Fitting A Horse Saddle

Got a grumpy horse? Maybe the saddle is bothering him. It’s imperative to properly fit a saddle for his comfort and your riding experience.

Karl Hoopes is an equine extension specialist at Utah State University. He says to first determine the type of saddle you need based on your style of riding, be it English or western.

Have a professional measure the width of the horse so the saddle doesn’t pinch the withers, or the shoulder area.

"By pinching that area, you’re cutting off blood supply. It can be very painful to the horse as a lot of pressure is applied. I think the majority of the time, we have a tendency to have too narrow of a saddle, and it’s putting too much pressure on the withers," says Hoopes. "Also if you have too wide of a saddle, then the saddle’s not held up off of the withers of the horse and can actually cause some damage there as well."

How the saddle fits you also determines comfort for the horse. The saddle should rest firmly from the front to the back, and not rock back and forth while you’re sitting in it.

On a Western saddle, measure from the bottom of the saddle horn to the back of the seat. This can range from 14", which would fit a child, up to 17" for a larger adult.

"Those measurements are pretty important because it distributes the weight," he says. "And if we focus all that weight on too small of a surface area, then it can cut off the blood supply to that certain area of the skin of the horse, and can actually cause damage to the skin and leave the tell-tale saddle marks."

When you remove the saddle and blanket, look for a uniform sweat pattern on the horse’s back. Any dry spots are indicative of pressure points and cut off blood supply.