How to Size a Western Saddle for Your Horse
A correctly fitting saddle is crucial for the safety and comfort of both horse and rider. If your Western saddle does not fit you or your horse properly, injuries could occur. How can you know if your saddle fits right, and how do you measure to make the right purchase? Several factors come into play for properly fitting a western saddle for a horse. Knowing this information will help you to learn how to size a western saddle for your horse.
What Is a Western Saddle?
A Western saddle is used for Western styles of riding and is the saddle type used on ranches and farms, for work horses. Western saddles were designed with ranch cowboys in mind.
Cowboys who spend long and tiring days on the range, while driving and working their cattle, need a special type of saddle for comfort and support. Western saddles are much heavier than English saddles, but the weight is distributed over a wider surface area. With the contoured cantle, stirrups, and fenders, the rider is kept securely in the seat.
How to Fit a Western Saddle for Your Horse
Unfortunately, there is no standardized approach when it comes to tree sizing. There are many variables between designs and manufacturers, making it difficult to choose a proper size for a Western saddle.
To fit a Western saddle correctly, you need to make sure the right contact is achieved between the bar of the tree and your horse. You will need to consider the following for a perfect fit.
- Withers of the horse
- Topline of the horse
- Condition and age of the horse
How to Measure the Gullet Size for Your Horse
When it comes to fitting a Western saddle to your horse, measuring for the gullet is of extreme importance. To take your horse’s measurements, you will need a wire coat hanger.
First of all, place the wire coat hanger two inches behind your horse’s shoulder blades. This is the perfect position to measure and get the shape of your horse’s withers.
Carefully bend the wire coat hanger into the shape of the withers, being careful to lay the hanger directly on the withers. Once you have the shape bent into the hanger, remove the hanger from your horse, and get a measuring tape.
Place the measuring tape three inches under the angle of the withers and measure from side to side. The distance on your measuring tape gives you the width of your horse’s withers. This measurement will prove invaluable for choosing the perfect gullet size.
How to Measure Yourself for a Western Saddle Seat
In addition to the perfect gullet size for your horse, you will also need to measure your seat size. This is a straightforward process that only involves a chair and a tape measure.
While seated, bend your legs to a 45-degree angle, making sure your feet are resting flat on the floor. Take your measuring tape in a straight line and measure from your hip bone to the knee. This measurement will give you your saddle seat size.
How to Tell If a Western Saddle Fits Properly
Ensuring the saddle fits properly is critical for the safety of you and your horse. An ill-fitting saddle could cause slippage, painful pressure points, and other injuries.
To see if a Western saddle fits, first place it on your horse without any blankets or pads. Make sure the saddle sits right at the beginning of the base of the withers. The skirt of the saddle should mold perfectly to the sides of your horse without sticking out. If they are sticking out, the saddle is too wide.
To ensure the gullet size is correct for your horse, take two to three fingers and vertically fit them between your horse’s withers and the saddle. If you can fit over three fingers, the gullet is too narrow. If you can only fit one finger or none, the saddle gullet is too wide.
Finally, stand back and look at how the saddle sits on your horse. The saddle should lie flat and should be balanced on both sides and at the rear. The saddle should not tip forward or backward.
Now, you know the steps involved to measure your horse and your seat size for the perfect fit. A beautiful Western saddle will offer durability that can last for decades, but without a perfect fit, these saddles will be dangerous for your horse.
By taking the above steps, you will know how to size a western saddle for your horse. When in doubt, work with a professional, such as your vet, to get the perfect measurements. With these measurements, you will be able to purchase any Western saddle with confidence, knowing it will fit your horse precisely.