How To Fit a Saddle

All tack should fit properly in the interests of both you, the rider, and the horse. A badly fitted saddle will injury and pain to your horse, and will no doubt affect your riding position. The more you know about saddle fitting, the better you will ride and the happier your horse will be. Here is our guide to fitting a saddle.

  • 1. Place the saddle and examine
  • 2. Check the space through the gullet
  • 3. Check the saddle width
  • 4. Check the saddle fit
  • 5. Look at the saddle length
  • 6. Try it out!

Let's go into some more detail.

Place the saddle on the horse's withers

Place the saddle slightly up the horses neck. Press down on the pommel and slide the saddle backwards gently. It should naturally come to rest in a suitable position depending on the size and shape of your horse. This should be directly behind the shoulder blades of your horse. The saddle must be fitted without a saddle cloth or numnah.

The saddle should lie straight on the horses back, resting on it's ribs and not it's spine.

Space through the gullet

When the horse's head is down, you must be able to see daylight clearly through the gullet. You will need to look at the saddle from behind or at the front to check this. This gap is to ensure that weight is kept off the horse's spine.

There should be around three fingers (depending on your horse's shape) of pommel clearance - the arch at the front of the saddle. You must check this! It must be high enough to let the horse lift it's head without it's wither pressing against the pommel. More than three fingers can mean that the pommel is too high.

Check the saddle width

When fitting the saddle, you should check that the saddle is the same width as the shoulders of the horse. A saddle that is too narrow will likely pinch the horse's spine. If the saddle is too low, it may affect the withers.

A snug fitting saddle

Generally fitting a saddle well will mean that is sits securely on your horse even without the girth attached. If the saddle is to loose it may cause discomfort and painful rubbing as it is likely to move around while you are riding.

Look at the saddle length

Sit on the saddle to check the length. When in position, you should be able to fit one hands width at the pommel in front of you, and one hands width on the cantle at the rear of the saddle. Always remember that the saddle should not be so long that it puts weight on the horse's loins. The saddle should rest on the horse's ribs and not extend past the last one.

Last but not least...try the saddle out!

You must try the saddle out by riding with it. With the girth fastened firmly, the saddle should not move excessively whilst walking, trotting or cantering. It should always be in contact with your horse's skin. You must feel comfortable too. Just like a pair of shoes, a saddle needs to be worn in to suit your horses back and your bottom too! If you are happy with your newly fitted saddle, stick with it and enjoy!

Useful Tip!

A chalk mark test can tell you where your saddle is touching the horse in the right and wrong positions. Simply dust the underside of the saddle with chalk and place it on the horse. When you remove it a light imprint will remain on the horse's coat so you can examine it's position!