Picking out the right English horse saddle can seem like a daunting task. Not only can a poorly fitted saddle cause discomfort and sores for your horse, but it also has the potential to throw off your balance while riding. To ensure you and your horse have the perfect fit, here are some tips on how to measure and fit an English saddle to the rider and horse.

How to Measure an English Saddle

how to measure an english saddle

Before you begin your search for the perfect English saddle, it's important to understand how they are measured. This knowledge provides a better understanding of how English saddles should be fitted - especially when shopping for used saddles. Knowing how to measure a saddle can help you make sure you're getting the right size without having to rely on someone who might not have much experience in saddle fitting.

Here are the steps for measuring an English saddle:

  1. Grab a tape measure
  2. 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 rear part of the saddle that provides support to the rider's back)
  3. The measurement should usually be between 12 and 19 inches

Most companies size their saddles using inch measurements. Generally, these sizes range from 12 to 19 inches, often increasing in half-inch increments. To help you with sizing, here is a basic 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

It's important to note that this chart only gives basic guidelines for finding your correct saddle size. 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.

English Saddle Size and Fitting Chart

English Saddle Size Rider Upper Leg (cm)
14.5” - 15” 40cm or less
16” 40cm - 47cm
16.5” 47cm - 51cm
17” 51cm - 55cm
17.5” 55cm - 58cm
18”+ 59cm or more

fit the saddle for the rider

How Should an English Saddle Fit?

As an equestrian, it is important to know how to fit an English saddle properly. Having a well-fitted saddle can make all the difference in terms of your and your horse’s comfort while riding. It should fit securely yet comfortably on the horse’s back and give the rider enough space to have a balanced seat in the correct position. Knowing how to fit an English saddle properly will allow you and your horse to enjoy stress-free rides together.

How should the English Saddle fit the rider?

When it comes to fitting English saddles for the rider, most companies provide their own sizing chart. It's important to remember that in addition to these measurements, height, weight, and body type can all affect the size of the saddle you will fit into. For example, a tall and slim rider may fit into the seat of a medium adult saddle but may need the length of a 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 saddle's seat. Short riders also make similar compromises to adjust for their leg size.

The best way to determine your correct saddle size is by visiting a tack shop and trying out a few 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 tips 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 the English Saddle fit the horse?

Choosing the right saddle for your horse is crucial, but how should an English saddle fit the horse? A saddle that is not properly fitted can create pinching, causing sores on the horse's back. Riding with an uncomfortable saddle may lead to behavioral issues and can hamper the rider's effectiveness. 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 to buy your horse a correctly fitted saddle, so both of you can enjoy comfortable rides.

Here are some tips for getting the right fit:

When selecting a saddle for your horse, the first step is to place it onto its back without any additional padding. It's important to ensure that the saddle gullet is at least three fingers away from your horse's withers. If the fit is good, the saddle should not touch any part of your horse's spine. However, if the gullet is too wide, it may press on your horse's withers and cause discomfort; if it is too narrow, it might create an angle that pinches them.

Tip: Many people put the saddle too far forward on the horse's 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.

Next, make sure the panels of the saddle apply even pressure on the horse's 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 horse's back. If large areas are not receiving pressure, other areas are receiving extra pressure. Overall, the angles of the saddle panels should be parallel to the horse's back, and there should be even contact throughout the saddle.

Finally, place the saddle on your horse's back without additional padding, and rock it side to side and then back to front by placing your hands on the pommel and the cantel. If there is too much movement, this may indicate a poor fit. You should not feel any more than a half inch of movement when doing this test. Additionally, the saddle needs to remain almost perfectly level in order to achieve even pressure from back to front.

Tip: A common mistake is buying a saddle that seems fit but is too long for the horse's 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.

How do you know if the English Saddle fits correctly?

Taking the time to assess your English saddle's fit properly will ensure a comfortable ride for you and your horse. The saddle should fit snugly behind your horse's shoulder blade, with no gaps between the horse's back and the panels of the saddle. You should also check that the treewidth is appropriate for your horse; it should be wide enough to allow for even weight distribution but not so wide that it causes the rider to feel unstable in the saddle. Additionally, be sure to check for any signs of rubbing or pinching, as an ill-fitting saddle may cause long-term discomfort to your horse.

Ultimately, the best way to determine if an English saddle fits correctly is to have a professional saddle fitter evaluate the fit. A professional saddle fitter can observe the horse's conformation, measure the saddle tree and panels, and use specialized pads or wedges to adjust the fit of the saddle. In addition, they can assess how well the rider is balanced in the saddle and make recommendations based on their findings. It is important to remember that not all saddles fit every horse equally, so it is always best to have a professional help evaluate the fit. It may be necessary to adjust or replace the saddle from time to time as the horse's shape changes with age or conditioning. The best way to ensure a comfortable ride is to make sure your English saddle fits both horse and rider correctly.