To ride effectively, you need to find the correct size English saddle to fit your body -- one that allows your core muscles, legs, and arms to balance safely on your horse’s back while performing, training, or on the trail.
A saddle that is too small for your body will push you forward off-balance over the pommel (front) of the saddle and pull your heels out behind your center. One that is too large allows your body to lean backward and pushes your feet out in front of your hips.
Both are potentially dangerous for any equestrian.
Knowing how to find the best saddle for your body type and size can extend your riding life and make it fun and safe.
The first thing to measure when purchasing a new English saddle is the length of your legs and the size of your seat with your body aligned in correct riding posture.
Sit in a chair with your shoulders, hips, and heels in a straight line, much as you would when sitting on your horse, making sure that your buttocks don’t touch the chair back. Make a mark directly in front of your crotch and immediately behind your seat and determine that distance to get an approximate seat size.
Continue to sit in the chair and measure the length of your inner thigh from your groin to the middle of your calf with your knees bent. This denotes your upper leg length and the approximate size of a proper saddle flap for your body.
The chart below gives you approximate saddle sizes appropriate for the length of your leg:
Upper Leg Length Seat Size
Up to 16 1/2" 15" seat
Up to 18 1/2" 16" seat
Up to 20" 16 1/2" seat
Up to 21 1/2" 17" seat
Up to 23" 17 1/2" seat
Up to 23" 18" seat
Measuring the Saddle
The second part of picking a correct saddle size is actually measuring the size of the saddle’s seat before trying it out.
The easiest way to do this is to balance a flat, straight ruler across the pommel tree (the raised front part) of the saddle. Place the end of a tape measure on the center of the cantle (the raised back part) of the saddle and pull it taut in a straight line until you reach the center of the ruler on the pommel. This straight-line measurement is the size of that particular saddle’s seat.
Although some English riders will measure from the center of the cantle to the d-ring buttons on either side of the pommel to get a seat size, if the buttons are placed unevenly, measurements will differ depending on which side of the saddle is assessed.
Fitting the Saddle To Your Body
In a perfectly fitting English saddle, you should be able to place three fingers between your crotch and the rise of the saddle’s pommel. While sitting in the deepest part of the seat, you need to see at least 4-inches of leather between the saddle’s cantle and your bottom. On a well-fitted saddle, the saddle’s flaps will end at the middle of your calves when your feet are in the stirrups and your knee will rest directly behind the flap block without crossing over the front of the flap. The width of your thigh should rest comfortably between the thigh roll underneath the flap and the thigh block on top while your feet are in the stirrups.
A perfect saddle fit ensures that you can sit in the correct posture -- ears, shoulders, hips, and heels aligned down the horse’s body -- so that your hands and elbows are relaxed and giving on the reins, and your body is balanced and positioned over your horse’s back. This style of English equitation provides the most comfort and safety for you, the rider, and helps create the best partner possible for your horse