Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Beautiful Pacific Northwest
• Horses: 0
Having a saddle-fitter is best. If that's not an option:
For the saddle, take a wither-tracing. Get a flexi-curve or a straightened-out coat-hanger (flexi-curve is most accurate and easiest). Lay it over your horse's back about 2" behind the rear edge of his scapula and press down to get a "casting" of his back. This is the place the tree-points on an English saddle should sit (approximately.). Now trace this onto a piece of cardboard and cut it out. Now you can take your "horse" saddle-shopping with you. When you look at an English saddle from the front, lift the flaps, and you'll see the tree points there, right in front of the billets, tucked into leather pockets. If the angle of the tree points matches the angle of your "horse", you have a good start. If you're buying online, look for a seller who will let you return the saddle if it doesn't fit. Look at your wither-tracing. Around 90° is about a medium. Wider is a wider tree, narrower is a narrower tree. All manufacturers have a completely different idea of what the various tree widths actually are, so you really need to try the saddle on your horse.
Make sure that the saddle you get has good panels on the underside. They need to be soft enough to conform to the horse's back and provide cushioning, yet firm enough to provide support. No lumps are allowed.
Start with your seat and balance. When you get your saddle, have someone lunge you, and ride all the gaits without stirrups until you're glued into the saddle. My mom used to have me put my arms out to the sides like an airplane while doing this. Ride with light contact with the mouth at all times, without pulling unless needed.
Keep in mind that in an English saddle, your horse will feel your cues, movements and weight sifts much more than in a Western saddle. Don't be surprised if he suddenly seems very responsive or sensitive.