How to Fit a Western Saddle
Finding a saddle that correctly fits your horse is as important as finding one that correctly fits you. An ill-fitting saddle – one that is too large or too small – causes pain and discomfort that can make your mount ill-tempered and dangerous to ride.
Halter your horse and place her in cross-ties or tie the lead rope to a something stable so she can’t move away.
Place an old sheet on her back so that you don’t get the saddle dirty. Don’t try fitting a saddle over pads or blankets because that will not give you a true idea if the saddle is right for your horse. Saddle pads hide any conformation issues that can cause the saddle to not fit correctly.
Set the saddle on your mount so that the deepest part of the seat rests in the deepest part of her back. When the bottom of the cantle makes a straight line with the bottom of the pommel directly over the gullet, you know you’ve placed the saddle in the appropriate spot on her back.
Stand behind your horse and look through the gullet under the saddle. You should have a clear view all the way from her croup to her withers. If you can’t see all the way down the saddle, it is too wide for your horse and will cause pain and pressure sores on her withers and back. Make sure that the under-panels rest on her back muscles, not her spinal processes.
Run your hand under the skirt on both sides. With a well-fitted saddle, you hand should move smoothly along without any pinching or pressure. A saddle that is too small will squeeze your hand and will be uncomfortable for your horse.
Stand to the side and look at the saddle’s skirt. If it reaches her loins, or hangs down the barrel past the top portion of her ribs, the saddle is too large and will cause pressure sores on those sensitive parts of her body.