Saddle fitting can be really confusing and even frustrating at times. Have you ever thought about your horse’s saddle fitting properly? Have you ever thought to yourself while saddling your horse, “am I putting the saddle too far forward or too far backward?”
How do you know where to correctly place your saddle? I have been there and done that. If you are unsure, it may be best to consult your trainer, local professional or a saddle fitter. I would still like to give you few basic pointers to help you better understand how your saddle should fit. Saddle fitting is one of those things that is overthought. Think of your horse’s saddle as a shoe, If you put a shoe on that’s too small, it will be too tight and create pressure. If you put a shoe on that’s too big, it will be loose and floppy.
There are two general terms used for saddles when measuring the width of the gullet…
Semi- quarter horse bars
Full- quarter horse bars
Generally: semi- QH bars measure around 6 3/4 inches wide at the gullet and full- QH bars measures a minimum of 7 inches.
Not every saddle will have the same measurements because different saddle makers have different gullet measurements specifically for their saddle tree.
Back when these terms were the “normal” fit for a horse, there were not many options to turn to and since then so much has changed. Saddle makers now try to accommodate for many different horse body types as well as the riding discipline. So when trying to find a well fitted saddle, take all this into consideration.
Does your saddle fit?
When putting your saddle on your horse to figure out if your saddle fits properly, it should have good placement, levelness and all around balance.
Place the saddle on your horse without a saddle pad. For the pommel, general rule is at least two fingers horizontally in between the wither of your horse and the height of the pommel. Next, run your fingers from the gullet of the saddle down your horse’s shoulder where the saddle widens. The saddle should be flesh all the way down. If the saddle tilts forward and the pommel is sitting on top of the withers, than your saddle may be too wide. If there is no room for your fingers to slide down in between the saddle and your horse, and the saddle is pinching, your saddle may be too narrow.
Generally semi-QH bars fits the more refined horses such as Arabians or Thoroughbreds. Full-QH bars fit the more stockier, mutton withered horses such as Quarter horses. Of course that doesn’t apply for every horse.
The saddle should sit right behind the scapula (shoulder blade). If the saddle is too far forward it will create pressure and reduce the range of motion and movement.
The saddle should sit level on your horse’s back, not tilted forward or backward. The bars of the saddle tree should have even contact and pressure on your horse’s back (spine).
The bars of the tree should also not exceed the 18th rib:
A way of knowing where the 18th rib is, is where the hair line changes just before the flank/hip area. You may also feel them going from the flank toward the ribs.
Some horses have higher withers, sway back or the muscles in the back may be weak due to lack of exercise. What ever the case may be, this will cause bridging. Bridging is when there is pressure in the front of the saddle and pressure on the back of the saddle, creating a gap between your horse and the saddle. (there are therapeutic and bridging pad available to purchase, I will discuss more on this later).
The type of blanket you use may also effect the way your saddle fits. When saddles are too narrow in the gullet, many believe, to resolve the issue is to double up your saddle pads and think this may not pinch and put pressure on your horse’s withers. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Remember the example I gave you of the shoe? Imagine if you put a shoe on that is already too tight, then double up your socks. Whats the results? The shoe will be tighter and more uncomfortable.
Therapeutic pads work really well for any horse, but especially horses with a heavy work load. Therapeutic pads help prevent the horse’s back from getting sore and allow even pressure through the entire area as well as compensate for any flaws in a saddle.
Earlier we talked about bridge pads. Bridging pads are for the purpose of filling the gap between your horse and the saddle to make full contact.
Hopefully I have helped you understand about your saddle fitting issues.
I hope this information is useful and only intended for informational purposes only. Always consult your trainer or local professional for further advice.
Please leave any questions or comments you may have.
Thank You! Michelle
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