How to Size & Fit Western Saddles on Horses

Written by kim sarah
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How to Size & Fit Western Saddles on Horses
Saddles are used to provide the rider with a comfortable seat on the back of a horse. (saddles image by mrslevite from

Western saddles are commonly used by American ranchers while riding working horses. They have a saddle horn, which is a grip at the front of the saddle, for the rider to hold with one hand. This style of saddle is typically made of leather with metal latches and hooks. Getting the proper fit of saddle between you and your horse is important for safety and comfort. The fitting process is fairly simple; you just need to know a little about yourself and your horse.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Flex-i-curve or heavy coated electrical wire (1/2 inch in diameter, 2 inches in length)
  • Cardboard or stock paper
  • Marker
  • Saddle pad

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  1. 1

    Place the saddle between your legs. A properly fit saddle will have 4 inches between the front of your body and the fork of the saddle. The fork is the portion on the front of the saddle that provides the curve.

  2. 2

    Focus on where your are sitting. Your butt should be firmly in the cantle. Your back should not be pressed against the cantle. The cantle is the higher part that is near the back of the saddle.

  3. 3

    Focus on how the saddle fits your. Ask yourself the following questions: Do you feel too snug in the saddle? Is it squeezing any part of your lower body? A looser fit will be more comfortable while riding. Tight spots could lead to chafing or rubbing.

  1. 1

    Bend a piece of flex-i-curve or heavy electrical wire over the back of your horse. Your horse should be standing flat on the ground. The flex-curve or wire should be the width of two fingers behind the shoulder blade of your horse. The entire length of the flex-i-curve or wire should be touching the curve of your horse.

  2. 2

    Remove the flex-i-curve or wire from the horse. The material needs to hold its shape as you remove it from the horse.

  3. 3

    Lay the flex-i-curve on a piece of cardboard or stock paper. Trace the inside of the form with a marker.

  4. 4

    Bring the tracing to your local tack shop. The tack shop employee will assist you in fitting your horse by holding the tracing against the underside of saddles in the shop. A correctly fitting saddle will have the same size and curve on its underside as the tracing. Purchase a saddle that matches the tracing.

  5. 5

    Place a saddle pad on your horse while your horse is standing on flat ground.

  6. 6

    Place the saddle on top of the saddle pad. Let it slip to the spot on which it will naturally rest in the curve of the horse's back behind the shoulder blades. The skirt, or bottom perimeter, of the saddle should be level. There should also be a level spot in the seat of the saddle.

  7. 7

    Slip your fingers under the withers on the sides and horn on the front of the saddle. There should be just enough room to fit a few fingers under these areas. If there isn't, the saddle is too tight and could pinch your horse while you are riding.

  8. 8

    Examine the area between the back of the saddle and the hips of the horse. There should be no contact between the saddle and the hips. Contact in this area could lead to rubbing and chafing on the horse while you are riding.

  9. 9

    Walk the horse for several minutes and recheck all of the areas mentioned in the previous steps. Walking for a little while will let the saddle settle and rest as it would while riding. Only begin walking your horse if the everything in the previous steps fits correctly.

  10. 10

    Go for an easy ride on your horse. Monitor the horse to see if it is showing any signs of irritation such as moving awkwardly. Also, monitor how you feel in the saddle and make sure that it is comfortable with no rubbing or pinching. Your legs should hang without any discomfort and you should have plenty of room to rest your hand in front of your thigh on the pommel of the saddle. The pommel is front bump or ridge on the saddle.

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