Your Guide to Fitting an English Saddle

This article teaches riders about how to fit an english saddle and the various types like dressage saddles, close contact saddles, and all-purpose saddles.

How to Fit an English Saddle

Buying the correct english horse saddle that fits both you and your horse is a difficult task. The wrong saddle could lead to discomfort, sores, and back pain for your horse, not to mention that poorly fitted saddles can impair a rider's balance. Here we will walk you through how to find the perfect english riding saddle whether you are hitting the show ring or enjoying the trails.

How to Measure for an English Saddle

How to Measure an English Saddle

Before you begin your search for your perfect saddle, it’s important to know how they are measured. This will help you understand how a saddle is fitted, which is especially important when shopping for used saddles. If you know how to measure a saddle you won’t have to rely on the expertise of a store owner who might not know much about saddle fitting.

To measure a saddle, grab a tape measure and measure the length from the center of the nail head (the metal piece below the pommel and just above the d-ring) to the top of the cantel. The measurement should usually be between 12 and 19 inches.

Most companies size their saddles using these inch measurements. Saddles can be sizes 12-19 and often increase in half inch increments. Here is a basic size chart:


Children’s Saddle: 12”-13”
Small Adult Saddle: 14”
Medium Adult Saddle: 15”
Large Adult Saddle: 16”
Extra Large Adult Saddle: 17” or above

Though this chart will help you understand the basics of saddle sizing, finding your correct size is a bit more complicated than knowing whether you're a small, medium, or large person. Factors like height, weight, and personal preference are also important when fitting a saddle.

Fit an English Saddle for the Rider

How Should an English Saddle Fit the Rider?

Most companies offer a specific sizing chart for customers shopping for an English Saddle. Often, english saddles are also fitted to riders based on height, weight, and body type. For example, a tall and slim rider may fit into the seat of a medium adult saddle, but may need the length of the large adult saddle. Oftentimes, tall riders opt for larger saddle sizes to account for the length of their legs, and compromise on the fit of the saddles seat. Short riders also make similar compromises to adjust for their leg size. Your height, weight, and body type will determine which saddle size will work best for you.

The best way for anyone to find their saddle size is to visit a tack shop and try some saddles. While sitting, ensure you are in the ideal riding position by placing your balance in the center of the saddle. Bringing a friend or mentor who has chosen a saddle before can also be helpful when trying new saddles. Here are some rules to help you determine if the saddle fits:

When you sit you should be able to fit about 3-4 fingers between your rump and the tip of the cantle; You should feel secure in the saddle and your knees should not go over the knee block or knee roll when the stirrups are correctly adjusted.

If you are between saddle sizes, it is recommended that you size up, but also consider your discipline and your personal saddle preferences when choosing between sizes.

How Should an Englsh Saddle Fit the Horse?

Fitting the saddle to your horse is another crucial step, saddles that fit poorly can pinch your horse and cause sores on their back. An uncomfortable saddle can also cause behavioral problems and affect your effectiveness while riding. Horses may buck or kick out in response to painful pinching or rubbing of the saddle, or they might nip and pin their ears when you are tacking up. To avoid this, make sure you buy your horse a saddle that fits correctly so you can both ride in comfort. Here are some guidelines to ensure that your saddle properly fits your horse:

First, put the saddle on your horses back without any padding. Ensure that the gullet of the saddle is 3 fingers away from the horse's withers. If the saddle fits well, it should not touch any part of the horse's spine. If the gullet is too wide the saddle will press on their withers, if it is too narrow the angle of the saddle will cause pinching.

Next, make sure the panels of the saddle apply even pressure on the horses back. You can do this by feeling underneath the saddle. The saddle panels should not have large spaces that don’t have contact with the horses back. If there are large areas not receiving pressure, there are other areas receiving extra pressure. Overall, the angles of the saddle panels should be parallel to the horses back and there should be even contact throughout the saddle.

Finally, place the saddle on your horses back without pads, and rock it side to side and then back to front by placing your hands on the horn and the cantel. A little movement is okay, but too much movement indicates a poor fit. If it moves more than a half inch off your horses back when you do this test, it doesn’t fit. The saddle must be almost perfectly level to ensure there is even pressure from back to front. In dressage saddles, sometimes the cantle may be a couple of inches higher than the pommel. If you are fitting a dressage saddle, simply ensure that the deepest part of the saddle falls in the middle of the seat.

Common Mistakes of Saddle Fitting

If you follow our guidelines you will likely find success in fitting a saddle to your horse. But there are also a lot of common mistakes riders make when they fit a western saddle to their horse. Here are some common mistakes you can avoid when fitting a saddle.

1. Many people put the saddle too far forward on the horses back which blocks movement in the shoulder blade. The front bar of the saddle tree needs to rest behind the shoulder blade so it can move freely. The skirt of the saddle and pads can touch the shoulder blade, but the tree should rest behind it.

2. Another common mistake people make is buying a saddle that seems fit, but is actually too long for the horses back. If the saddle is longer than the ribs of the horse, it will always interfere with the lumbar and cause significant lower back pain. This can cause the horse to act up and refuse to canter during rides.

3. Many riders also have underlying issues in their riding that are responsible for their horses back pain, but they mistake these issues for a problem with saddle fit. Sitting too far back or too far forward in the saddle can put uneven pressure on the horses back and cause discomfort. Always consider your position before coming to the conclusion that a saddle doesn't fit.

Picking the Perfect English Saddle

Picking the Perfect English Saddle

Now you’ve learned about how to fit your saddle, but what kind of saddle do you want to buy?

To start, you can choose from a leather or synthetic english saddle. Leather is the classical and durable option that has been used by riders for hundreds of years. If you properly care for your leather saddle it will last for years. However, synthetic saddles are cheaper, lightweight, easy to clean, and look almost identical to their leather counterparts.

Next, there are many different types of english saddles to pick from. Consider the type of riding you want to do with your horse and choose the saddle type that best meets your needs.

All Purpose Saddles: All purpose saddles are designed to accommodate all kinds of english riding. These saddles are designed to work for dressage, jumping, and trail riding. They usually have a low pommel to allow riders to jump, a deep seat to use during flat work, and comfortable padding for comfort on the trails. These saddles are usually used for beginner riders or leisure riders who simply want to enjoy the trails.

Dressage Saddles: Dressage saddles are designed for riding on the flat. These saddles have deep seats, a long flap, and position the rider over the horse’s center of gravity. Most dressage saddles also have knee rolls and leg blocks to help riders maintain their leg position.

Jumping or Close Contact Saddles: English jumping saddles are typically the best show jumping and hunter jumper saddles. Jumping saddles position the rider slightly ahead of the center of gravity and have a low pommel so the rider can clear the saddle while in the air over a jump. These saddles also have shallow seats, a square cantel, and forward flap

Once you’ve found your perfect saddle don’t wait! There are numerous payment plans and leasing options available so you can get your new saddle right away without having to immediately pay in full. Once you’ve chosen your saddle, check out Schneiders financing options to make sure you purchase your horse’s western tack using the best possible price plan.