Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More on Saddle Fitting

I found another interesting link on saddle fitting when looking for a Silver Royal saddle, like the one Cattypex had mentioned. This one offers a couple of different ways to look at and check for good saddle fit.

Four Winds Saddle Tack Store in Fort Collins Colorado has a page online listed as Withers Tracing and another one of Saddle Fitting. I realize a lot of the information is based on or shows english saddles- all purpose, close contact and a lot of dressage saddles. I haven't found one yet showing anything more for western, so I will either have to keep digging or get some pictures taken of the boys out back.

One of the main things that I find interesting in the links here for wither tracing is the flexible curve available at the office supply store. I may be a bit brain dead on this one, but what would an office use those for? At least they are useful in helping you establish a drawing of how your horses back is shaped, but like Kitt had posted the pictures on the saddle fitting blog, with time and exercise or time off, the shape will change and saddle fitting requirements will too. Muscles change as the horse is brought back into shape, change more as you continue to train and develop different things and deteriorate when the horse has had an extended lay up following an illness or injury.

Saddles are an investment like a lot of other things. But spending money on a nice saddle and finding out it doesn't fit you, your horse or both is a bit disheartening to say the least. But if it doesn't fit, you can always resell it and recover some of the money to put towards one that does.


  1. Saddle fit is a big reason I went with a custom that last time I bought one , Built for me and my horse.I can afford that once , but I can't afford to have several diferent saddles so I hope what I have will last .Our klocal saddlew maker builds great saddles (the go to guy for all the trophy saddles in the rodoe assosiations .I have to tell you he might not be world renowned but I have never met anyone who wouldn't jump at the chance to own a saddle Les built!
    Are we going to see pics of Catty's saddle?

  2. DANG, FV, I wuz gonna be first:(

    Still fizzing with the stuff your last post set off..

  3. FV- I'm hoping...

    Cattypex, care to share?

    FV- with any saddle, it is an investment. An investment in your horses' comfort level and a comfortable ride for you. Everyones dollar value on that varies.

    Hubbys new Stray Dog is semi-custom, without the overpriced BS. And let me tell you, it is a nice saddle. Comfy and worth the money. Even if we didn't put the stirrups up for the pic's on the last post.

    GL- Are you going to explain things here or on your blog. Cuz, I can't wait to read it. Really, I can't. What was it you said about the mares name being Patience and that being a virtue us redheads aren't too familiar with?

  4. True enough. I am happy with mine , his stuff seems to fit a good many horses .

  5. I completely lucked out with my saddle when I got my gelding.

    It was the first saddle I looked at, used on CL for $225.

    It fits me perfectly. It's an 18" Western, which can be hard to find. I wanted a synthetic, because I am heavy and did not want to add any more weight than need be, but it's a Circle Y, so it's a decent saddle. I replaced the crappy cinch and bought decent aluminum stirrups for it.

    It fits my boy "pretty well." I'd give a 7 or 8 out of 10 for fit. It's not perfect, but my trainer at the time and my vet have confirmed that it fits well enough for the amount of riding I currently do (3 hours a week or so). And I obsessively check for dry spots, and have never found any.

    If I ever start riding more, I will need to find something better. I think a trail saddle or something with a round skirt would work better since he's gaited and kind of high withered. I also bought him a nice Professional's Choice saddle pad at last year's Western States Horse Expo (which is coming up again and I need to save up some cash for horse shopping!).

  6. Have any ideas or brands to steer toward, when trying to fit a western saddle to a I know it sounds funny, We do ride mostly english, however we just moved to sk and we will be enjoying hours of trails this summer.(possibly even camp outs) Ive had no luck finding a saddle even close to fitting her.
    Thanks so much

  7. NHM- Isn't it great when that happens? Those are moments to truly relish. Consider yourself lucky when that happens.

    Lottie- everyones tastes tend to differ. What I like you may hate, what you like, I may hate. No big deal- the one spending the money gets to choose!

    Rather than focus on brands of saddles, start out by finding out if your horse needs a tree with Semi QH bars or something with a narrower tree, marketed more towards Arabians and sometimes even gaited horse breeds. Some people prefer treeless which brings another option to the table.

    Abetta, Circle Y, Cordura, Hereford, Simco, Tex Tan and countless others out there make saddles in a number of tree widths. I think the manufactures got the hint long ago, that not all horses are built one way.

    Some people prefer synthetic saddles for their easy care and light weight qualities, but they just don't hold the appeal for me. I just never got into them.

    I like leather. I am right there with Cattypex being a 'leather snob' that way. I like the sqeaks and creaks when you ride and the smell of the leather. I just can't help myself.

  8. Lottie... have you looked into Australian saddles? If you're used to English, it might be an easier transition for you and your horse... and Australian stock horses are a little more TB-like than QH-like...

    CNJ... I emailed you a photo :-) It's not great, but if anyone's interested I can certainly get better ones! Comes with a 1-ear headstall with 2 big silver buckles.

  9. When i was young, I used to think that square-cantled English saddles were SO COOL (the 80's was all about angles, remember) and I also wanted dee rings on my saddle to hook things to, since I did a lot of bumming around on trails. Alas 'twas not to be....

    Also I'm old enough to remember that you got your new tack, made sure it fit, and oiled it not only to soften it, but also to DARKEN the leather.

    I got a pair of gorgeous Victorian-styled boots last year. These, in the color pictured:
    THey're actually super comfortable, even on my wide feet, and the footbed is nicely formed & the heel cushioned. They look fab. with jeans and long dresses. But I want to darken them. I tried my "go-to," Blue Ribbon/Walsh Saddle Oil, nope. Olive oil, nope. I got 'em about a shade darker, and now they're super soft, but any advice on how to darken them??

    I don't like the blonde leather so popular in the Western show ring right now. As if you couldn't tell.

  10. Lottie- I was going to reccommend a McClellan saddle, like the cavalry used to use. A friend of mine had one and they are super comfy for long rides. Figure the soldiers on patrols or moving post to post- having to get there and carry all their gear. However I found an article about fitting them and rider position, that was- pretty interesting reading. Four Winds in the link in the OP has two different styles. They also carry a number of Australian saddles like Cattypex suggests.

    My experience with the Australian saddles is, they are designed for you to sit in the saddle. Not exactly designed for posting or two point, no, you sit down in the saddle and stay there. For long rides at a walk, comfortable jog or lope- not too bad. Extended trot or hand gallop- not so much. They do however provide a very comfortable seat and plenty of rings & strings (depending on model of course) for your gear. Of course other people may have different opinions or experiences with them.

    Tucker Saddles also makes a saddle that is sort of a cross over combo of both English and western. Their catalog also has a host of information on saddle fitting for both the horse and rider- gaited breeds, mules and everything in between.

    I hope this helps. If you need any more information, please feel free to post and ask or drop me an email if you'd like. Like I said before- whoever is paying for the saddle and riding in it gets to choose. It's your money and your decision.

    Clicky link for Cattypex's boots...

    Pretty fancy there girl! I seen the white and black pairs too...

    Darkening leather tips? A good coat or three of oil usually softened things up and added a shade or two for me, but it only does so much and then it hits its limit. Also the level of darkening may not be even. Dark and light spots to be seen all over the place. Yeah, no. I want everything to look presentable... Symmetry is a peeve or quirk of mine. In the show ring- this matters, outside- it does not.

    Best bet is to order dark oil or medium oil from the start. Note to all leather product manufacturers- please offer things in a variety of shades. At least three- light, medium and dark. Mkay? Thanks!

  11. thanks guys for all the great advice, im going to sit down and look at the web sites and really try to do some research.. Ive measued the tree on my english saddle sometime ago when I went serching for a western saddle in our local tack shops.. However they only carry 61/2 inches to like 71/2 inches, where my english one is a 5 inches.. does this make sense..?

  12. Well, the boots have a "distressed" finish, so a semi-mottled look just makes them look antique. I guess I'm stuck with the light color. That's OK - they're really cute and make me slightly taller. For me, those are high heels. I usually wear Birkenstocks, Chacos & Ariats, so to find some CUTE shoes that are also comfy is a big plus!!!

    I've never actually ridden in an Aussie saddle. I remember when All Things Australian first got popular, about when Man from Snowy River and Men At Work and Mel Gibson were hot new commodities. Anyone remember the Outback Red clothes from The Limited, and esp. the equestrian-inspired styles from that line?

    Hey, how 'bout endurance saddles? That's a sport where saddle fit would be extraordinarily important! I know a woman who started her 17 yr old Arabian stallion in endurance about 20 years ago. She used an Aussie saddle, did 50 mile rides, got Best Conditioned awards etc.

    Remember when OrthoFlex saddles came out? I always wanted to try one, but don't know anyone who has one.

  13. Lottie- It sounds like your horse may need a saddle geared towards the Arabs with a slightly more A shaped tree. That's about what mine is and fits the Arabs, the TB and the one QH mare.

    You'll be seeing more pictures of it soon since I will finally be getting pictures of the saddles up as well as the horses and which ones fit who.

    Sometimes the saddles promoted for gaited horses will have a narrower tree too. Some of the plantation and endurance saddles are geared towards the Arabs, since a lot of Arabs and half Arabs are used in the sport.

    CP- I remember everything being all about the outback. Oilskin dusters, drovers hats, the saddles and Heaven forbid we forget about the whips...

    One of the boarders at the farm I was at back then had an Aussie saddle. Rode like a true whackaloon. Racing here and there, up and down the trails, up to and past the group in a frenzy. He was quite the sight. Had he been in any other saddle, I'm not sure how long he would have stayed on.

    Another boarder there had bought an Ortho-Flex back when they first hit the market. They measured the horse, measured you and built it to suit. Hers was really comfortable. They began the whole craze with the padded stirrup treads and those can be a Godsend! I think hers was around $1200 then. Late 80's/ ealy 90's? She also got the optional flask.

    I have seen some since. They didn't even look like they fit the horse. It looked like it was 'perched' on top of the pad and had springs or something under it. Didn't look like it could be comfortable in any way for the horse.