How To Measure A Horse Saddle

Everything to do with horseback riding is so expensive, isn’t it? That’s one of the reasons why quality second-hand equestrian gear is so widely bought and sold.

How to Measure a Horse Saddle

It can save you hundreds of dollars if you’re trying to buy large ticket items like saddles if you buy second-hand. The only problem is that,

just like us, horses come in all different shapes and sizes and we love them for it, but saddles are not a one size fits all kind of item. In order to save yourself time and possibly money,

we’ve put together this handy guide to show you how to accurately measure a saddle to see if it will fit your horse and be comfortable for you.

Let’s start with English saddles, as these are very popular in modern equestrian sports and activities. 

How To Measure An English Saddle

It’s best practice when buying or selling a saddle to measure the seat, but to also measure the flap length and the tree width. This gives the best chance of the buyer getting a saddle that fits their horse comfortably. 

Before you start measuring, you’ll need a couple of things to hand. Firstly, you will need a tape measure with inch increments and a pad and pen or some other way to record the measurements. 

Step One: Put the saddle on a saddle rack or similar apparatus with the seat facing upwards. Now, locate the pommel which is the raised bump at the front of the saddle.

On either side of this, there should be two nailheads. Depending on the brand of the saddle, the nailheads might have a crest or brand name engraved into them. 

Step Two: Put the zero end of your measuring tape on one of the nailheads and then measure in a straight line to the center of the cantle which is the raised back of the saddle.

This measurement should be accurate to the closest half-inch and can be referred to as the seat size.

Make sure you are measuring in a straight line and not bending the tape measure to follow the curve of the seat of the saddle. 

Step Three: Lift the leather skirt of your saddle until you can access the stirrup bar, which is a narrow strip of metal at the front of the saddle.

Find the center of the stirrup bar. Now measure from there to the bottom of the saddle flap and record the number as the saddle flap length. 

Step four: Laying the saddle on its back so the cantle is touching the ground, look at the underside of your saddle.

The gullet is the leather strip that runs down the center of the saddle from back to front. To the side of the gullet, you should find the panels of the saddle.

At the front of each of these panels, you should be able to find four felt dots. Measure the distance between the two dots closest to the gullet for the “dot-to-dot” length. 

These three measurements should help you get the right saddle size for your horse or find a suitable buyer for one you want to sell.

How to Measure a Horse Saddle

How To Measure A Western Saddle

You can measure a Western Saddle in the same way as an English saddle but with a tweak or two. When you measure the seat of a Western saddle you should measure form the base of the horn at the front of the saddle to the edge of the cantle.

Alternatively, if you know the measurements of an English saddle that fits you and your horse then you can take the seat measurement from that English saddle and subtract two inches to find the size of Western saddle you may need. 

Another key difference between measuring an English saddle and a Western one is that you will need to measure the skirt length as well as the other measurments.

To measure the skirt you simply need to measure form the front of the skirt to the back in a straight line. The skirt length does matter for Western saddles because it helps to distribute the weight of the rider over a greater area.

If the skirt goes over the point of the horses hip, this can become uncomfortable for the horse as it will rub, so you’ll need a shorter skirt.

If you have a short-backed breed of horse or a pony, they will likely need a short skirt for a Western saddle. 

How Do I Know If My Saddle Fits Me? 

As a rule of thumb…well, hand, you should be able to fit one hand between you and the highest point of the pommel and one hand again between you and the cantle at the back of the saddle.

Measuring by “hands” is a usual method of measuring distance when it comes to all things horse-related.

A hand is otherwise known as four inches so that may help you to work out if you’re sat in the right sized saddle for you.

As a general rule, young and petite riders might fit a 15 inch English saddle, an average sized female rider might fit a 16 inch and larger or taller adults might need a 17 inch saddle.

Measurements for Western saddles are as follows, Youth riders may fit a 12” or 13” saddle, a petitie adult might fit a 14” and the average adult will ride in a 15” western saddle. 

You’ll also need to think about the size of the horse you intend to saddle. Different sizes and breeds will need different widths of gullets depending on their bone structure. 

A heplful hint to consider when choosing a saddle that will accommodate you is that when you sit in the saddle with your feet in stirrups, your knee should not be protruding past the saddle flap edge.

Ideally there should be two or three fingers width between your knee and the edge of the saddle flap. If there isn’t, then you might need to adjust the stirrups and possibly try a bigger saddle. 

Final Thoughts

When measuring for a new or second-hand saddle, it’s vital that your measurements are accurate and adhere to the industry standards which we have outlined in this article.

Hopefully, with our help, you will now be able to measure a saddle accurately whether it is a Western or a traditional English saddle. 

The best advice we could give you regarding purchasing a saddle, is to try it out before you buy it. It’s often not possible,

due to transportation logistics but it’s even better if you can try it with your horse and yourself in the saddle to check it’s going to suit you and your steed.

We haven’t mentioned much about how to tell what width of gullet you will need because thats a whole other guide, but you will need to consider the width of your saddle,

which is determined by the width of the gullet based on the build of your horse. When all is said and done,

if your saddle seat doesn’t protrude past your horse’s last rib and the sides of the saddle and flaps are flush against your horses sides with no visible gaps, then you’re probably on the right track.

Catherine McDowl
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