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Western saddle recommendations: narrow twist to fit Andalusian

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  • Western saddle recommendations: narrow twist to fit Andalusian

    I recently purchased a 2.5 year old Andalusian gelding who will be lightly started next year. Throughout my riding career I have been primarily a hunter/jumper rider, trying a completely new avenue into the western world to try some other disciplines. Also, I feel a western saddle will likely be more comfortable for trail riding.

    I am very comfortable in the world of H/J saddles, and know next to nothing about western saddles... I would love to get recommendations for a saddle that has a narrow twist. While I know each saddle fits differently, I have heard that western saddles are less particular for exact fit, is that the case? Any ideas as to what gullet a typical Andalusian would need?

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    I'd suggest you go online and get the saddle fitting instructions and learn how to do a sketch of your horse's back.

    Once you know the shape of his back it's much easier to start looking at particular saddles.

    You can't go by breed as each horse has their own structure and back conformation.

    I have a saddlebred who is so wide in the shoulders and withers, he needed a custom size gullet. Even full quarter horse

    bars was not wide enough. Also you need to fit the saddle first to the horse, then TRY to get a narrow twist for you.

    It's a long process of learning about Western Saddles as there's so much variation in quality and construction.
    "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin

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    • #3
      I am rather short and always need a saddle with a narrow twist. Most western saddles fit me just fine. They don't seem to have an issue with being too wide in the twist.

      Western saddles come in Semi-QH and full QH bars. The gullet width can be from 6.5 inches to 7 inches or more. 6.5 inch gullet saddles typically have semi-QH bars- they fit a horse with a narrow frame and high withers. My paint and foxtrotter both go in a 6.75 inch gullet with full QH bars. They need the wider gullet angle because they have wide shoulders. A 7 inch gullet would be too wide for them and the saddle would sit on their withers.

      A full 7 inch gullet is typically used to fit your bull-dog quarter horses. I'm guessing an Andalusian might be close to this, so I would start here.

      Here is where variation comes in between manufacturers. A Billy Cook saddle with a 7 inch gullet might have a different bar angle than a Tex Tan with a 7" gullet. If the saddle produces dry spots on the shoulder than that usually means you need a wider bar angle.

      Also you can get a saddle with a slightly wider gullet than you need and pad it up to make up for the difference. For example, on my paint, a 6.75" gullet is actually too wide, but once i add a pad with a cutout wither and built up front, it fits fine. If i get a gullet size smaller, the bar angles don't match and she gets pinched.

      If your saddle fits perfectly without a pad, then you want a thinner pad. So pad selection is important! Fleece pads tend to crush down, felt pads tend to hold their shape. If i need a thinner pad, I go with fleece. If I need a thicker pad, I go for felt. I always test my saddle pads to see if they flatten by standing on them.

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      • #4
        All western saddles are much wider across the twist area and it doesn't seem to bother anyone. The way you sit is different? What does matter is getting a saddle that puts your leg under you not in front and a seat that doesn't slope steeply backwards. The chair seat feet on the fenders thing is apparently useful for some western speed disciplines but for correct riding it's better to get a saddle that lets your leg hang correctly like a dressage leg under you.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
          All western saddles are much wider across the twist area and it doesn't seem to bother anyone. The way you sit is different? What does matter is getting a saddle that puts your leg under you not in front and a seat that doesn't slope steeply backwards. The chair seat feet on the fenders thing is apparently useful for some western speed disciplines but for correct riding it's better to get a saddle that lets your leg hang correctly like a dressage leg under you.
          There is a reason in some specific discipline western saddles you ride a bit on the defensive side.
          That doesn't mean the feet have to hang normally in front of you.

          I would wait to be working with a trainer in a chosen discipline and then see what saddles may fit that first, then find one that fits horse and rider between those.

          The best, most effective seat is the same no matter what you do, is where you can balance best with the horse.
          Even in the lower levels of those disciplines, horses won't be making those big moves and most any saddle works for that.

          Now, for a cutting saddle on really sharp moving horses, you may want more room in the seat and a taller front, swells to keep you there in huge stops, fades and turns and a tall horn to push yourself in there better.
          Still, during normal training, even those saddles do have a middle and legs hanging as they need to for any kind of riding.

          Similar in reining saddles, where you ride normally most of the time, but when a horse has really aggressive stops, you better have a bit of help in front, or as you see happening at times, the rider may just keep going over the dashboard when some very strong horses stop and lower their head:

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Allusion View Post
            I recently purchased a 2.5 year old Andalusian gelding who will be lightly started next year. Throughout my riding career I have been primarily a hunter/jumper rider, trying a completely new avenue into the western world to try some other disciplines. Also, I feel a western saddle will likely be more comfortable for trail riding.

            I am very comfortable in the world of H/J saddles, and know next to nothing about western saddles... I would love to get recommendations for a saddle that has a narrow twist. While I know each saddle fits differently, I have heard that western saddles are less particular for exact fit, is that the case? Any ideas as to what gullet a typical Andalusian would need?
            If you are comfortable in knowing if a HJ saddle fits or not, you've got a good start. Personally (having both english and western saddles) I feel like fitting a Western saddle is much harder because it is more difficult to "see" what the tree is doing under all the leather, and you can't modify a western tree like you sometimes can with English.

            But the basic principles are the same. You want even contact all along the tree, no pressure spots and no bridging, and you want the bars to "match" the horse's back. You can do certain things with the saddle pad, if the situation is right, but realistically your saddle has to fit from the start (no pad will MAKE an ill-fitting saddle work).

            Of course, keep in mind your horse is only 2 1/2 and his body will change a lot as he grows. Sometimes it's okay to have a medicore saddle fit when the horse is young, because you don't want to invest in the "final" saddle until the horse is done growing.

            Gullet needed is highly variable and will depend on what the rest of the saddle is doing.

            Ultimately, you must put it on the horse's back to know if it fits or not. Tracings can help guide you on where to start, but they won't tell you if a certain saddle will fit.

            Even very similar saddles, with similar trees from the same manufacture will FIT DIFFERENT when you put it on the horse's back. Western saddle fitting is maddening, to say the least!!!

            It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

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