Someone explain seat size to me - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 15 Old 03-18-2018, 11:34 AM
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The T18 thing is a rule western saddles ignore:

"So can the horse bear weight past T18?

The response of the researcher to that question was also pretty plain: "The ribs and overlying epaxial muscles support the saddle in the thoracic region and the lumbar transverse processes and the overlying middle gluteal muscle support the saddle in the lumbar region. If horses were really this ďweakĒ at the thoracolumbar junction then no one would be able to ever ride a horse."

All western saddles extend over the loin

This is 13.0 hand Cowboy, ridden in a 26.5" long saddle (with my 5'0" DIL):

I've broken the "T18 Rule" every time I've ridden in my western saddles. Bandit getting ready for a ride:

Lots of big guys ride western saddles on 14-15 hand horses without problems.

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post #12 of 15 Old 03-18-2018, 07:51 PM
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I've agreed in the past that perhaps the "guideline" of not having the weight past the last rib attachment does not apply to western saddles, since it is true that people seem to have less issues with riding in longer western saddles.

Something I wonder is if the "rule" was made because of people seeing soreness issues, which I certainly have. But maybe the cause is not about the weight bearing structures, but caused by other things.

Is it because the longer the saddle is, the more difficult to match the shape and slope along the length of the horse's entire back? Or because the panels often narrow a bit at the back of english saddles, and the motion of the muscles close to the pelvis or transverse rotation of the spine causes some pressure?

My guess is it's not about where the weight is sitting on the horse's back, but rather about the issues of getting a long saddle to fit. Shorter saddles placed farther back don't seem to have those issues if they have enough space between the panels and fit the horse.

I'm not sure, but will say I have definitely found horses sore in the loin area after wearing saddles that appeared to fit but were very long. I always err on the side of the shortest possible saddle to fit the rider's seat size (of course there are other issues if the rider does not fit the seat as described). If the seat size must be very long, it is best to make sure the hip does not interfere when the horse is in motion in a western saddle, with adequate padding to raise it up. That is another issue I have seen, the hip hitting the saddle skirt.
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post #13 of 15 Old 03-18-2018, 08:58 PM
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My guess is the difference has to do with where the person sits relative to the saddle's end, English versus western. A western saddle extend much further past where the person's rump ends. While looking for pictures, I came across this website discussing it quite nicely:

In my western saddles, the rear always floats a little. The one I had made for Mia had the skits adjusted to raise up in the rear, leaving the saddle looking like it was tilted up. But I can slide my hand under while riding to feel for the saddle tree, and none of mine have the rear of the tree pressing against the horse - even with me leaning back to get my hand there. This is pretty much how it feels (using the tree Mia's saddle was built with):

Add in the pad, normally 3/4" - 1" thick and independent of the saddle, and the horse's back can easily slide underneath the rear end of the saddle.

The 16" Abetta I just got has an uncommonly short western tree. Total length is 23 inches and the tree runs around 21.5-22 inches, compared to a skirt length of 25.5 inches and a tree about 23 inches long on Mia's saddle. More typical western lengths seem to be 27-28" skirts with 23-24 inch trees. Compare those numbers to the horse the Nikkels used in their demonstration:

"Here is Dancer. She is a 16 hand Quarter Horse with a fairly long shoulder to hip measurement of 28". The distance between the shoulder and last rib (as marked by the lower two pieces of tape on her back) is 18". The top piece of tape marks the approximate spot of T18. Behind that is officially "loin"."

As small a western saddle as the Abetta is, it still has a tree running about 4" longer than Dancer has available - and my horses are smaller and much shorter-backed than Dancer.
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post #14 of 15 Old 03-19-2018, 12:32 AM
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^^^^Very good links.

Of course, even with a western saddle, there is still such as thing as "just too long." An example was a member here who was posting about her horse having a sore lumbar area and needing to see the vet for it. Her saddle was just too long for the horse:

Even raised up with a thick pad, if you move the saddle off the shoulder it will be well back onto the hip, and I don't see how the horse could move without causing rubbing or the saddle to tilt down in front.

A "trainer" I knew would put his very long western saddle on every horse he trained, including little Arabs and there was a lot of rubbing and interference going on.
It would fit similar to this example of a too long saddle on the Nikkel site, but even longer because it had large, square skirts that were old and stiff. I noticed that it would hit most of the horses' hips when they walked, and a number of them ended up with sore backs.

I think the person in the photo above is doing their best with a thick pad so it doesn't hit the horse's hip, but this is still creating imbalance and the saddle is still too far forward.
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post #15 of 15 Old 03-19-2018, 11:29 AM
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There are very long western saddles. I've seen skirts of 28+ inches with square corners advertised. Those would interfere with the hip on a shorter horse. There is a reason all my saddles have rounded skirts. My biggest horse was Mia, and @SouthernTrails had the makers shorten the skirts of her saddle to under 26 inches.

Still...Bandit in my Australian saddle (click on to enlarge):


I'd bet money it goes past T18. Not by a lot, perhaps. But it also curves up in the back, and I think that made a difference. My Bates Caprilli AP saddle, unlike the CC version, was very flat in the back. It is one of the reasons I stopped using it. I could both feel Mia's back shoving against the rear of the saddle, and see it from the dirt/sweat marks on the saddle pad - unlike both my CC saddle and Aussie. She would get rub marks at the loin if one looked closely. That didn't happen with my Aussie saddle although their lengths were identical.

And of course, much of my riding involves less motion of the back. We are not jumping or 'collecting'. Lots of walking, some trotting and cantering - but almost never for more than 300 yards due to the terrain. OTOH, I don't know if I ever ride at less than 25% of my horse's body weight, which some English shows are banning as "cruel".

Overweight riders asked to dismount at show - Horse & Hound

Like everything else involving saddle fitting (and riding), there are so many variables involved that hard rules tend to be easily misapplied. That doesn't mean one shouldn't THINK about them. Just not use them as absolutes.

BTW: 13.0 hand Cowboy. We did 3 hours that day and he was willing to break into a trot on his own initiative even at the end of the ride:

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