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365 Days in Horse Country – Checking Your Saddle’s Fit

Blog by Michael Stuart Webb | November 23rd, 2013

365 Days in Horse Country – Checking Your Saddle’s Fit



We would all like to think that our horses enjoy being ridden.  This is more likely to be true if your horse is wearing a saddle that properly fits him.

Some horses are very expressive about their discomfort, going so far as to buck their riders off if the saddles they are wearing are pinching them or creating some other kind of discomfort.  Other horses are stoic creatures and give no clue that the saddles they are wearing cause them pain.

Just because your horse hasn’t thrown you or become incapacitated doesn’t mean that his saddle fits him properly.  Spend some time giving your saddle fit the once over just to be sure your horse isn’t suffering.

To do a basic check on your English saddle, follow these guidelines:

  • Put the saddle on the horse without a saddle pad and tighten the girth.
  • Have a helper sit in the saddle.
  • Keeping your hand flat, slid your fingers underneath the pommel.  Your fingers should fit comfortably between the horse and saddle.  You should be able to fit at least three fingers between the withers and the arch below the pommel.
  • Put your fingers in between the top of the horse’s shoulder blade and the pommel.  Have someone lift the horse’s left foreleg off the ground and pull it forward.  As the shoulder moves, make sure the saddle does not restrict the movement of the shoulder.  Do this on the other side of the horse as well.
  • Stand behind the horse.  Look through the saddle to see a tunnel of light.  If you don’t see light, the saddle is too tight.
  • Tor check the length of the saddle, check to see if the seat panel reaches past the main part of the back onto the loins.  If it does, it is too long for your horse.

To check your Western saddle, do the following:

  • Put the saddle on the horse’s back with a Western saddle pad underneath it.  Tighten the cinch so it is comfortable.
  • Have someone sit in the saddle with his or her feet in the stirrups.
  • Fit three fingers between the arch of the pommel and the horse’s withers.  If you can’t, the tree is too wide for your horse.
  • Make your hand flat and place your fingers between the saddle and the top of the horse’s shoulder.  If the fit is so tight that you can’t squeeze your fingers in, the tree is too narrow to your horse.