Signs of a good fit

Here’s a check list to help you decide if your saddle fits correctly. 

With the saddle is in place without a pad, you can fit two-and-a-half to three fingers between the pommel and the horse’s withers. For a western saddle, two fingers under the fork is normal. 

The points of the tree are parallel to the horse’s side or within 10 degrees of it. 

The points of the tree sit about two to three fingers’ width behind the horse’s scapula, not on top of it. (An exception: many Western saddles are designed to sit more on the shoulder). 

The gullet is wide enough so that the panels sit on either side of the spine, not on it.

Tip: A well-fitting saddle moves with the horse’s motion. A saddle that rocks will often “chase” the rider’s seat on a rising trot. That is, the cantle will actually move up faster than the rider and the action of the horse’s hip. Sometimes a rider can’t tell that their saddle is rocking or bouncing. Have someone watch you ride to catch this.

The panels on an English saddle are smooth and spread the rider’s weight evenly on the horse’s back (although contrary to popular belief, a slight softness under the front middle of the panel is acceptable on certain saddles and horses). 

The saddle is stable. It does not bounce up and down at the cantle, rock forward, or slide from side to side. 

The lowest part of the seat corresponds with the lowest point of the horse’s back and is parallel to the ground. 

The saddle is too long if the cantle sits on the lumbar spine region behind the eighteenth rib or jabs him in the hip. It’s also important that the saddle isn’t too short, especially with a large rider, since its shortness can create undue pressure in a small area of the back.