Western Saddle Proper Fit

Western saddle proper fit can seem almost impossible. If you are having issues with your saddles, You’re not alone!
Have you ever questioned yourself while saddling your horse!

western saddle proper fit
when the saddle sore heals the hair comes back white

“Am I putting the saddle too far forward or too far backward?”
“Does the saddle fit my horse and I just don’t know how to properly set it on his back?”

Help Me! What Am I Doing Wrong? Why Don’t Saddles Fit My Horse?

Western saddle proper fit can be frustrating, but it is nothing you are doing wrong. You can’t fix what you don’t know! Right? I myself have had so many problems and sometimes still do.

I will help you with a few essential pointers to help you better understand why this issue is so common, but I am in no way an expert. Just sharing what I have experienced. And others may disagree with me because everyone sees issues differently.

Not every saddle will have the same measurements because different saddle makers have different gullet measurements specifically for their saddle tree.

They are not being made right for different shaped horses. Buying the better quality saddles range around $1000,00 and up, to where the cheaper made ones vary around $150.00 and up. As you can see, there is a significant difference in price.

That’s why a  lot of people will buy the more affordable one hoping they can make it work. I am also one of the cheaper buyers. You’ve heard the saying, “get what you pay for.” It’s true!

Years ago, there were not many options when buying a saddle. These terms were the “normal” fit for a horse. Since then so much has changed. Saddle makers now try to accommodate many different horse body types as well as the riding discipline. So when trying to find a well-fitted saddle, consider all this.

There are two general terms used for western saddles when measuring the width of the gullet.western saddle proper fit
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 measure a minimum of 7 inches.

semi-QH bars fit the more refined horses such as Arabians or Thoroughbreds.

Full-QH bars fit the stockier, mutton withered horses such as Quarter horses. Of course, that doesn’t apply to every horse.

Step Back Take A Breather And Think About It This Way

My shoes are too tight.
Think of your horse’s saddle as your shoes. If you put shoes on your feet that fit too small, they are going to feel uncomfortable and will be too tight and create pressure and pain. The next day, your feet will be sore if you continue wearing them. Then you are going to be irritable, and you are not going to want to stand on your feet.

The next day if someone walked up to you with those same shoes in their hand and wanted you to put them back on. Would you? Knowing what the outcome was going to be. Your horse doesn’t forget, and your horse is going to have an attitude with you. He isn’t going to stand still while you put that saddle on his back. Then what do you do?

You get mad at your horse and yell or smack him. Then you still get on your horse and possibly being thrown off. Sorry, but that would be your mistake!

My shoes are too big. western saddle proper fit

You put a pair of shoes that are too big. What happens? Right! When you walk and move around, they are going to flop around on your feet.

If you continue to wear them, you will start to feel pain on your feet and be uncomfortable. At the end of the day, when you take those shoes off, you will have sores and blisters.

The next day someone walks up to you with the same shoes and wants you to put them on. Would you? That is the same thought that the horse has when he sees that same saddle coming toward him that hurt his back the day before.

One that is too big for your horse is going to do the same thing to your horses back as the shoes you wore — going to have saddle sores from the seat sliding on his back and rubbing off his hair and causing wounds. Therefore he shouldn’t have anything or anyone on his back until he heals. You should put ointment on the sores to help keep insects off and possibly ettin infected.

How to fit your saddle

When setting on your horse to figure out if it fits properly, it should have proper placement, levelness, and all-around balance. The bars of the saddle tree should have even contact and pressure on your horse’s back (spine).

 without a saddle pad. .Place the saddle on your horse’s back. It should sit right behind the scapula (shoulder blade). If it’s too far forward, it will create pressure and reduce the range of motion and movement.

western saddle proper fit
proper saddle fit

The pommel, the 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 it widens.

The saddle should be flesh from front to backIf the seat tilts forward and the pommel is sitting on the withers, then it may be too broad.

Place your fingers to between the saddle and your horse and try sliding them. If they are stuck and won’t slip, chances are it will pinch your horse. That means it’s possibly too narrow.

The bars of the tree should also not exceed the 18th rib:

A way of knowing where the 18th rib is is where the hairline changes just before the flank/hip area. You may also feel them going from the flank toward the horse’s bones.

Some horses have higher withers, swayback, or the muscles in the back may be weak due to lack of exercise. Whatever the case may be, this will cause bridging.

Bridging is pressure in front of the saddle and weight on the back of the seat. Creating a gap in the middle between your horse and saddle. (there is a therapeutic and bridging pad available to purchase, I will discuss more on this later).

Saddle pads/Blankets Can Have A Negative Fit With The Saddle You Use :

The type of blanket you use may also affect the way your seat 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 shoes?
Okay, well imagine if you double up your socks, put another shoe over the shoes that are already too tight. What’re the results going to be? The shoes will be more uncomfortable and more painful.

Therapeutic pads work well for any horse but especially horses with a heavy workload. 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.

western saddle proper fit
therapy pad

Bridge pads. Bridging pads are to fill the gap between your horse and the saddle to make full contact.

Thank you for your interest in Western Saddle Proper Fit.

I hope this information is useful to you.


This page is for informational purposes ONLY.
Always consult your trainer or your vet for further advice. I am sharing experiences that I have learned over the years.

Please leave any questions, comments, thoughts, or reviews you may have.
Thank You!  Michelle

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