The gullet of a saddle is the central section that separates the two padded panels on the underside of the seat,
but the term refers more to the open space between the bars of a saddle than it does the physical leather strip running from front to back.
Some mistakenly think that a gullet is fitted to suit the rider in some way, but that’s not the case. While a well-fitted saddle can make the rider feel more stable up there,
the gullet is actually measured to make a saddle more comfortable for the horse.
The purpose of the gullet (combined with the padding) is to elevate the central section of the saddle so the weight of the rider (and saddle) isn’t exerted directly onto the spine of the horse, rather, the strong lateral muscles to the side of the back at the base of the ribs.
If a gullet is too wide, there will be no supportive gap between the spine and the saddle, which will be painful for your horse.
If the gullet is too narrow, the gap will be there, but the panels will be too tight against their body, especially when forced down by the rider’s weight.
Measuring Your Horse For A Gullet
The easiest way to measure your horse’s gullet is to use a gullet gauge and a piece of chalk, but don’t worry if you don’t have them, because I’m going to tell you how you can do this with things you’ll have lying around the house, as well.
Feel for your horse’s shoulder. Once you’ve located it, trace from the top of the joint backwards, towards the ribs. The muscle of the shoulder will guide your hand.
This muscle line may be less distinct on plumper horses, but whatever you do, try not to press too hard, as this will cause discomfort.
Once you reach the end of the shoulder joint and muscle, pause right where you are. With your hand still on your horse,
measure three fingers from the end of the shoulder, then take your chalk in your other hand, and mark a line following your third finger straight up towards the spine.
The chalk line you’ve just made is the guide you’ll use to position your gullet gauge on your horse, as this line is precisely where the forks of your saddle are going to rest.
Bend your gullet gauge in the center a little, then place it over your horse’s spine, and firmly press it against their sides until it’s bent into the shape of their form. Do this on both sides, to get a precise tracing of your horse’s shape.
Remove the gullet gauge, and voilà; you’ve just measured your horse’s gullet. The forks will splay at the exact width shown by the gauge, and the padding of the panels will lift the gullet above your horse’s spine.
How To Measure A Horse’s Gullet Without A Gullet Gauge
To measure your horse’s gullet without a gullet measuring tool, you’ll need three things:
- A Sharpie (or some other permanent marker)
- A measuring tape. I prefer retractable tapes, but if you’re more of a loose, fabric kind of person, then stick to your guns.
Bend the center of the hanger’s bottom wire up to make a V shape.
Find the sweet spot using the shoulder technique mentioned earlier.
Use the hangar the same way you’d use the gullet gauge, but don’t press it quite as hard into their body, as the rounded edges may cause discomfort. As such, there will be a bit of a gap between the zenith of the central bend and your horse’s spine.
Take your Sharpie and mark the exact point of the hanger where the wire makes first contact with the side of your horse.
Use your tape measure to measure across from your marked point to the other side of the hanger, and that’s your gullet measurement.
How To Measure the Gullet Of A Finished Saddle
I think we can both agree that saddles aren’t cheap, and a great way to save a significant amount of money is to buy second-hand, but herein lies a problem. How do you know if the gullet is the right size for your horse?
Well, it’s actually not that hard to figure out. All you have to do is measure from bar to bar, but make sure you measure below the bars rather than in front or on top of them, otherwise, your measurements will be way off.
How To Test If A Gullet Is Suitable For A Horse
If you’re wondering how you would test a new saddle to see if the gullet has been correctly sized, or perhaps you’re wondering if an old saddle will fit a new horse, there’s a handy little trick you can use.
All you have to do is place the prospective saddle on your house, then see if you can fit three fingers vertically between the withers of the horse and the front lip of the saddle.
If you can fit three fingers in the gap, the saddle is generally considered a good fit. If you have to force your fingers into the gap or perhaps there’s enough space to fit a fourth finger, then the gullet hasn’t been measured correctly.
A second test you can do if you’re still unsure of the fit is to slide your hand under the panel of the saddle. If it’s a good fit, you should be able to reach under the panel with ease.
If you find it difficult to slide your fingers under, or it feels too tight against your hand, the saddle is not appropriate for your horse.
And that’s really all there is to it. Now you can measure the gullet of your horse or a saddle with confidence; however,
I’d still recommend consulting a horse chiropractor to double-check everything is A-okay, and that your horse feels comfortable wearing their new saddle before your ride.