Eager to try an Australian stock saddle for yourself, but not quite sure how to choose one that fits your horse (and you) perfectly? The following guide to fitting an Australian saddle will help you get it right.
Gullet Size Matters
As with English and Western saddles, gullet size matters greatly in keeping the weight of the saddle (and rider!) off the horse’s spine. One that’s too wide or too narrow will cause pain and could permanently injure your horse.
Luckily, there’s no mystery to measuring the gullet on an Australian saddle; it’s measured the same as the one on the Western or English saddle that you may be used to. A withers tracing of your horse will help you determine what size to buy. As a general guide, an Australian saddle with a medium-wide tree and a 6.5” gullet will fit the majority of Quarter Horses as well as many others.
Seat Measurements for Rider Comfort
Once you ride in the right size Australian saddle, you might agree that these are among the most comfortable saddles on the planet! Here’s a quick guide to seat sizing. Find your usual English or Western saddle seat size to determine what size Australian saddle to get.
English Western Australian
15” 13” 15”
16” 14” 16”
17” 15” 17”
18” 16” 18”
19” 17” 19”
20” 18” 20”
While you may find it simple to find the equivalent size Australian saddle to the one you usually use, there are a couple of things to take into consideration.
- If you like more room in your seat, you’ll want to select a size larger than usual to keep the poleys from feeling too snug against your thighs
- If you choose a larger seat, you’ll be able to post or stand up in your stirrups. If you select the same size you normally ride, you’ll have a snug fit and your ability to move freely in the saddle will be inhibited, i.e. you will not be able to post to full extension.
It’s all about personal preference! A snug fit will help you maintain balance during tough rides, and a looser fit will allow you to ride as you normally do.
It’s unusual to find Australian saddles in half sizes. You can add a seat cushion to your saddle to provide a tighter fit if you prefer; this way, you have the option to enjoy a looser ride or take advantage of the snug feel tightly fitted poleys provide.
Australian Saddle Fitting: A Final Note
When you place your Australian saddle on your horse, you’ll notice that it naturally glides to a position that’s a bit more forward than the spot where a western saddle sits. The stirrups are more forward too, and the entire position puts you, the rider, in a position that’s forward of the middle of the spine. This position is more comfortable for your horse and will enhance his performance.
Check for a level fit, meaning there is even contact along the panels located at the front of the saddle. You should see two to four inches of clearance between the top of your horse’s withers and the top of the gullet.
Once you’ve finished fitting your Australian saddle, it’s time to break it in. Because the padding on the underside will eventually conform to your horse’s back, it’s best to break it in over the duration of several short rides. Taking too long a ride in a new Australian saddle – even one that fits well – could result in back soreness for your horse.
That’s it! If you have any questions about Australian saddle fitting, be sure to ask our experts. We’ll be happy to help you choose the one that’s most likely to fit you and your horse best.