You cannot just go out and buy any old western saddle, so you need to know how to properly measure the saddle.
When you are selecting a western saddle, you need to ensure that it fits you correctly. If it does not, you will not be able to maintain a proper seat, and in the canter, you’ll end up sliding all over the place.
Your saddle must fit you properly, and it must also fit your horse properly, for them to be able to perform comfortably without any soreness or injury occurring.
Why Is It Important?
Before we get into how to measure the saddle, let’s talk about why you need to do this. You might decide that you’ll just size it for the horse, and you’ll cope, however, there’s no need to be wasting money on a saddle that doesn’t quite fit right. Comfort is key for both of you.
The seat size on a western saddle is determined by measuring the saddle from the back of the horn to the top of the cantle. It will range from 12” to 18”. Having a well-fitted saddle will keep your seat good, if not you might feel uncomfortable, unsupported, end up sliding about, and you will be more likely to fall out of the saddle too.
When you sit in a western saddle, you should be able to fit two or three fingers between the front of your thigh and the fork/swell of the saddle. Behind, you should be able to fit around four fingers between the back of your seat and the top of the cantle.
Any more than this and you’ll be sliding around, any less, and you’ll end up sore and uncomfortable as the seat may be too tight.
Note that saddle seats will also have different widths, slender riders who have a narrow pelvis will find a narrow seat more comfortable, whereas bulkier riders may feel more comfortable and at ease in a wider seat. realistically, it would be useful to try before you buy, but this is not so easy.
Fitting The Horse
Your saddle also needs to fit your horse. Determine what tree size your horse will need. If your horse has defined withers, then they will probably be fine with a regular tree. However, if your horse’s withers are wide or rounded, and they have a flat back, then they will need a wider tree.
Draft horses will need an extra rise or draft tree, you should use an extra pad to fill in the space if your horse has narrow withers, though.
To determine if you have the correct tree size, simply place the saddle on the horse’s back. If you can fit two or three fingers between the gullet of the saddle and your horses’ withers, then this is a good fit. If the space is larger than the tree is too narrow, and if you can only fit one finger or none at all, then the tree is too wide.
You also need to check the bars as well. These are the pieces of the tree that sit against the horse’s back, on either side of their spine. The bars need to be at the correct angle so that it gives even pressure on the horse’s back without gaps.
Having a proper fit on the bars is critical as it helps to distribute your weight evenly when you are riding and so there is no one area of the horse’s back receiving too much of your weight.
Finding The Saddles’ Tree Size
To find the tree size, you need to measure from the back of the swell at the top of the gullet back to the leading edge of the cantle. Note that most measurements for a new saddle are taken with a bare seat.
Another widely used reference for measuring a western saddle is to measure from the base of the horn at the back of the swell and measuring to the leading edge of the cantle (This means the highest point of the cantle).
Do be aware that some swells may have a forward tilt to them, and the degree to how much tilt there is will vary depending on the type of swell. Some saddle brands and types may have a bigger tilt to the swell than others. This tilt is dictated by the difference between the base of the horn and the top of the gullet.
If this is not considered, then it is possible that the seat size measured could be larger than the actual seat size, which might lead to some confusion or you getting the wrong saddle size for you.
Finding The Saddle Size
Measuring the saddle size for a western saddle starts from the back of the swell at the top of the gullet and is measured back to the stitching on the cantle binder. This measurement is typically around the same as the tree seat size, although the finished seat size will be less than the tree size.
The difference between the two will depend on the materials and construction used by the saddle maker. An unpadded seat can differ from ⅜ to ½ of an inch, whereas a padded seat can have a difference from ⅝ to ⅞ of an inch.
Determining What Size You Need
Determining what saddle size you require is half the battle, and once you have adequately measured your saddle, you need to know what saddle size you should get.
Luckily, you can get a rough idea based on your weight and height. Although you should measure the saddle to confirm the size you require and check if your saddle is appropriate, you can use this for reference too.
|Weight||5ft- 5ft5 (height)||5ft6- 5ft9 (height)||5ft10+ (height)|
|100- 125 lbs||15” saddle||15” saddle||16” saddle|
|126- 145lbs||16” saddle||16” saddle||16” saddle|
|146- 165lbs||16” saddle||16” saddle||16” saddle|
|166- 185lbs||16” saddle||16” saddle||16” saddle|
|166-195lbs (pear-shaped women)||17” saddle||16” saddle||16” saddle|
|196-225lbs||17” saddle||17” saddle||17” saddle|
|226- 250 lbs||17” saddle||17” saddle||17” saddle|
|226-250lbs (pear-shaped women)||18” saddle||17” saddle||17” saddle|
|250lbs +||18” saddle||18” saddle||18” saddle|