How to Measure the Rider for Proper Saddle Size

Written by angela baird
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How to Measure the Rider for Proper Saddle Size
Saddle fit is as essential to a good ride as it is to the horse's well-being. (horse & rider image by Clarence Alford from Fotolia.com)

While most people go to great lengths to find the perfect saddle fit for their equine companion, decoding the vague rules of rider fit can become confusing at best. While measuring yourself for your new saddle may seem an odd concept to many, your comfort while riding is just as important as the comfort of your horse. Too small or too large a saddle causes an uneven distribution of your weight, resulting in painful pressure points along your horse's spine and withers.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Chair
  • Tape measure

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Place a chair, preferably one without arms and a relatively straight back, on a hard, level surface. A tile, concrete or wood floor will serve best.

    How to Measure the Rider for Proper Saddle Size
    Use a straight chair with no arms. (chair image by Gina Smith from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Sit on the chair with your back against the chair back and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Your hip and thigh should form a right angle, as should the bend of your knee.

    How to Measure the Rider for Proper Saddle Size
    You should be barefoot, or wear a riding boot with a low heel. (boot image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Measure from the point of your hip (where the bone protrudes slightly) to the back of your knee. Enlist the help of a third party to help keep your angles true. Use this measurement as the deciding factor in choosing an English saddle.

    How to Measure the Rider for Proper Saddle Size
    Measure from hip to knee for an English saddle. (old calvary saddle image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com)
  4. 4

    Write down the measurement from Step 3. According to a helpful chart at Thorowgood's website, if your femur-length measures 20 inches, begin your search with 16.5-inch saddles. This measurement determines where your knee falls when properly seated. It must rest against the knee roll, with your lower leg falling at a natural angle and your heel coming to rest slightly behind the horse's girth.

    How to Measure the Rider for Proper Saddle Size
    A good saddle fit plays an important role in proper form. (horse and rider image by pearlguy from Fotolia.com)
  5. 5

    Stand with your feet at hips' width apart. Measure from your crotch to your ankle bone. This is your inseam and determines the fender length for western- and endurance-style saddles, which focus more on leg length and a standardised seat size than leg placement. The larger the seat, the longer the stirrup, which causes issues for some. If you carry your weight in your seat but have a short leg, finding a saddle that fits can prove difficult. Conversely, no seat to speak of and a very long leg also causes problems with fit. Tucker Saddles suggest that those with an inseam of 28 inches or less buy a short fender, and those with an inseam of 32 inches or greater buy a long fender.

    How to Measure the Rider for Proper Saddle Size
    A well-fitted western saddle will help you excel at any task. (cowboys & horses image by Clarence Alford from Fotolia.com)

Tips and warnings

  • If shopping for an English saddle, focus on both comfort and posture.
  • If shopping for a western or endurance saddle, focus on comfort, as it pertains to stirrup length and seat angle and depth.
  • Ideally, invite your trainer or an experienced saddle fitter to accompany you.
  • No "one-size-fits-all" exists in the tack world. Try many different sizes and styles to find your personal "perfect fit."

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