Is Your Western Saddle the Right Size for You?

Western Saddle

At first glance the saddle of cowboys doesn’t appear to be a precision instrument. But despite its rustic appearance there is intrinsic refinement behind its functionality. Even slight flaws in fit can impact the comfort and effectiveness of a rider and have a negative impact on the performance of the horse.

Click here to read about properly fitting a saddle to your horse >>

Is your saddle a good match? Here’s how to find out:

Check the space between your leg and pommel.
Sit in the saddle on a horse or saddle stand if you have one strong enough to support your weight. With your feet out of the stirrups hold your leg in the correct riding position, long with a slight bend to the knee and the heel directly beneath your hip bone. Using three fingers check the space between your thigh and the saddle’s swell or pommel. If they fit perfectly, your saddle has passed the first test. You will have plenty of room to maneuver your legs so you can cue your horse easily and maintain a secure seat.

Check the space between you and the cantle.
Sit tall with your spine straight. There should be enough space for your open hand between your derrière and the back of the seat. In other words, your back pockets shouldn’t touch the cantle. Its function is not to provide support. Your seat is an integral natural aid. You should be able to shift your weight to facilitate gait changes and increases/decreases of speed. Maneuverability is also important for staying in sync with your horse’s motion.

Check the twist.
This is the part of the saddle’s framework upon which your sit. Twists can be wide, narrow, and vary in shape. Learn what width and shape you prefer by trying different saddles. Many riders find a narrow twist more comfortable. It allows your legs to be closer to the horse for enhanced feel and connection. Whatever your preference, choose a twist that will give you the best ride.

Check the stirrups.
Even when the seat is a perfect fit, poorly positioned stirrups will spoil your ride. If they hang too far forward, you will be fighting to keep your legs where they belong. Proper hip-to-heel alignment is vital for proper balance on your horse; your saddle should help you maintain that position. Visualize your saddle from the side. The stirrup fender should be situated directly beneath the center of the seat. Now take a seat. Your leg should naturally fall in line with the fender. Next, pick up the stirrup. If it’s in the right place, all you’ll have to do is lift the toe of your boot and slip your foot in. If you have to bring your leg forward, you’ll find yourself struggling to maintain leg position when you ride.

Riding is a challenging sport. Give yourself the gift of a perfectly fitting saddle to help you reach your goals in comfort and with greater ease.

Liked this article? Here are others on tack fit:
Saddle Fit
Western Saddle Fit Problems Revealed in New Study
Breaking in a New Saddle

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Dale Rudin is a Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA)-certified riding instructor, welfare-centered trainer, rehabilitation specialist, saddle fitter, and certified equine nutritionist. She is a founding member of Force-Free Tennessee, an animal...


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