Sep. 10, 2012, 01:11 PM
Just for fun, I tried my friend's western saddle on my big TB. The back part of the saddle did not come down on his back. In terms of fit, what does this mean? What would I need to look for if I would want to get my own saddle...are there tree sizes? Do seat sizes correspond with English saddles?
Sep. 10, 2012, 01:52 PM
If the saddle popped up in the back, this could be two things: the tree is too wide, and therefore tilting foreword, or the tree is too curved for his back. Either way, the fit is not good. Fitting saddles is similar in both Western and English Disciplines - there should be even pressure throughout the tree that is in contact with the horse's back when you run your hand along underneath it. The saddle should not (with a normal-whithered horse) slide from side to side when you gently shake it, nor should it "rock" back and forth when you alternate pressure on the cantle and the horn. The saddle needs to be very stable. The pommel of a western saddle is not the most reliable guide for fit (no 2-3 fingers rule). Take your hand and place it under the excess leather in the front of the saddle and try to feel how the forks of the tree lie against the horse. They should be even and follow the curve of the horse's shoulders. Western saddles that are a bit too wide are easy to correct with a thicker pad IF the overall shape of the tree fits the horse. You cannot correct a tree that is too narrow. If everything seems to be looking good, use a neutral pad underneath the saddle and ride the horse into a good sweat. Look for dry spots that indicate pinching, and observe the horse's reaction. Happy horse generally means good saddle fit.
Placement is also important - often the saddle is put too far forward. THe easiest way to place the saddle is to begin with it up almost a quarter of the way up the horse's neck, then slide it back until there is a bit of a "catch". This should be the saddle's sweet spot. There is a screw just under the swells on the front of the saddle. This screw should be over the spot where the hollow behind the horse's shoulder blade.
Western saddles generally come in Semi-Quarter Horse Bars or Full Quarter Horse Bars. Depending on the brand, Full QH Bars are wide to x-wide. Semi-QH Bars are medium to medium-wide. There are also Arab trees (wide, with more curve front to back) Gaited horse trees (no experience with these) and I think, Thoroughbred trees for narrower horses.
Seat sizes do NOT correspond at all! A 17" western saddle is the same as a 19" hunt or dressage saddle. I ride in a 17" hunt saddle, and am comfortable in western seat sizes ranging from 14.5" to 15". I do not like a 16" western saddle, I feel like I am swimming!
Sep. 10, 2012, 02:48 PM
Great information! Thank you!