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Good information on fitting your saddle properly to your gaited horse...

For more detailed information check out this website: www.crestridgesaddlery.com

How you can easily check the fit of your gaited horse saddle
Below are the steps you can follow to insure the proper fit of your saddle.

Testing saddle fit with a white towel

To start your fitting check, and to be assured that we are going to get an accurate test, do not groom the horse before you ride. Simply brush off any excess dirt and mud to protect the saddle, but leave the deep down dirt on the animal to assure a nice imprint on the white towel after you finish. If it fits properly, the bottom of the towel, the side near the horse, should have an even pattern of dirt except where the spine runs under the saddle.

Anything else requires changes with the saddle, pad, rigging or rider. Ruffled hairs, dry spots, uneven sweat patterns or mud can all indicate an issue with the saddle that can perhaps be worked out by a professional saddle fitter.

For a saddle to fit, it must be in the correct position on the horse

Gently rock the saddle back and forth slightly while moving it slowly toward the horse’s tail until you feel it sink into place. It is important to note that a saddle that is placed slightly too far forward can rock itself back into place within the first few strides of riding, however a saddle that is placed too far rearward to begin with cannot travel forward.

Checking bar angle for saddle fit

The next step is to fully girth the saddle as you would when you prepare to ride. With the saddle cinched up we now look at the bar angles to match the angle of the horse’s shoulder as illustrated below.

Next slip 4 fingers of your right hand up to your knuckles in under the saddle between the very top ring of the near side of the saddle. Now with a sliding back and forth motion continue the downward back and forth motion until you reach the breast collar ring. This area should feel snug with even pressure, and is the first indication of a good fit. You do not want to be able to get your whole hand in there easily; because this would indicate a “sloppy” fit. This would also mean that there is no support to prevent all of your weight from being transferred to the top of the tree, resulting in painful pressure points for your horse.

Now, place your 4 fingers back in a central location between the top ring and the breast collar ring and ask the horse to take a few steps toward you while your 4 fingers are still in place. Again you should feel snugness but no pinching. If you feel pinching make sure that you have the front edge of that tree in the saddle up and over where you initially measured the horse.

Proper saddle fitting allows for adequate clearance over the withers

Next, check the clearance under the swell. There should be at least 1-inch clearance on a Western Saddle between the bottom of the swell and the horse’s wither and no more than 2 inches unless your horse is mutton withered.

A mutton-withered horse naturally is going to have more clearance because there is no wither where there is supposed to be. So, as long as everything else is correct the fit should be OK. I would also like to add at this point that on a mutton withered horse your saddle is going to fit more snugly than it would on a horse with more developed or pronounced withers because instead of the bar having 8 inches of surface to rest on, the lack of wither can reduce this surface up to as little as 5 inches. So naturally with less surface area to divide the weight there will be a bit more pressure, but the most important point is that the saddle needs to be level. With these types of horses girth them up with the appropriate rigging, and then check all that has been mentioned in this article.
The next step to do is the off side of the horse, simply repeat the instructions in the above paragraphs.

Breast collars help maintain a well fitting saddle in the proper position

When the above finished has been properly accomplished, attach your breast collar making sure that it is as snug as a leather belt would be to hold your pants up. People that you see riding with a flopping breast collar have improperly attached the collar. The purpose of a breast collar is to hold that saddle exactly where you originally placed it and if it is “sloppy” in its fit, it is merely a decoration and provides no added security with regards to saddle placement.

Proper saddle fitting protects the horse’s spine

Next you need to check clearance at the back of the saddle. Place your right hand under the saddle from the rear, along the horse’s spine, and all the way so that your fingertips are under the cantle back. Now, with your left hand gently push down on the seat. There should be no pressure there at all. If there is any pressure here it needs to be corrected with a pad that has an additional channel for spine relief of the horse. We have a special PB Tree spacer available in most models of our saddles for horse’s that have a protruding spine and are not protected by muscle. This spacer needs to be placed in the tree as the saddle is being built.

Tie your horse on level ground and take a few steps back to analyze the whole picture at this time. Is the saddle level? If it is rising in the back there are several causes and further work will be needed. Is your horse mutton withered? If your horse has a lower wither than most horses then there is inadequate wither to hold this tree level. In this case your horse will need a rear flank set (rear girth) or V-Rigging and some people refer to this as Center Fire Rigging.

For more detailed information check out this website: www.crestridgesaddlery.com

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