*sigh* finding the right saddle is HARD! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 08-16-2009, 02:01 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Canada
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*sigh* finding the right saddle is HARD!

Hey guys, I've been trying to find a western saddle to fit willow for a few months now, and I am ready to give up and ride bareback the rest of my life (which I don't mind doing, however willow will be bombproof one day and a high-strung wack-job the next, .:. a saddle would be nice to have around). When I tell people she is wide, they say "oh, you need FQHBs then". Well, I have tried a few FQHB saddles on her and they are still too narrow. Willow is an 8 year old appy with a very round back. She has barely any withers at all, and is a bit on the chubby side despite our hard rides because she is on free grass/hay. Heres a picture of how wide she is - this was during last winter when it was SO cold and SO long that she packed on so much weight. She lives ouside so I guess she needed it.

I was wondering if anyone has a horse who is shaped like willow, or knows of any saddle brands made for round horses. I've looked at some draft saddles but they are all massive.
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post #2 of 19 Old 08-16-2009, 02:27 PM
Green Broke
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Hmm, there is a pony at my barn, about 14hh, and her owner has the same saddle fitting problem. She has probably tried about 20 different saddles, and nothing fits. You may have to get a custom fit saddle. It will cost a little more, but it is definitely worth it!

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post #3 of 19 Old 08-16-2009, 03:02 PM
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What I would suggest, is to find a tack store that has saddles on hand, and if possible, bring the horse to the tack store, and have someone help to fit him there. Some good tack shops will let you take one home to try, or bring a few out to put on him and see what works. If you were nearby (I'm in SW MI) I could tell you of just the shop for the job. Otherwise, just ask. You don't know what those saddle dealers will do for a sale.

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post #4 of 19 Old 08-16-2009, 03:06 PM
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Unfortunately Big Horn is out of business but they carried a good saddle for my tank.

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post #5 of 19 Old 08-16-2009, 03:12 PM
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I totally understand how frustrating it is to find a saddle that properly fits your horse. I am in the same boat. He being A Symetrical with high narrow withers, a spine up the ying yang, and with a very broad back.

I can't go medium or narrower on his, because then his back wont be accomodated. Nor can I go Medium or wider because now I am not accomodating his spine nor his withers.

I really do recommend you hire a Saddle Maker/Fitter. They are professionals, they are in this business and have an educated eye - all the better to help you out with this dillema. I would go with what a pro saddler says, before anyone else.

Best bang for your buck to have the educated assistance backing you and your horse up.

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post #6 of 19 Old 08-17-2009, 10:54 AM
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Big Horn isn't out of business. They were bought out by American Saddlery who purchased all of their assets. AS owns the machines, the buildings, etc. They re-hired Big Horn's employees, too, and the saddles are still made in Tennessee at the same factory they've always been. The price has gone up considerably, though. I've asked around to folks who know and the quality is just as good now as it's always been.

OP- You need to do a withers tracing. It'll save you LOADS of time and money. You won't have to be buying saddles to find out they don't fit. I highly recommend you go purchase a Flexi-Curve. It's a blue wire thing that's used to trace withers and help you fit saddles. When you've done a tracing, then you can contact the saddle manufacturers directly and send them a copy of it. They can tell you what bars in their saddle lines are appropriate for you.

Your problem isn't that people are steering you wrong telling you that you need FQHB or SQHB or whatever. Your problem is the same as everyone else's problem...there's no industry standard when it comes to the names and measurements of the bars. The "bars" refers to the flare and degree of separation of the hard support panels inside the saddle - how far they are set apart from each other and the degree in which they angle out. Where the saddleries all differ is in their definition of what angle FQHB and SQHB are...and some companies even have QHB in the mix...like Big Horn. Some companies say there's a difference between QHB and some don't (Big Horn calls their tree QHB...that' "FQHB" to them). Others carry a "QHB" as a size smaller than a SQHB! Some companies say FQHB is 94 degrees wide. Another company's FQHB is 93 degrees or 95. It's a mess. LOL

The most important measurement of all is the gullet width, which is how the saddle measures 2" below the narrowest point. This is the place that usually doesn't fit more than anywhere else (even the bars) and it's the part that can cause the most damage to a horse. Many times, the "Bars" of a saddle include a particular range of gullet measurements, too, but there again, you have to make sure the front and back both fit. For example, Wintecs come in a FQHB with either a 6 3/4" gullet or a 7" gullet. That 1/4" makes a HUGE difference. I think Wintec only makes FQHB in those gullet sizes, BUT...it is possible to find saddles with FQHB and smaller gullet...you may have to go to another company. My horse takes a 6 1/2" gullet and FQHB.

Here's some templates you can print out:

Western Saddle Fitting and Different Tree Sizes

Last edited by Liberty Valance; 08-17-2009 at 10:57 AM.
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post #7 of 19 Old 08-17-2009, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
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My friend has a Halflinger and that may be the saddle for you. They have them specially made for the halflinger. The draft are way to big for sure.. But the halflinger is considered a pony. My friends horse is 14.2 but is shaped like a wisky barrel :)
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post #8 of 19 Old 08-17-2009, 11:22 AM
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Rather then buy a "system" to trace your horse's withers, this is the method I use when looking for a new saddle and I can't take my horse with me.

Forms for fitting a saddle

Go to the hardware store and get about 4’ of 12 or 14 gauge house wire (the kind electricians use to wire a house) and cut it in half. This was written for Western saddles but the principle is the same for English or Australian.

Take 2’ and shape it over your horse’s withers. Take the other 2’ and shape it over the center of his back.

Carefully take the wires and trace the inside of the wire on a heavy piece of cardboard (or poster board if you have it). Cut out the cardboard shapes and take them to the saddle shop to fit against some saddles.

This part is Western: Keep in mind that QH bars in one saddle may not be the same in another brand. There are no standards for saddle trees so each manufacturer has his own idea what dimensions make the designations.

As for you, your bum should not be squished against the cantle, it should have a little room at the top and there should be about 4" of space between your tummy and the swell.

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post #9 of 19 Old 08-17-2009, 11:48 AM
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I would talk to Kevin over at Southern Trails. He's got loads of saddles, trees, and different brands. I'm sure he can figure something that will work for you. Your horse might need a draft tree or a modified FQHB.
Western Saddles, Trail Saddles, Barrel Saddle, Ranch Saddle
Western Saddles, Trail Saddles, Wade Saddles, Ranch Saddles

If you can't find a treed saddle to work, then I'd HIGHLY recommend going treeless. The good ones are expensive, but they WILL work for horses like yours. I have some online friends with similar horses and they ride in either Sensation, Barefoot, or Black Forest saddles. Those seem to work best for wide, mutton withered horses. You'll want a good pad like a Skito saddle pad with felt bottom and grip strips on the top. I'd use a wide 100% Mohair girth/cinch and an over-the-neck style breast collar. Both will aid in stability.

I am a heavyweight rider (over 250 lbs) and I ride in a treeless Bob Marshall Endurance (great saddles, but don't always work for super-wide horses). My horses do well even on long/hard rides (no sore backs, and always happy horses!). I use a Skito and a ThinLine saddle pad, as BMSS saddles don't have panels or any weight distribution system (like the others I recommended). My saddle is very secure, even during spooks or big hills. I have let total beginners ride in my saddle and they all really liked it! Treeless saddles are SO SO SOOOOO comfortable!! You won't ever want to go back to treed saddles .

Going treeless is expensive though. If you can't find a used saddle (and they are still pricey), you'll pay out the nose for a new one. Then the saddle pad, special girth, and breastcollar will all set you back. My set up ended up costing me $1,500, and I bought my saddle USED! If you went with a Black Forest or Barefoot saddle (both cheaper, but well made) new or used, you might be able to keep it under $1,000 for your whole deal...
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post #10 of 19 Old 08-17-2009, 12:39 PM
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Location: NE Ohio
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't Paso Finos have low withers? I've never seen one, but I know that they are difficult to fit saddles for because I ran across a website for very reasonably priced, highly recommended, custom saddles for Paso Finos and similarly shaped horses.
Sycamore Creek Saddles

If I'm wrong and Pasos have high withers, than it probably won't help you, but I figured it was worth a shot.


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