Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tack 'Em Up! Saddle Fitting

A saddle needs to fit both the horse and rider in order for both to be comfortable (and work more efficiently) during the ride. Every horse is different, and with that in mind, every saddle must be different. This is where saddle fit comes in.

Requirements for Saddle fit:

Horses aren't perfect and will be constantly changing shape, so your saddle which fits in the summer, may not fit in the winter. Learning how to recognize changes in your horse's shape and knowing the requirements for saddle fit will enable you to determine what is best for your horse.
  • A saddle should comfortably clear a horse’s withers
  • Allow for free movement of the shoulders
  • Be the proper length and shape for the horse's back
  • Be well balanced to provide good weight distribution
Different Tree Sizes:

First off, let me tell you what a tree on a saddle is. Don't worry, your saddle will not be growing leaves ... at least not anymore!

The saddle tree is the foundation of the saddle and relates to the measurement of the gullet, an open space or channel underneath the saddle. The tree is made of softer, flexible wood, a synthetic material or a combination of wood and synthetics. It is then covered by some sort of "hide covering" to make it a bit stronger.

The tree comes in a few sizes, such as:
  • Narrow (N): 86 degree angle. Fits the slender breeds
  • Narrow Medium (NW)
  • Medium (M): 90 degree angle.
  • Medium Wide (MW)
  • Wide (W):  94 degree angle. Fits broader backed horses
  • Extra Wide (XW)
If you have a lot of horses that you need to ride, the flex tree is pretty cool as it comes with an adjustable lever on the outside of the saddle so the tree can move in and out (threrefore changing the gullet size) as needed for each horse.

Seat Sizes:

The size of the seat relates to leg length and not hip size. So someone with longer legs will need a larger saddle.

For a western saddle, the seat size (which simply measures the distance from the base of the horn to the top middle of the cantle) usually goes as follows:
  • Youth: 12"-13"
  • Small Adult: 14"
  • Average Adult: 15"
  • Large Adult: 16"
  • Extra Large Adult: 17"
For the english saddle, the seat size is a little different:
Whatever seat size you have for western, add 2" and there you have your seat size for english.
  • Youth or small Adult: 15" - 16 1/2"
  • Average Adult: 17"
  • Large Adult: 17 1/2" - 18"
  • Extra Large Adult: 18" and over

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