The parts of the horse a western saddle needs to fit onto are:
- Withers– The withers of a horse is the ridge between its shoulder blades; usually the benchmark for the tallest measuring point on the horse. This is followed by his back made up of the back and loin.
- Croup– This is the part of the horse’s back that starts at the hip and ends at about the start of his tail.
- Topline– This is the collective term for the muscles that run from the withers to the croup; the part of the horse that will be saddled and ridden on.
Parts of a saddle that need to fit the horse comfortably:
- Tree– The tree is the base of the saddle. It is made up of 5 parts:
o Two bars– which run alongside the whole saddle.
o Fork- holds bars at the front.
o Cantle- holds bars together at the back.
o Horn- that is the wooden piece in the front that can be held onto.
- Gullet– The tunnel that will fit over the horses withers while the rest shapes to the horse’s topline.
- Skirt– Heavy leather to be laid over the horse’s body and eventually meld with the horse’s shape.
Fitting the Saddle to the Horse:
1. Place the saddle on the withers of the horse without padding and slide it into place where it would naturally fit between the withers and croup. It is more often than not poorly placed rather than being a wrong fit.
2. Make sure that without padding you can place 2-4 fingers between the withers and gullet so it doesn’t place too much pressure on the animal’s shoulder blades.
3. Once you have established this you can add padding. You should be able to place your hand between the lining and the horse’s shoulders comfortably, even with a rider on the saddle.
4. The skirt should be fit to follow the contours of the horse’s topline without passing the loins.
5. The seat should be in line with the fork and not extend higher than the cantle when viewed from the side.
A well fit, western saddle makes for a happy horse and rider!