Last Updated on December 2, 2021
Learning how to measure a saddle can be an intimidating experience and something that is easy to get wrong! However, getting the right size saddle is vital to ensure your horse is comfortable. But what is the best technique for measuring an English saddle?
If you’ve never measured a saddle before, don’t panic, we’ve got everything you need to know to get you started! We’ve taken an in-depth look at how to measure a saddle to make sure it will fit you and your horse correctly. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about how to measure an English saddle!
Why Is Fitting A Saddle To A Horse Important?
Fitting a saddle to a horse correctly is essential to maintain your own comfort and your horse’s wellbeing. Horses have strong and muscular spines, but it can be very easy to injure them by using a badly fitted saddle. This may cause long-term damage and behavioral problems when ridden.
Specific areas of the horse’s back and spine are prone to injury through a badly fitting saddle. The bony part of the spine at the base of the neck, called the withers, can become sore if rubbed. This may happen if the gullet of the saddle is too wide.
A saddle gullet that is too narrow can restrict the muscles on either side of the horse’s spine. If the seat size of the saddle is too large, it can restrict the movement of the horse’s forelimbs.
As a rider, you will also need to make sure the saddle is the correct size for you. An oversized saddle may mean your legs do not extend far enough below the saddle flaps. This can cause your leg aids to be ineffective.
A saddle that is too small can cause you to become unbalanced. This will be uncomfortable for both you and your horse.
If you are unsure, it is always best to get expert help when fitting a saddle to your horse. This is because it is very easy to get this difficult process wrong, and you could cause a long-term injury to your horse.
What Measurements Do You Need When Measuring An English Saddle?
There are two measurements commonly used when measuring an English saddle.
The first of these is the size of the seat – this literally means the size of the area that you sit on! This needs to be the right size for both the horse and the rider.
If the size of the seat is too long for the horse, it will press on the long bone at the top of the forelimbs. This will hinder the movement of the horse and can be very uncomfortable.
The second vital measurement is the size of the gullet. The gullet is the channel that runs along the underside of the saddle. This is essential to ensure that the saddle does not press down on the horse’s delicate spine.
For the comfort of the rider, a third measurement is sometimes taken into account. This is the size of the saddle flap, which determines the position of the rider’s leg. This measurement does not affect the comfort of the horse but is vital to ensure that the rider can use their legs effectively.
Ideally, the flap of the saddle should end around a third of the way down the rider’s calf. This means that the top of long-riding boots will not get caught on the saddle flaps. Enough of the rider’s leg will protrude beyond the saddle flap to ensure that effective leg aids can be given.
To measure the size of a saddle seat, you need to take just one simple measurement.
Using a measuring tape, measure the distance from the center of the pommel at the front of the saddle to the middle of the cantle at the rear.
English saddle seats are normally measured in inches, with the average adult size coming in at 17 inches. Children’s pony saddle seats will be around 15 inches, and a large draft horse may have a saddle of 18 inches or more.
Next, you need to check whether the size of the seat fits the rider. Sitting in the saddle, you should be able to fit one hand’s width between you and the pommel, and another hand’s width between you and the cantle. If the gap is more or less than this then you may need a different sized saddle.
How Do You Measure A Saddle Gullet?
When measuring the gullet of an English saddle, firstly carefully place it somewhere where you can see underneath the saddle. This could be a saddle rack, over a gate, or on a stable door.
Take a good look at the saddle from the front and find where the bars of the saddle is attached to the pommel. If this is not immediately obvious, you may need to have a good feel around the saddle to find this specific point.
Next, take a tape measure and place one end on the underside of the saddle, level with the top of the saddle bars. Measure the distance between the top of each saddle bar – this is the width of your saddle gullet.
To measure the height of the gullet, take the distance from the line between the bars of the saddle and the top of the underside of the gullet. This measurement can be useful when fitting a saddle to a horse with high withers.
Fitting the correct sized saddle can take a lot of time and effort, and using the wrong saddle can be an expensive mistake if your horse becomes injured. If you are unsure, it is worth spending time and money on expert help to make sure the saddle is correctly fitted. Taking the correct measurements is a vital part of ensuring the best fit of saddle for your horse.
Do you have any questions about measuring an English saddle? Perhaps you’ve got some feedback to share about your experiences with measuring saddles? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!
Find out all about Spring Shots For Horses.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE