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Sizing a Saddle: Why Does it Matter?

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Written by: Brad Heath

Are you ready to buy a new saddle? Determining what size saddle that you need is very important. If your saddle doesn’t fit right, it’ll result in a very uncomfortable ride for both you and your horse. In this guide, we’ve broken down exactly what you need to know to correctly size a saddle. So, get ready to ride comfortably and in style!

You May Also Be Interested In: A Moldy Dilemma: How to Clean and Maintain Your Saddle the Right Way

Western Saddle vs. English Saddle: What’s the Difference?

There are two primary types of saddles, Western saddles and English saddles. These saddles are very different, and they are used in different disciplines of horseback riding. 

western horse saddleWestern Saddles

These saddles are typically constructed from high-quality heavy leather. Western saddles are often heavier and wider in comparison to English saddles. Western saddles usually have a bit more stability than English saddles as they’re designed to evenly distribute the weight of the rider. Western saddles are used across many disciplines such as:

  • Barrel racing

  • Endurance riding

  • Show riding

  • Ranch/arena work

  • Pleasure or trail riding

  • Roping

  • Reining

  • Mounted shooting

english horse saddleEnglish Saddles

In contrast, English saddles are often a lot lighter, and they are made from a more lightweight material. These saddles are designed to give the horse more room to be agile, while still maintaining comfortability for the rider. Since these saddles are smaller than Western saddles, they give the horse more room for movement. English saddles are used in a wide variety of disciplines such as:

  • Dressage

  • Polo

  • English showing

  • Jumping

What Are the Parts of a Saddle?

When you start determining the saddle size that you need, you’ll need to be well-versed in the different parts of a saddle. 

A saddle seat is made up of many different components:

  • Seat

  • Horn

  • Swell (also called the Fork or Pommel)

  • Gullet

  • Front and rear rigs

  • Blevins

  • Hobble strap

  • Stirrup

  • Fender

  • Seat jockey

  • Billet strap

  • Skirt

  • Concho

  • Cantle

parts of a saddle

What Size Saddle Do I Need?

There are few general rules to follow when it comes to determining your saddle size.

  • Although sizing charts can provide a good sizing basis, size preference is very personal. It’s often recommended to size up if you’re unsure. Having a saddle that’s too big rather than too small is better, as a saddle that’s too small can cause chafing.

  • The 4-inch rule: there should be right at least 4 inches in between the swell of the saddle and your groin area. 

  • Cantle size also plays a big role in determining the size of the saddle that you will need. A cantle that is smaller than 4” will give you a more relaxed position while riding. A cantle bigger than 4” offers more lumbar support (best if you have back pain while riding and need the extra support). 

Saddle sizes are generally grouped into 5 different sizing categories.

Very Large/Tall: 18” - 20” saddle

XL Adult: 17” saddle

Large Adult: 16” saddle

Average Adult: 15” saddle

Small Adult: 14” saddle

There are also youth saddles available as well. A youth saddle size will be around 12-13”.

You’ll know that your saddle fits if you’re comfortable while you’re riding. If it doesn’t fit, keep an eye out for signs like feeling unstable on your horse, feeling uncomfortable, difficulty keeping your balance, or even knee pain. These are all signs that you are using a misfitted saddle. 

How to Measure a Western Saddle

Western saddle sizes vary greatly. To measure a western saddle seat, take a tape measure and place one end at the back of the swell, and place the other end at the front edge of the cantle. Tip: Make sure that the tape measure isn’t lagging - it needs to be a tight and a straight across line to get an accurate measurement. 

Here is a quick video that shows measuring a western saddle in action:


What Size Western Saddle Do I Need?

If you’ve never purchased a western saddle before and would like to know some general Western saddle measurements to determine a good size for you, check out this quick Western saddle size chart below:

Height of the Rider

Weight of the Rider

5 foot - 5 foot 5 inches

5 foot 6 inches - 5 foot 9 inches

5 foot 10 inches +

100-125 lbs. 

15”

15”

15”

126-145 lbs.

16” 

16” 

16” 

146-165 lbs.

16” 

16” 

16” 

165-185 lbs.

16” 

16” 

16” 

166-195 lbs. 

17” 

16” 

16” 

196-225 lbs.

17” 

17” 

17” 

226-250 lbs.

17” 

17” 

17” 

250 lbs. +

18” 

18” 

18” 

You can also check out this Western Saddle Size calculator tool.

What Size English Saddle Do I Need? 

When determining the size of the English saddle that you’ll need, there are 2 parts of the saddle that you need to reference: the gullet and the seat. 

To find what size English saddle size to purchase, it’s a very simple process. Sit in a chair with your butt pushed to the back of the chair and your feet resting on the floor. Ensure that your knees are at a 90 degree bent angle. Then, use a tape measure on the side of your thigh. Measure from the back of your knee to the back of your butt.

Once you have your measurement, you can reference this English saddle size chart.

Measurement

English Saddle Size

Less than 16.5”

15” saddle

16.5” - 18.5”

16” saddle

18.5” - 20” 

16.5” saddle

20” - 21.5” 

17” saddle

21.5” - 23” 

17.5” saddle

23” or more

18” saddle

How Do I Know if My Saddle Fits My Horse? 

Now that we’ve discussed how to fit a saddle for you as the rider, how do you know if the saddle fits your horse? To know if the saddle fits properly for your horse, put the saddle on the horse without a saddle pad. The bars of the saddle should make contact along your horse’s back. This ensures that the pressure is distributed evenly. Keep in mind that as horses age, their weight and body shape can change. Even if your saddle has fit for years, it may start to become unfitted for your horse over time.

There are some signs of a misfitted saddle that you should be on the lookout for in your horse:

  • Balding patches underneath the saddle

  • Sensitivity to the touch where the saddle lays

  • The horse refuses to move or even bucks

  • Unwarranted bad behavior

  • Head tossing

  • The saddle starts to appear uneven on the horses back

  • The saddle is moving around too much while riding 

What’s the Best Western Saddle to Buy?

Choosing a high quality horse saddle can make all of the difference. With the proper care, horse saddles can easily last for 20-25 years. It’s important that when you’re shopping for a saddle that you take your time and choose wisely.

We have reviewed and compared the top Western saddle brands to help you choose the best option for you and your horse.

Western Saddle Brand

Best For

Price 

Pros

Cons

Circle Y Western Saddles

Those who want a durable saddle from a reputable brand

$$$

Comfortable, lots of styles/designs, lightweight, made in the USA

Expensive 

Dakota Western Saddles

Those who want a budget-friendly saddle

$

High-quality, close contact for a Western

Some taller customers have stated that the fenders are too long for short legs 

Billy Cook Western Saddles

Those who want a fully customizable saddle 

$$

Saddles available for different activities and even different breeds, customers say like “riding on a cloud

On the heavier side 

Tucker Western Saddles

Those who spend long amounts of time in the saddle

$$

Extremely comfortable for extended periods of riding

Some customers have stated that they wished the stirrup was simpler to adjust

High Horse Western Saddles

Those who primarily trail ride

$$

Adjustable position flat plate rigging

Customers stated it was a bit heavier than expected

What’s the Best English Saddle to Buy?

Just as with Western saddles, an English saddle is a big investment that should last you many years. There are many brands that specialize in English saddles. Check out this quick comparison chart to help determine what is the best English saddle brand to choose from. 

English Saddle Brand

Best For

Price 

Pros

Cons

Antares English Saddles

Those who are pro English discipline riders

$$$

Top-of-the-line quality and performance, increased shock absorption

Very pricey and possibly out of budget for most people

Bates English Saddles

Those who want a comfortable English saddle 

$$

Adjustable saddle components for a customized fit

Some customers agree that the cantle is too high

Collegiate English Saddles

Those who are beginners to English riding

$

Doesn’t need to be broken in - the leather is soft, not stiff

High maintenance because of the fine quality of the leather 

Pessoa English Saddles

Those who want a balanced ride

$$

Extra grip seat design, durable wear guards

Not very close contact, especially for an English saddle

Buying a Saddle Online

Most people prefer to shop for saddles in-person. Shopping in-person allows you to see and touch various saddles. However, shopping in a retail store location is not always possible or convenient. Buying a horse saddle online has become a more popular trend in recent years. Now that we have the internet at our fingertips, we can easily browse brands and reviews online, look up pictures, watch videos, and more. When it comes to buying a horse saddle online, there are a few things that we suggest that you look for:

#1: Excellent Customer Service

When shopping online, an excellent customer service department is a must. Let’s be honest…nothing is worse than an unresponsive customer service team. 

#2: Return Policy

Ensure that the saddle retailer that you choose from has a return policy that works for you. If you purchase the saddle and don’t like it, you don’t want to be stuck with thousands of dollars wasted in a saddle that you can’t use.

#3: Large Inventory

If you want to choose the right saddle for you, you’ll want to explore all of your options. Choose a retailer that has a large variety of brands, styles, and plenty of user reviews for you to browse.

#4: Financing

Budget is a big deciding factor for a lot of people when it comes to buying a saddle. Some retailers offer financing. If you have your heart set on a luxury saddle that you can’t pay all at once, opting for a retailer that has a financing program available is helpful.

Where is the Best Place to Buy a Saddle Online? 

With these tips in mind, maybe now you’re wondering: where should I look online to buy a horse saddle?

After careful consideration, our team has determined that the best place to buy a Western saddle and English saddle online is HorseSaddleShop.com. Why?

  • Horse Saddle Shop has excellent customer service. Their website offers a saddle expert hotline that you can call to discuss your saddle needs. They also have a live chat feature to utilize and can be contacted via email as well.

  • Horse Saddle Shop has a fantastic return and exchange policy. They offer a 2-week money back guarantee on their saddles for returns. If you want to completely return your item - you have that option. In addition, you can easily just exchange the saddle for another one if you’d like.

  • Horse Saddle Shop has a huge inventory of saddles. Their site features new and used English and Western saddles from brands like Circle Y, Dakota, Reinsman, Bates, Collegiate, Billy Cook, and more. 

  • Horse Saddle Shop also offers financing. Customers can apply for 0% monthly payment plans for terms of 6, 12, or 18 months.

Bonuses: 

Aside from excelling in the most important areas, we chose Horse Saddle Shop as our recommended online saddle retailer for these bonus reasons as well:

  • Offer other tack supplies

  • Have an interactive saddle designer tool

  • Offer saddle trade-ins

  • Family owned

  • Offer a saddle recommender tool based on your needs

  • Often run clearance events and sales

Conclusion

Sizing a saddle correctly is crucial, but it isn’t a difficult process. By following these helpful tips and saddle sizing charts, you’ll have your dream saddle picked out in no time. If you’re ready to shop now, check out HorseSaddleShop.com!



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