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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Last week I rode a new lesson horse. He was completely different than any other horse I’ve ridden up to this point, and I had a hard time, but I think he can teach me a LOT so I’ve asked to keep riding him.

He has a very narrow build and very high withers (I guess a typical TB conformation?). He doesn’t have a saddle of his own. None of my saddles come close to fitting him, as my horses tend to be pony-shaped. I went through several of the “community” saddles last time, trying to get one that would fit him, but I couldn’t find one. I’m going to have to compromise: either use the one narrow width saddle that is there, but is not high enough in the withers for him, or use one that is medium width but higher in the withers. I understand that a saddle that’s too wide for him will tend to sit lower on his withers anyway, which is what happened with the one I used last time. I will use a wither relief pad regardless, as the ones we have are really nice super thick wool.

In case anyone wants to know why I don't just ride him in the same saddle everyone else uses, there isn't one. He was leased for the last year, and the woman who leased him rode him in her own saddle. I might ask her about borrowing it, since she took time off from riding for family reasons, but honestly I don't even know how well that one fit him.

So. Would he be better off in a saddle that is the right width but doesn’t have wither clearance, or in a saddle that has better wither clearance but isn’t the right width? I’m guessing the latter, if I can get around the fact that the wider saddle sits lower on his withers than I expect. What do you all think?
 

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Neither, sorry. Worst-case is you need to use the wider saddle and pad the front. I'm afraid it's a simplistic answer, because there are so many variables that without more info you can't really judge. Just because he looks narrow, he might not fit narrow. True 'narrows' are much rarer nowadays, certainly in my part of the UK (haven't seen one in 5 years of looking at c.250 horses a year - couple of narrow-mediums, though), because horses are generally bigger built than they were even 30 years ago.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks! I am of course not an expert, but my wide saddle was just ridiculous on him, and even the medium one I ended up picking (for wither clearance) looked a little wide (looking at it straight on, standing in front of him). And yes he may very well be a narrow-medium like you said.

Yeah, I know that neither of these is an ideal situation. But I'm not able to buy a saddle for a horse I'm just going to be riding occasionally, so I will go with what you said. I'm riding him again tomorrow and I may try to get there early to try more saddles on him. Barn owner does say that it doesn't matter as much with me because I'm very light and not asking too much of him, so that makes me feel a little better, but I'd still like to do the best I can by him.
 

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You could always check the fit in the usual way - girth the saddle up (with wither pad) and check level first. From the side check front to back - pommel should be just lower than cantle with an average tree depth, or level with a thick wither pad that's not been sat on yet, then the side-to-side level by looking from the horse's tail.

The critical check is to slide your hand in between the front of the panel, just below the pommel, and the horse's shoulder. Then pull your hand downwards. You should feel firm but even pressure all the way down. If it gets tighter as your hand runs under the tree point position (it'll feel as if your hand wants to stop), it usually means the tree's too narrow. You can go further if everything seems ok - lift each foreleg in turn (or have a helper do it) and swing the leg forward and back while your other hand is still between horse and saddle. If it doesn't cut off your blood supply, everything should be ok.

This works even with a wither pad, though it's not as accurate because everything will feel somewhat looser unless there's a rider up.
 

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