How To Adjust a Horse Saddle | Tips for adjusting horse saddles (2023)

April 11, 2016

How To Adjust a Horse Saddle | Tips for adjusting horse saddles (1)


Riding a saddle is one of the most important skills a horse owner can learn. A proper saddle is comfortable for both you and your horse. If the saddle does not fit properly, your horse may develop sores or even a limp.

The basics of saddle adjustment are the same no matter what discipline you ride. For the sake of simplicity, we will discuss the assembly of a basic all-purpose English saddle and a western post saddle. You can apply the principles of fitting both saddles to certain types of English saddles, such as B. jumping saddle, dressage saddle, or trimmed saddle, as well as other types of Western saddles.

The importance of saddle adjustment

Saddles are not just for your comfort while riding, they act as intermediaries between the rider and the horse. When the saddle is properly seated, it transmits subtle signals of weight changes to the horse through the muscles and nerves of the back. These signals help you understand and anticipate your driver's commands.

Because the panels sit on either side of the horse's spine and muscles, a proper fit is essential. If he's ever walked around in ill-fitting shoes, he knows how painful it can be. Your toes get pinched, your heel slips, and before you know it, you have a blistered and sore foot. Remember how much worse it is for your horse if the saddle is too small and pinches the shoulder and back muscles. A saddle that is too big slips and causes painful back pain.

A well-made saddle in good condition should last many years, even decades. However, you should check the fit of the saddle.annually, but ideally twice a year. A horse that is trained consistently will maintain the same general shape, but a horse that is trained inconsistently or rested for a month or two may change shape, requiring some adjustment to the saddle or saddle pad to achieve the desired fit. better fit of the chair.

Even with older horses, body condition can change rapidly, necessitating saddle adjustment. Saddles can also stretch, shift, or change over time. Seams can fray and upholstery can become flat or stiff.

After the purchase price of your horse, your saddle is the second most expensive investment you'll ever make. Take the time to really check the fit of the saddle before investing in one. Learning how to properly fit a saddle is a key element in being a responsible and successful cyclist.

If your saddle doesn't fit, or your horse's body changes and your saddle no longer fits, do your best to adjust the saddle. You can borrow a friend's saddle or trade in your old one for a new one at many saddle shops across the country. Whatever you do, don't skimp on the fit. A well-adjusted saddle not only feels better, but you ride better too.

How Saddles Are Made: Parts of a Saddle

Saddles are built around a tree made of wood or plastic. The tree forms a skeleton around which layers of artificial leather or fabric are placed, shaped and formed to form the saddle itself. The tree is in the shape of the letter "T" with the bars of the tree fitting over the withers or shoulders of the horse and the long trunk of the T running along each side of the horse's spine.

Horses, like people, come in all different shapes and sizes. Some horses have a high or narrow withers; others are very wide and have a small withers. Each shape requires a slightly different tree. Saddle trees are made in specific sizes to accommodate different shapes.

After the tree is shaped, thin layers of leather are glued onto the tree and cut to shape. Western trees are formed with a saddle horn and wider beams. English trees are hornless and tend to have narrower beams.

Once the leather is laid and shaped over the seat, padding can be added. English saddles have pads filled with foam or wool. Knee rolls (wool or foam-filled suede or leather patches) are attached to the strap that runs laterally behind the horse's shoulder. Knee pads on English saddles help keep the rider's leg in place.

In a western saddle, leather is applied to the saddle to form the fender that fits between the rider's leg and the horse like the stuffing in a sandwich. The skirt, various suspenders and halters are also added.

All saddles require a girth (English) or girth (Western), which is the strap that goes under the horse's belly and holds the saddle in place. The straps are interchangeable, and you can remove them and swap them out for a different style or type if you'd like.

Both Western and English saddles also require a pad or blanket under the saddle to protect the horse's back from rubbing and to keep the saddle clean. Western rugs are square or rectangular and are made of wool or some other thick, absorbent fabric. English saddle pads are tailored to the saddle and are made of acrylic, fleece or cotton. White is the preferred color for English mantillas.

How to measure a horse for a saddle

Measuring a horse for a saddle is truly an art. There are steps you can take, but a master saddler has years of experience observing horses and choosing saddles that fit. Some saddle shops have employees who will come to your stable and help you adjust the saddle. If such a service is available, use it. Nothing beats the experience when it comes to horse riding.

Even though you have the luxury of having an expert help you fit your saddle, learning how to size a horse for a saddle is important. To narrow down your options, you still need an idea of ​​the type, size, and construction of the saddle you need.

To gauge both Western and English saddles, assess your horse's conformation. Tie up your horse or have a helper stop it outside. Take a step back and scan your horse from the side, back and front. Does your horse have a high or normal withers? Long or short back? A change, dip or other anatomical difference that needs to be compensated for?

First select the type of tree:

  • ing— Additional padding behind the seat posts may be required on very tall or narrow withered horses. This shoulder bridge pad will help make the saddle fit better.
  • Medium— A horse with a medium withers usually takes a medium or normal tree.
  • Large— Horses with a block structure or a flat withers take a wide tree.
  • extra wide— Draft horses, draft cruisers, or "tall and wide" built horses need an extra-wide tree.
  • Flexible— Horses with large, well-developed shoulder muscles can be difficult to adjust. These horses can do well with a flexible tree.

Now determine how well the saddle fits the horse. To test the fit of the seat, slide the seat openwithouta cushion. While you shouldn't ride without a pad or blanket, try fitting your saddle without them.

English Saddles: Wither Test


Now you need to check the tree to see how well it fits the cross:

  • Slide the saddle from the withers to the horse's hindquarters.
  • Allow the saddle to rest naturally on the horse's back without bending the girth.
  • Slide your fingers into the area where the saddle tree clears from the withers, watching for space.

If your chair is padded with plastic or you are testing a used chair, you should be able to fit two to three fingers between the chair and the withers. If it is a new saddle filled with wool, there may be a little more space between the saddle and the withers. As you ride, your weight compresses the wool, closing the gap.

English saddles: balance and level test

English saddles should be fairly level on the topline or back of the horse. General, all-purpose, and jumping saddles should form a slight U-shape at the back. The lean in the saddle seat should be balanced at the back.

General or universal English saddles have saddles (front) and rails (rear) of approximately the same size. The cantle can be a bit higher. It should sit evenly on your back.

Walk around your horse and make sure the saddle looks level on both sides. You should appear balanced and centered on the back of a horse.

Western saddles: Prueba Wither

You can do the same outcross test on a Western saddle as you can on an English saddle. Slide the saddle into place, and then slide your fingers between the horse's gullet and withers.

  • a good fit— Two or three fingers is correct.
  • Too narrow— If the whole hand fits between the cross and the hollow of the chair, the tree is too narrow.
  • Very far— If the gullet is touching your horse's topline or you can barely push a finger in, the tree is too wide.

Western saddles: balance and level test

Just like with an English saddle, you should examine a Western saddle for the right balance. After placing the saddle on your horse's back, walk around and see how it fits.

  • Does the saddle look straight?If not, try repositioning or using shims. You can also try different mounting positions.
  • Does the saddle look too high in the front?The tree may be too narrow.
  • Does the saddle appear to be sagging or sagging in the front?The tree may be too wide.

Can pads be used to correct a poor saddle fit?

You can use pads to correct a poor saddle fit, but pads shouldn't be your only line of defense. Pads can be a great help with an aging horse whose saddle fit tends to change quickly.

You can use foam and other pads for horses that are developing a swaying back or aging horses that are changing shape. Western riders can try changing the rig to adjust the fit.

Saddle adjustment for the rider

Riding the chair is complicated because you don't have to ride a single living being, but two: a horse and a rider. So far we have discussed how to adjust the saddle to the horse. Let's take a look at how the saddle adapts to the rider.

You determine the correct fit of the rider's saddle based on the size of the saddle and the length of the seat flap. The seat of the saddle must adapt to both the horse and the rider.

A seat that is too short will cause the saddle to hit an awkward spot in the back, which can shift the rider's center of gravity too far forward. A seat that is too long can strain the muscles in the hindquarters and affect your horse's performance. Therefore, both the size and shape of the rider and the horse, as well as the saddle of the horse and the rider, must be well adapted to each other. It is something complicated that is part of horsemanship.

To estimate your seat size, first measure your femur.

  • Wear your normal riding clothes.
  • Sit in a straight-backed chair with no armrests.
  • Measure from the kneecap to the back of the buttocks.
  • Record the number in inches.

Now convert inches toEnglish seat sizes.

  • Less than 16.5 inches— You probably need a 15-inch seat size on an English saddle.
  • Between 16.5 and 18.5 inches— Look for a 16-inch saddle.
  • Between 20 and 21.5 inches— Try a 17-inch saddle.
  • about 21.5 inches— Try an 18-inch or 19-inch seat size.

If you are driving west, you can use the same measurements with a slight adjustment. Western saddle seat sizes tend to varyan inch or two smallerthan English sizes. If you look at the numbers above and your femur is 20 inches, you should try a 17-inch English saddle or a 15-inch western saddle.

If in doubt, choose a larger saddle size than a smaller one. If you are between two sizes, go up one size.

english saddle for rider

To measure saddle seat size for English saddles:

  • Take a tape measure and place one end against the nail or button on the left front wall of the saddle near the top.
  • Take your tape measure to the highest point in the center of the cantle.

This measurement is the size of the seat.

English seat sizesfor general purpose saddles they are generally indicated as follows:

  • Seat sizes from 15 to 17 inches— Best for younger riders or smaller adults
  • 17-inch and 17.5-inch seat sizes— Most popular size for adults of average height and weight
  • 18-inch and 19-inch seat sizes— More suitable for taller adult riders or tall riders
How To Adjust a Horse Saddle | Tips for adjusting horse saddles (6)

If you sit in a saddle that is too small, your buttocks will hit the edge or your crotch will hit the pommel. Sitting centered during a seated trot or canter is almost impossible when you get out of the saddle halfway. If the saddle is too big, it will often slide or wobble to find its balance.

When trying a saddle, drop the stirrups and ride the seated trot in an English saddle. If you can stay centered and balanced without feeling like you're floating in the saddle or getting pinched, you're probably in good range.

The padding and construction of the saddle can make the seat size feel different, even if the measurements are the same. Many European brands have a different feel to American- or South American-made saddles, such as B. Argentinian English saddles.

One way to get a feel for different saddles is to ride different horses in class and note which saddles feel good and which are uncomfortable. You will quickly develop a taste for the brands, styles and even types of leather of English saddles once you have tried them.

Western driver seat sizes

Western saddles are generally smaller than English horse saddles. If you know your seat size in an English saddle, a good rule of thumb is to choose a Western saddle.a seat size two inches smallerthan the typical size of an English saddle.

Sit in the western chair. should be aboutfour inches between your body and the surfof the saddle Anything less than that can mean the saddle is too small, and more space means the saddle may be too big. Larger may be more convenient for you.

Western riders with longer legs should choose a larger saddle. The fenders are scaled to fit the size of the seat, and a larger saddle comes with longer fenders that fit your leg better.

New saddle technology

Science and technology have produced some amazing advances in all walks of life, and saddles are no different. Saddles may have been around for hundreds of years, but advances in modern technology are changing the way we make and fit them.

Some English saddles have replaceable throats and adjustable seat posts. These saddles are built around a fiberglass or plastic tree instead of a traditional poplar or birch. A special key, similar to an Allen key, is used to fit the tree to the horse. These saddles are ideal for trainers or training stables where the same saddle needs to be used for many horses.

Another development in Western and English saddles is the use of artificial fabrics to cover the saddle. Leather is durable and comfortable, a traditional material for English and Western saddles. However, chemical fibers are easier to care for and hold up to rain and snow much better than leather. They are easier for horse and rider to break in, easier to clean after a ride, and as durable as leather.

Try riding a synthetic saddle to see if you like it. They're not for everyone, but they can be great for recreational or mountain bikers who don't want to bother with cleaning and conditioning the leather.

Well-fitting saddles make riding easier and more comfortable.

Regardless of your riding discipline, a properly adjusted saddle will make your horse more comfortable. It improves his natural gait or stride and makes it easier for him to accomplish whatever you ask him to do.

Not only does your horse feel more comfortable, you do too when your saddle fits. Like a comfortable pair of shoes, a well-used and well-cared-for saddle eases you into getting started and makes hours in the saddle a joy. Take the time to find and fit a saddle for you and your horse. You'll both be glad you did.

Keep your horse fit and healthy

Part of being a good rider and owner is keeping your horse healthy and in good overall condition. It also helps to ensure that your saddle fits consistently while your horse maintains his weight and body condition.

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