fitting an Arab
I'm sorry to start yet another saddle fitting thread, but I want to get a new saddle for Stella and I'm so confused about how to find the best fit. I've read the other threads on saddle fitting and looked at the pictures, but the different tree, bar and gullet sizes, not to mention the tree material all makes my head spin.
I've had horses my entire life, but before Stella I've only had a couple of ponies and then my previous horse who I got when I was 12 and had for the next 22 years. I used a barrel saddle on her to start with, then, when I got out of racing, I experimented with other saddles including English before settling on an Aussie. I mention this just to emphasis I know squat about saddle fit as I have no idea if any of them fit her (or me) properly.
Now, when I got Stella she was very thin and after I got some weight on her and was ready to start riding her, I thought a lightweight English saddle would be best. I got rid of my Aussie saddle (regret it now) because it was so heavy and got what was advertised as a "gaited" saddle because it said it would fit arabs well. It did seem to fit both of us well, but she has currently plumped up even more and now I'm questioning it. When it's on the saddle rack and I sit in it, I'm perfectly centered and it feels great. Once it's on her though, I'm being pushed back to where I'm sitting all the way to the end of the cantle. She has a short, wide back. When I say wide, I'm talking table top!
I've also considered an old western saddle I have that is super heavy, must be at least 40 lbs. Is there a limit to saddle weight that should be put on a horse?
I just read through this... what the heck is my question...Um, in a nutshell, I need a comfortable trail riding saddle for a short arab cross with a short, wide back. I'd like an Aussie, but want to know if there are guidelines to fit a saddle prior to purchasing one. I've even seen saddles said to have an "arab tree". Is there such a thing? Would pictures help? If so, what of?
I ride english. But what I do to do a quick fit check is to take a clothes hanger(wire) and bend it to fit the shape of the withers and another to fit back (where the main part of the tree would sit) of the horse. Take the wires to the tack shop and see what fits best. More tack shops will let you take a saddle with a down payment to try it on.
Jen, xkatex has the right principle. Since this question has been asked so many times I put my directions in a Word doc so I can cut and paste it - like now:
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 them 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.
What about the weight of a saddle? Can a saddle be too heavy for a particular horse? And do "arab" or "gaited" trees really fit those types of horses better?
Sounds like the front is too narrow on her. Put the saddle on, girth it up just lightly, no saddle pad, and take some photos for us. Take a side photo, back, and front. Stand toward her head, but slightly off to one side, and try to get the whole front of the saddle and her shoulder, so we can see how it lays on her.
Also, Arabs are NOT supposed to be fat... ;-). If she's getting too rotund, it's time to cut back on her feed. You should be able to easily feel her ribs when you touch her sides, but not see them. If you can't easily feel the outline of most of her ribs, than she's too fat.
Arab trees will generally fit MOST Arabs well, but not all. Many Arabs do well in QH or Full QH bars saddles. Some more narrow Arabians do better in Semi-QH bar saddles.
If you want something light weight, I would look into an Abetta with their regular QH tree. They fit most horses and the rounded skirt models should be short enough. Plus they're very light! I have the endurance model and it held up very well to a lot of use and abuse. Saddles Tack Horse Supplies - ChickSaddlery.com has the best prices on Abettas, Abetta Saddles, Horse Tack, Supplements, Ranch and Horse Equipment and Stable Supplies. Largest Abetta Saddle Dealer in the USA. has the best selection (and a trial policy for fitting purposes).
The bones of the saddle is the tree. There are really just two dimensions that need to be considered in determining if the saddle fits your horse, those are the gullet and the bars.
The gullet spread deals with the withers and the bars with his back. A FQH bar typically has a 7" gullet and a wide spread of the bars. A mutton withered horse will need more of a gullet width and a TB a lot less, in the 6 1/2" range and more angled bars.
Honestly the best way to fit a horse is to take him and your pad to a tack shop. If that isn't possible, using the method I posted above will get you there. Remember that there is no standardization to trees so a FQH bar on one saddle does not mean the same thing in a different brand.
As for saddle weight, the typical horse can carry about 20% of it's weight so if you are very light, then you can use a heavier saddle - or get a heavier horse! Some breeds such as the QH and the Arab can carry closer to 30% but the bone structure of the particular horse needs to be considered.
Albeta makes a so-so saddle. If you want a really good light weight saddle, then consider the Fabtron - much better quality. Fabtron Saddles W/Free Freight & USA Made - Horse Saddle Shop
My QH weighs ~1,100, my saddle is ~45lb, and I weigh 200lb and my horse carries me fine.
Thanks you guys! You've answered all my questions. Thanks, too, for the saddle links. The Fabtrons are reasonably priced and I actually like the looks of the Abetta endurance saddles.
Okay, I would like to know what you think about the fit of Stella's current saddle even though I plan to get a new one so here are the pics (please excuse her dirtiness):
Jen, I don't think the gullet is wide enough and it's placing the back of your saddle too low (pommel is too high). With it like that you won't be centered in your seat and your legs will end up in the wrong place in relationship to your flap. It's going to keep you from balancing properly.
You can use a keyhole riser until you get a different saddle but it's just not a proper fit. What I like to see is about 2" or a little less clearance under the pommel and I look for the leathers to come down centered with the girth.
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