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Discussion Starter #1
This question is asked so many times that I felt it should have a "sticky".

Aside from taking your horse to the tack shop or having a pro come out to fit him/her, how do you find the right fit without taking saddles home to try 6 or 7 times?

The method I recommend is this:

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.


How do you do it?
 

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FINALLY, someone had a mind to sticky this! Thank you, Bill!

I still have yet to find a saddle for Stella, my short-backed, extremely wide arab. You told me I most likely need a saddle with FQH bars and an 8" gullet. I haven't been able to find one in my price range. :( I've been riding mainly in a bareback pad for the last year. It's been so frustrating!
 

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That is actually exactly how I do it, and how I always recommend it be done to get the surefire best fit w/o having to call a pro fitter. Though I like to trailer the tack store whenever I buy a piece of tack(bridle, saddle,blankets, boots, bits, ect), they know my trailer now as many times as I have been there. I like to know that every piece of tack I buy is going to fit my horse(both esthetically and size/dimension) before I bring it home. Though I just happen to be lucky to live in a rural area with a tack store close by that is private owned and has a huge gravel parking lot and hitching pen close to the front doors...
 

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Holy Cow, 3neighs!!! An 8 inch gullet? I don't think I have seen anything that wide outside of a draft saddle LOL. Your girl must be very flat across her back.

I ride so many different horses that having a saddle picked to fit each horse really isn't practical. I ride mostly heavy stock horses so all my saddles are FQHB, though on some of the older saddles that my Dad had custom made decades ago have different gullet widths ranging from 6 1/2 to 7 1/2. If my saddle doesn't fit perfectly, I usually just pad them up and haven't noticed any problems. My saddle that I use now is a FQHB with a 7" gullet and the only horse that it doesn't even come close to fitting is Pokey, but he is built like a tank. I can for the most part, just eyeball a horse and figure which one would fit them best.
 

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Holy Cow, 3neighs!!! An 8 inch gullet? I don't think I have seen anything that wide outside of a draft saddle LOL. Your girl must be very flat across her back.

She is! I'm talking table top. lol!
 

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I love reading all the different tricks on how to find the right sized saddle for your horse. I heard that also using a simple wire coat hanger works good too!
I did have a question to ask but now I forget it! LOL
 

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We have a short backed, very sensitive paint, had a hard time finding a western saddle that didn't make him buck. We have finally had success with a Abetta synthetic short-skirted saddle.
 

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Here is an example from my horse Vida. She is 7.5" if you go by the 3" down from wither measurement. That would be a FQHB in most saddles
 

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Maureen, I did that same measurement on Stella and she measures 9 inches down from 3. Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide girl!
 

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I took my wire and set it on all the girls. They were all pretty much the same except Saro. She's much wider :shock:

Just an FYI for everyone, Take this measurement about 2-3 fingers back from the back edge of the shoulder/scapula bone.
 
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If I will be riding a horse in a saddle for a long while or decent amounts of work, I will get it professionally fitted.

But for short amounts of time or not much work (For example I haven't had Latte's saddle fitted yet as I have only been doing half hour rides at the most) then I fit it myself.

First I have a good look at their back - Is it long or short? Is it flat or does it have quite a sway to it? Where is the horses shoulder in relation to their back? Etc.

Then I go have a look at what saddles we have (The luxury of having more saddles than horses :]) and pick out some that I think might work.

To look at fit, I sit the saddle on the back with nothing underneath and my horse relatively clean.

Firt thing I do is make sure it is in the right spot - it needs to clear the back of the scapula to allow the horse freedom of movement. Most kids (Including myself) are taught to put saddle waaay too far forward on the back - I did it for years. It was only when i got a horse who physically told me it hurt, that I realised the error of my ways, and now I preach it to everybody :]

Once the saddle is in the right spot, I look at the size of the saddle comparable to the horses back. A large saddle obvously isn't going to work on a short backed arab - You don't want the saddle to sit too far back over the kidneys. Horses don't have ribs supporting the spine here, so you don't want to much weight too far back.

If the saddle fits the back, then I look at balance. The lowest point of the seat should be the natural place for you to sit, and the pommel and cantle should be fairly even, or as close to even as the saddle design allows (Certain saddles are built with higher pommels or cantles). Basically, it should look even and comfy.

Once the saddle looks good from a distance, I get in close.

First and most obvious thing to check is wither clearance. The saddle should clear the wither by at least a few fingers - Enough that when weight is in the saddle it still has an inch or two of clearance. The saddle should never come into contact with the wither.

Next I walk around to the back and look down the gullet from behind. I check that the pads are clearing the spine all the way through, and that I can see daylight - meaning the channel is free of the spine the whole way through. The pads need to sit an even distance either side of the spine, and not too close to the spine.

Now I will go back to standing beside the saddle, and place a hand on the pommel and one on the cantle, and try to 'rock' the saddle. If the saddle is a good fit, you should only get minimal rocking. If the saddle rocks a lot, it means the pads are too 'bendy' for your horses back - Your horse will need flatter pads. Pads that are too bendy will put more pressure on the center of the back, underneath your seat, instead of spreading it evenly over the entire area.

Next I run my hand under the length of the pads on each side. The pressure should be even all the way along - take care that the sadde doesn't 'bridge' - this is the opposite of the above issue. The pads are too flat for the horses back, creating a 'bridge' effect, where there is a pocket of no/reduced pressure underneath the riders seat. This is one of the worst saddle fit issues and can cause great pain - The saddle will put huge amounts of pressure either side of the withers, and back toward the kidneys, instead of spreading it evenly.

If all the above looks good, I chuck a saddle pad on, girth up and go for a ride. I make sure the horse is feeling comfortable - Most horses will let you know if they don't like the feel. once I'm done, I taek of the saddle and check the sweat patches - they should be even along the back with no disturbed hair. Disturbed hair or dry patches can show spots with too much, or too little pressure.
 

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Ok, so if the saddle looks like it fits (from Wild Spots description), would being to far forward cause it to be dry under the entire pad on both sides after an hour ride and the rest of the horse is sweaty?
 

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So long as it is evenly dry all over and there are no areas of rubbed or crimped hair, I would assume that means that you have a very good saddle pad that is amazing at whicking moisture away from your horse.
 

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Oh... well then, that makes me feel WAY less guilty about riding her with that saddle now....

The hair was flat, and there was very very very little moisture under it, but she was lathered hard after an hour ride.... Thank you Smrobs... I won't feel bad putting the saddle back on her tomorrow to do it again then instead of riding her bareback....
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
As smrobs posted, if it is evenly dry, no problem. About 5 months ago I switched to a 5 Star 100% wool/felt pad to go with the new saddle. No matter how hard or long we ride, or how sweaty Hollywood gets, he is evenly dry under the pad. At first i was concerned but I chalk it up to the efficiency of the pad.

I've had other wool pads over the years but this was my first 5 Star. After the way it keeps my horse's back cool and the way that, after ~100+ hours (didn't ride much this winter), it hasn't shown any signs of compression, I'll never use another pad.
 
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I never gave a thought to the chance that it was a good saddle pad keeping her dry... I bought my Aussie saddle used and the person I bought it from threw in the 2 pads that she had for it and I've been using the thinner one cause it had pockets and fit under the saddle better, and I guess I just assumed that since they gave me the pads they weren't that great.... I guess sometimes its not that bad to be wrong lol...
 

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i ride a TB , and when i first bought him , i got a random saddle and i thought it gonna fit him , for some reason he started to spook and bucks ... and i contacted the
1st owner to ask of he was like this b4, but he said no, things we're good with him , he was hyper but not that much , so an expert came and told me that the saddle fitting is terribly wrong , and when i changed the saddle for one day , he acted better , but poor little horse i used that saddle for almost 3 months =(.
 
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