat that is too large for the rider- the rider is sitting too far back in the seat. A rider in too small of a seat will have the feeling similar to a very narrow twist, or having too steep a rise into the front of the saddle. For an english or western saddle you sould be able to place your hand sideways in front of you on the pommel and you should be able to put at least 3 fingers horizontally behind your rear end at the back of the seat at the cantle. Note** any size rear end that is crammed into a seat that is too small, looks BIGGER!! :) so...you will be more comfortable, your horse will be more comfortable and you will look better, in a seat that is the correct size, no matter what that size may be.
The most common rider position problems that cause discomfort at sitting trot are breaking forward over the waist into the pommel. With western saddles, bracing with the feet into the stirrups and pushing the rear end into the back of the saddle, causes the balls of the feet to to go numb, and also causes sore lower back for the rider. Sometimes this is just an unconscious habit of the rider and sometimes it is caused because the gullet of the saddle is too wide and the rider is compensating for the forward tilt of the seat without realizing that they are doing it. This rider position also places the riders weight into the back of the saddle and puts pressure on the lower back area of the horse. Remember this...if your position is causing YOU to have a sore back, it is also mirrored in the horse and the horse will also be sore in this area if you ride them long enough- they are obviously stronger than you, so it takes longer for a horse to show soreness .. Sore knees can also be caused from bracing, as well as stirrup leathers that are too stiff and are twisting the riders toe in towards the horses side.