How To Measure A Saddle

10th October 2023

There are two measurements that we need when we are fitting a saddle – the length and the width.

The Length: refers to the length of the seat and is measured on the diagonal from the middle of the pin (saddle badge) to the centre of the cantle. Pony saddles tend to start at 15” (this would be suitable for most 13 hands and upwards ponies) and go up in half inch increments to 16.5”. For ponies smaller than this you would probably have to have a 14” saddle made, as not many retailers stock 14” saddles. Adult saddles tend to start at 17” and go up to 18” or even 19“; again if you require more than an 18” it’s probably a special order.

The seat size is normally dictated by the size of the rider. A smallish adult normally needs a 17”, a tall (5’10” upwards) needs 18”, a heavier build of rider will also benefit from more room! The limiting factor is the length of the horses back, and todays sports horses are becoming increasingly short coupled! A rough guide is that the back of the saddle, when girthed, should not exceed the last rib.

This can be a real problem when adults, or even tall children, ride ponies. Compromise is normally the name of the game, and it’s worth remembering that two 17” saddles from different manufacturers can fit quite differently.

The Width: refers to the width and angle of the tree points. This is not something a tape measure can help us with, despite people’s frequent misapprehension! It is simply not a valid approach to measure from D ring to D ring; the D rings are not part of the structure of the saddle and can vary in their placement. Also measuring across the front like this, takes no account of the thickness of the panels. More experienced horsemen and saddle fitters can ‘Gestimate’ by using a fist between the panels at the front of the saddle but again this is a very rough and can be a inaccurate guide. Nowadays most saddles are stamped with the width and seat length; however this can become worn away after a period of use, and does not account for people altering the width of the tree with a saddle adjuster. Online saddle buyers – be aware of this!

The correct width is totally dictated by width of the horse in the area where the front of the saddle sits, or more exactly, where the tree points should lie – ie 1-2 inches behind the shoulder blades. It has nothing to do with how tall the horse is, or how much bone it has, or how wide its chest or back is. The height of wither can make a difference as can the condition of the horse. Some really stocky types have a highish wither and are surprisingly narrow, and some flat bred racehorses with spindly legs have very little wither and can be quite wide.

If you really want to see if a saddle is the correct width for a horse it is essential to try it on and ride in it, under the eye of a Qualified Saddle Fitter. Remember, if you are buying a saddle online, it may be a bargain, but if it doesn’t fit when you get it, and you cannot get a refund, it can be a costly mistake.

I am a fully qualified with the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS). Please contact me on ☎ 07941 512933, or by email 📥 [email protected] to enquire about a saddle fitting appointment.