View Full Version : Spinoff on Western Saddles and how to find the right fit

Oct. 4, 2011, 04:24 PM
I've been reading the western saddle thread with interest. I'm transitioning my 15'3, 17y/o OTTB from eventing to an easier life of some trail riding and teaching my non-horsey BF how to ride. However, I haven't ridden western since I was a child and am clueless about proper western saddle fit.

This horse was somewhat hard to fit in an english saddle - he has a decent wither on him and a broad shoulder. He is often mistaken for a WB type, or appendix. It's important to me to find him a lightweight saddle that fits him properly. BF is kindof a big guy (6ft 2"/200lbs) and I don't want either of them to be uncomfortable.

What seat size should he get? What are QH bars? How are arab saddles different? Is treeless a better option for a hard to fit horse?

I was also considering an Aussie stock saddle, as I don't want BF to pick up a chair seat, and I'm hoping maybe he will love riding enough to possibly want to foxhunt a little. Just want him to feel secure starting out.


Oct. 4, 2011, 05:21 PM
All I know about the Aussie saddle is that I couldn't post in it - it hit me on the bone!

Oct. 4, 2011, 08:08 PM
Good book for info on fitting western saddles

http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=western+saddle+fitting+book&gs_upl=500l8312l0l9249l27l23l0l6l5l1l390l2454l0.3. 5.2l10l0&safe=active&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=10724570037059987095#

Oct. 4, 2011, 08:16 PM
I found trying the BO's Aussie saddle that (besides that being the only saddle so far where Lucky's eyes bugged out at the weight) after being used to hunt saddles for so long (I ride in a PDN, so no thigh blocks or knee rolls) I felt uncomfortably locked in.

Quarter Horse bars are, IIRC, 7", while semi-Quarter bars are 6".

Oct. 4, 2011, 08:23 PM
I would recommend a 16.5" seat, or 17", for your BF to be comfortable. With him sitting in the middle of the seat, he should have a fist width between his leg and the pommel, and not overflow the cantle.

As far as treeless saddles go, some like them, some don't. I am of the opinion that since there is no tree to distribute the weight, only lightweight riders should use them.

Don't care for Aussie saddles, gave me horrible chair seat and couldn't post if my life depended on it. The one I had, which had been fitted by a pro, rubbed the crap out of my mare's back. Sold it, got a western, never looked back.

QH bars are spread wide to accommodate the big QH shoulders. Arab saddles, to my knowledge, do have a good spread, but might not have a high enough gullet for a TB.

There is good saddle fitting information at The Saddle Shop. Never purchased from them, though.

I would advise you to look up as much as you can about saddle fitting, then go shop. I like to make a wither tracing on cardboard, cut it out, then try it at the tack stores. Not scientific, by any means, but a good place to start when you can't take your horse in. Make sure your BF is comfortable in the saddle at the store, then try it on the horse.

Good luck and patience!

Oct. 5, 2011, 01:31 AM
Here is a decent site with information on western saddle fit, what the different tree types and sizes are:


Oct. 5, 2011, 10:05 AM
The full qh bars are for a wider, lower withered horse with broad shoulders (old type qh) and the semi qh bars are for horses that are not so broad and have withers - an "average" looking horse. The abbreviations are fqhb and sqhb. The seat sizes run bigger than English saddles - my English saddle is a 16" and my Western saddle is a 15" and they fit me the same. Arab saddles are usually for very low withered horses with short backs.

The older used saddles can be REALLY HEAVY. Like tear your rotator cuff trying to get it up on your horse heavy. There are lots of newer, lighter saddles with flex trees that are comfortable for the horse and rider. Western saddles come in WAY more models than English saddles. If you are only looking to trail ride, then get a trail sadde. They are built for comfort. Circle Y makes good saddles. There are also a lot of synthetic saddles on the market that would be good and inexpensive, and they are perfectly acceptable for use on the trail. You just wash them with soap and a hose, so if you get really muddy or caught in the weather it's no big deal. Try Abetta for synthetics, although Circle Y makes one as well.

Oct. 5, 2011, 10:25 AM
Thanks for the replies! I will check out the books referenced.

Does anyone know if they make a western saddle with a tree designed for horses with a high wither?

Was definitely thinking of the synthetics since they are lighter.

Oct. 5, 2011, 11:34 AM
Vintage/antique trees are higher and narrower, if you have someone who can repair/rebuild. I haven't found a new, non-custom saddle that comes any narrow than semi-QH. That seems to work on Lucky with a lot of padding. But while he has a thin wither it's not the tall TB shark-fin.

*IF* you can stand sitting in one (they are more comfortable for men than women) McClellans often fit TBs well. They were designed for cavalry remounts, which were often a high percentage of TB blood. They're meant for riding long-distance, are VERY lightweight, but also not at all padded and the seat was definitely designed for a male pelvis. However, they can have a pad/drape put over them, and they do tend to fit thin-withered horses well.