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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have heard a lot of different things about western saddle placement over the years.
I have heard a ton of people say to always ensure that front of the tree is placed a certain number of inches behind the shoulder blade/scapula. This number always varies from person to person. Some say 1-2 inches. I have heard all the way up to 4 inches, which sounds like a lot to me. They say that this is to keep from interfering with the scapula’s movement when the horse moves. I have also heard a lot of people say to place it farther up on the shoulder, in a way so that a large portion of the weight bearing is distributed over the shoulder area because the shoulder is one of the horse’s stronger points. Many people with this idea tend to use the front rigging/d ring as a guideline and say that it should align immediately behind the horse’s shoulder.
I have also heard a third theory, which is to shake the saddle until it sits where it naturally wants to lay.
What do you do? What is your guideline? What are your reasons? Pics are appreciated!
I will include pics of where I generally place my saddles. Don’t mind me including pics of me and Mav’s outlaw Halloween costume ^-^
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I've been taught that there should be equal space between the saddle to the end of the saddle in the front and the back.
This is a pic of my instructor with her horses, this is where I was taught to put the saddle. The leads/reins are kinda in the way of the front, but they're the only ones I have sorry.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've been taught that there should be equal space between the saddle to the end of the saddle in the front and the back.
This is a pic of my instructor with her horses, this is where I was taught to put the saddle. The leads/reins are kinda in the way of the front, but they're the only ones I have sorry.
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My question about that method is: What if the saddle is particularly short compared to the horse’s back? Wouldn’t that mean it would be really far back on a long backed horse with a short seated saddle?
 

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Yeah, actually we just had that problem last week. The mare was a super small Arabian Mar and the only saddle they had was a super old from the eeighties. So since the saddle was so much smaller for her, we pushed up further, so it did not sit on the middle of the saddle pad like we prefer, instead it was about 1.5 inches from the front of the saddle.
 

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Here are some pics of the saddle placement on the mare. They are screenshots from a video, so sorry if they're a little blurry.
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So I’ve also learned the front concho should be behind the shoulder.
On our pony that’s hard to manage he’s short backed.
On my daughters new horse it’s pretty much ideal. (Other than being too wide, we’re getting a new pad and will work on his topline)
On the big mare it actually sits even farther back but she is long backed with super wide withers and that’s where it settles.

It’s not particularly long as far as western saddles go though. The seat is 12”.
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I think if you can’t get a 100% fitted saddle per horse you need to work out the best position for each animal (and consider the time and work they’ll be doing in it)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So I’ve also learned the front concho should be behind the shoulder.
On our pony that’s hard to manage he’s short backed.
On my daughters new horse it’s pretty much ideal. (Other than being too wide, we’re getting a new pad and will work on his topline)
On the big mare it actually sits even farther back but she is long backed with super wide withers and that’s where it settles.

It’s not particularly long as far as western saddles go though. The seat is 12”. View attachment 1106930 View attachment 1106931 View attachment 1106933

I think if you can’t get a 100% fitted saddle per horse you need to work out the best position for each animal (and consider the time and work they’ll be doing in it)
So far, I think I like this rule. It seems to fit the case with mine.
 
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Put the saddle on the horse. Don't do the cinch. Lead the horse thru some figure 8s. If the shoulders need to push the saddle back, they will. If they don't, and the saddle is not riding ON the shoulders, then it isn't too far forward. Once you start riding, the saddle generally drifts to where it best matches the back anyways. SOME western saddles have a lot of flare to the front. Others do not. So how far forward depends on your saddle tree and how prominent your horse's shoulders are.

You're saddling your horse wrong...

Saddle fit - Western compared to English Part 2

Saddle fit - Western compared to English Part 3
 

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I have heard a lot of different things about western saddle placement over the years.

What do you do? What is your guideline? What are your reasons? Pics are appreciated!
DEPENDS ON THE SADDLE.

Every saddle maker is different. While most saddle makers want the tree to be positioned mostly behind the shoulder blade, there are a few that design the saddle to sit on it, and few that want it completely behind.

So depending on your saddle DESIGN, you should still always have no restriction in your horse's range of movement. You should still always have even pressure distribution all along the tree, in all directions, as the saddle maker intended for that tree.

Saddle placement is a component of saddle fitting .... which is really tedious!!!
 

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I've had terrible problems finding saddles to fit certain horses over the years but the placement of the saddle itself, I've never really worried too much about. I tend to place it a little forward of where I think it will end up so when it slides back into it's favorite position as I ride, the hair will get smoothed the right direction. If it starts out a little forward, that's okay, because it always finds it's "home."

There was a saddle tree maker up in Canada, whose name escapes me at the moment, but he compared the saddle sitting on the horse's back to nesting spoons. The saddle will find it's lowest spot and will nest like stacked spoons on the horse's back. I think that is true. That doesn't in any way mean all saddles fit all horses, it just means that if you have a saddle that fits your horse well it will naturally settle into it's best position. You almost can't keep it out of that position, that's why sometimes the girth will be angled, because the saddle has slid back from where you first cinched up. Doesn't mean it's wrong or causes any problems though.

So I always start a little forward (because of the hair growth pattern) and let the saddle travel back a few inches on it's own as I ride.

I do use a breast collar but only as a "seat belt" for climbing up hills. When I start riding my breast collar is really loose because after a little bit of riding the saddle slides back and then I STILL want it a little loose, only to activate if we are pushing up a steep hill. A breast collar should never be used to keep a saddle from sliding back in normal riding. If the saddle travels too far back it's not a good fit.
 

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I should have paid more attention to your post bsms.........that's Rod Nikkel I was thinking of! His website is the BEST I have ever see on all aspects of saddle fit. I could spend hours there just re-reading the stuff I've already read several years ago! :)

More by Rod Nikkel on saddle fit:


Here is a link on the "spoons."

 

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I've been taught that there should be equal space between the saddle to the end of the saddle in the front and the back.

I'm afraid I don't understand this, I mean the wording .
to me, the photo of your instrucctor's saddle placemennt looks too far forward, to my eye. To me, it's a matter of where the saddle wants to sit. It's going to slide into that position (unless restrained by a tight chest collar) as soonn as you get to riding. So, to me, it's a matter of tapping the saddle bakcward (from an intentionally forward placement) until it naturally doesn't want to move any more by light tapping.
I feel the OP's saddle placement looks natural, to my eye.
 

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I'm with tiny here. What she quoted makes absolutely no sense. The pictures t me also show a saddle more forward than it should be.

You can place a pad anywhere and depending on length of pad and where you put it the saddle could be all over the horses back.

I like the nesting spoons description. I also dislike the super thick pads. I feel it should fit with at most some type of thinner blanket that is simply there to keep the underside of the saddle clean.
 

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In talking about western saddle placement, it's important to know where the tree actually is within the saddle, for it is the tree placement that is important as it is the tree that bears the riders weight upon the horse.

The two choncos with leather ties on each side front and back, four total, run through the tip of the tree tying the saddle leather to the tree.The hole the tie runs through is generally an inch or a little more back from the end of the tree. To be on the safe side, I use 2 inches as the distance from the tree's end.

A properly designed western saddle will have the front of the bars slopped slightly outward to aid in the shoulder blades sliding smoothly under it without obstruction by the bars or damage to the shoulder blade cartilage. And the shoulder blade does sink inward slightly as it moves back. But there should still be a couple of inches between the shoulder blade and the tip of the bars in front. That translates to four inches between the shoulder blade and the choncos.

In the back, the bars should not extend beyond the 18 vertebra, which is the last back bone supported by a rib. The non-supporting leather on some saddles extends quite a ways beyond the end of the bars.

As far as rocking the saddle until it settles, and then perhaps riding a few laps, and then checking where it has settled, if the saddle has settled into a location that conforms with the description above, the saddle likely fits the horse, other than possible bridging or rocking which can easily be fixed with padding made for correcting that problem.

If the saddle tree does not fit the described suggestions, the saddle likely does not fit the horse properly, aside from the possibility that bridging or rocking could cause a saddle of proper length and width to settle in the wrong location, which again could be fixed with padding or shims.
 
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But there should still be a couple of inches between the shoulder blade and the tip of the bars in front. That translates to four inches between the shoulder blade and the choncos.....In the back, the bars should not extend beyond the 18 vertebra, which is the last back bone supported by a rib.
In the front, it depends on how the tree is shaped. As @beau159 pointed out, "While most saddle makers want the tree to be positioned mostly behind the shoulder blade, there are a few that design the saddle to sit on it, and few that want it completely behind." While no saddle tree should bear weight on the shoulder blades, some are built with so much flare that they can go over the shoulders without putting weight there. That allows the saddle (and thus the rider) to sit further forward.

Others - like my Abetta - don't have much flare. I can put it directly behind my horse's shoulders, but he moves a little better if I move it further back. How far? That is where I let my horse's movement, particularly while doing figure 8s - push it back. I now know that with my Abetta saddle on my horse, lining up the front edge of the saddle with where his mane ends works - but that is not true with my custom leather saddle.

Western saddles can extend way past the 18th vertebra without any problem. In fact, almost all do:


If one looks at pressure readings, one finds western saddles put very little pressure on the loin - but they do extend over the loin. And I think it is important to know that horses support our weight with muscle, not bone. The spine itself does NOT support weight, and in fact, the spine MUST NOT support weight. That is why a starving horse cannot carry even a small rider. Without muscle, no horse's spine can support a rider's weight. Without muscle, the spine will sag and the bone will be damaged - or the spinal chord inside will, seriously injuring the horse. Muscles carry our weight and the muscles of the loin can too.
 

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@tinyliny and @QtrBel. Okay, yeah I guess that didn't make much sense. I also kind of thought that the first one was a little too far forward. Usually what my instructor does is:
Puts the saddle pad on further up. Like on the withers, and then slides it back. Then puts the saddle on just behind the withers.
My guess is that my instructor just threw the saddle on, and hadn't ridden her yet.
Usually my instructor loosely tightens the girth, then leads them to the arena. During that time the saddle wiggles around until it's comfy for the horse. Then she tightens the girth.

So I guess I was more thinking of where the saddle goes compared to the saddle pad, not the horses withers/scapula.

If you take a look at the second pictures I posted, you can see where the saddle usually sits.

So I guess my original answers didn't really answer OP's original question.

If I were to re-answer the question:
It depends on each horse. Set the saddle further up, so that the saddle can wiggle down and not mess up the hair. Then lead the horse around, and the movement of the horses shoulders will wiggle the saddle into a comfortable place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
In the front, it depends on how the tree is shaped. As @beau159 pointed out, "While most saddle makers want the tree to be positioned mostly behind the shoulder blade, there are a few that design the saddle to sit on it, and few that want it completely behind." While no saddle tree should bear weight on the shoulder blades, some are built with so much flare that they can go over the shoulders without putting weight there. That allows the saddle (and thus the rider) to sit further forward.

Others - like my Abetta - don't have much flare. I can put it directly behind my horse's shoulders, but he moves a little better if I move it further back. How far? That is where I let my horse's movement, particularly while doing figure 8s - push it back. I now know that with my Abetta saddle on my horse, lining up the front edge of the saddle with where his mane ends works - but that is not true with my custom leather saddle.

Western saddles can extend way past the 18th vertebra without any problem. In fact, almost all do:


If one looks at pressure readings, one finds western saddles put very little pressure on the loin - but they do extend over the loin. And I think it is important to know that horses support our weight with muscle, not bone. The spine itself does NOT support weight, and in fact, the spine MUST NOT support weight. That is why a starving horse cannot carry even a small rider. Without muscle, no horse's spine can support a rider's weight. Without muscle, the spine will sag and the bone will be damaged - or the spinal chord inside will, seriously injuring the horse. Muscles carry our weight and the muscles of the loin can too.
I have a genuine question. What is the purpose in a saddle with flare at the front of the bars? If that part of the bars will not be making contact with the horse anyway why would it be there? Wouldn’t this just take away from the amount the weight is distributed over the horse, the same as a smaller tree?
 

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Yes, it would take away from the weight bearing distribution, @LilyandPistol . But it also would allow a western saddle to have the swells located further forward on the horse and thus the rider's thighs and body further forward. I've never owned a saddle like that, but I've seen them discussed for barrel racing. Without owning one and trying, I don't know if they work or not.
 
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