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Ultimate Western Saddle Fitting Guide: How To Size a Western Saddle for Your Horse

Ultimate Western Saddle Fitting Guide: How To Size a Western Saddle for Your Horse

Trying to figure out how to size a western saddle for your horse but aren't quite sure where to start? We're here to help you out. A proper western saddle fit is absolutely critical. Imagine if you were forced to wear clothing that was two sizes too small -- you would be extremely uncomfortable. That's how it feels to your horse if you put them in an ill-fitting saddle. This western saddle fit guide will go over the basics of how to fit a western saddle properly to ensure that your horse is comfortable and less likely to get injured.

Why Is a Proper Western Saddle Fit Important?

When trying to imagine how the wrong western saddle fit feels, think about wearing a pair of shoes that is too big, too small or so short that it pinches your toes. Not only will your feet hurt, but you might also resist working, start limping, grow stiff, get sores or even cause permanent damage like hammertoe or bunions. That's why knowing how to measure a western saddle properly is crucial to caring for your horse.

Proper western saddle fit can maximize your horse's comfort and performance and decrease behavioral problems. Your horse's saddle should encourage comfortable movement and responsiveness to leg cues. Taking the time to select a saddle that fits properly will help keep the lines of communication open between you and your mount. If you take your western saddle fit for granted, it's probably time for a review.

What Size Western Saddle Do I Need?

The western saddle seat size refers to rider fit and does not correspond to fitting a western saddle to the horse. But it's still important because if the saddle doesn't fit the rider, it will affect their balance and stability. If you can fit three fingers (about four inches) between your thigh and the saddle's swell, and you can hold your hand vertically between the cantle and your seat, your saddle fits you perfectly.

How to Measure a Western Saddle

When asking yourself, "What size western saddle do I need?" the first thing you need to figure out is the saddle tree size. This is determined by the angle of the saddle bars.

How to Fit a Western Saddle to a Horse

Each horse is unique, so figuring out the correct western saddle sizing can be a challenge. Here are some key considerations when determining how to fit a western saddle to a horse:

  • Seat Size - The seat of the saddle should go beyond the horse's last rib.
  • Skirt Length - The saddle skirt should end before the point of the hip and not stick out.
  • Saddle Width - The width of the saddle is determined by the size of the gullet. You should be able to place several fingers between the saddle and the withers.

Make sure the saddle is centered and level on the horse's back. You want to sit as close as possible to the horse's center of gravity because that is the strongest point on its back. Don't try to use a saddle pad to fix a poor western saddle fit.

How to Measure a Western Saddle Gullet

The gullet is the tunnel below the fork that runs along the horse's withers. This space allows the horse's shoulders and back to move freely. If it's too narrow, the saddle will pinch the horse's back. If it's too wide, the saddle can slip or rub and cause saddle sores. The vertical gap should be a minimum of two and no more than four fingers wide, and you should be able to see a bit of light shining through the gullet when looking from the back of the horse to the front.

You can also measure a western saddle gullet manually by measuring the distance from screw to screw at the point where the front conchos attach to the saddle. Keep in mind, this measurement can be used as a rough indicator for bar angle, but it is never a guarantee. That is because the saddle industry does not have standardized measurements for different bar widths and angles. Still, if you know what size gullet fits your horse best generally, this measurement can help you buy a properly fitting saddle sight unseen online. However, you should still aim to secure a trial period for any new or used saddle in case it does not fit you or your horse properly.

Signs of an Ill-fitting Western Saddle

Horses can't speak up if their saddle hurts, so you need to pay attention to their body language and look for physical signs of improper western saddle fit. Each horse is unique, so figuring out the correct western saddle sizing can be a challenge. Here are some key considerations when determining how to fit a western saddle to a horse:

  • Resistance to cues
  • Saddle sores
  • Irritability manifested as tail swishing or ear pinning
  • White hairs suddenly appearing
  • Back swelling after the saddle is removed
  • Thickened skin or scars in the saddle area

Your saddle should sit level on your horse's back, and the front of your saddle should be positioned behind the withers. Make sure the bars don't pinch. The saddle is too narrow if the front rides high. Conversely, it's too wide if the front of the saddle is low.

Find the Ideal Western Saddle Fit at NRS

Now that you know how to size a Western saddle for your horse, it's time to tack up. Choose from our extensive Western saddle collection and accessories for roping, barrel racing, pleasure riding and more. From Quarter Horses to Morgan horses, we have the Western saddle sizes you need.

But don't worry — if you still have questions, our team will help you determine the correct Western saddle size for your animal. Shop our selection of Western saddles today!

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