To check the fit of your western saddle place it on your horse's back. Now look at the saddle from the
side. Does it look level on your horse's back? If it tips too far up in the front
that indicates that it is too narrow for your horse or if it tips too far up in the
rear, that indicates that it is too wide for your horse. Does it look to long on
your horse's back? If you notice the saddle not looking level then it is
probably not a good fit for your horse. Check the gullet to be sure it's not
resting on or touching the horse's withers and, remember that your weight in the
saddle can settle it down up to another 1/2 inch. The panels, which are the
fleece-covered portion underneath, should smoothly match the angle of your
horse's shoulder. If you try to slip your hand under the bars of the saddle
from the front, you should feel a uniform snugness from the top, near the
gullet, to the points of the tree which are about halfway down the saddle. If
the top feels tight but there is room for your hand to slide in an inch or two
down, the tree is probably too wide for your horse. On the other hand, if there
is space showing on the panels above your horse's withers and it feels like a
tight squeeze a few inches down, the tree is probably too narrow.
There are many misconceptions regarding saddle fit many of which relate to the lack of understanding of the
type of tree that a saddle is built on. There are basically 5 types of trees as
Full Quarter Horse:
This is a tree designed to fit what is commonly referred to as the "Bulldog" style quarter horse with a
back like a table top. If we were to equate it to a person, think Mike Tyson.
Short, Broad Shoulders and flat wide back and therefore the bars are flatter to
better fit these round-barreled horses.
This is a tree which probably fits 70%-80% of the horses out there with the
exception of the narrower Thoroughbred with high withers
This is a tree which is ideal
for the slimmer Thoroughbred with high withers. A horse that is built more for
running (longer back, narrower chest, ribs not quite as widely sprung.
This is a tree much like a Full Quarter Horse tree. Sometimes the only
difference between the two is that the Arabian tree will accommodate a shorter
back than Quarter Horses. Sometimes an Arabian tree will be even wider - more
space between the bars - than a Full Quarter Horse tree. Sometimes it won't depending on the manufacturer.
This tree is high in the gullet, high in the cantle and deeper in the panels and is commonly seen it
what are called "Hard Seat High Back". A Wade Saddle is one of this type of
It is Important to note that the same "type" or "size" tree from different manufacturers will each fit
differently. This comes about because of variations from the tree makers, the
application of the woolskin and the application of the leather in the production
of the Saddle which all affect the fit slightly. All horses are different and the trees are built to fit the
"standard" or "average" of each breed but will not fit them all and therefore the only sure fire way to
judge the fit is that each saddle must be placed on your horse's back for evaluation.