Horse Shopping (Saddle Length Part 2)
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
As a saddle fitter, I have been asked many times does my bum look too big in this saddle? The answer is sometimes yes, but it’s also the largest saddle the horse can take, and there has to be a compromise somewhere. You should not fit past the last rib or over the scapular, so the simple answer is that the rider has to compromise or buy a bigger horse, with the latter being an unfavourable option!
The long-term issues that can arise from buying a horse or pony that has too small a saddle platform for the rider to be comfortable are:
• Lack of balance as you get tipped forwards through too small a seat size and the cantle pushing you forwards. • Rubbed pubic bone/crutch causing chafing/painful bruising/bleeding from being pushed onto the pommel. • Lower back pain. • Hip pain. Horse issues
• Sore back from saddles fitted past the last rib. • Sore shoulders from saddles fitted too long. • Rubs under the saddle from too much pressure • White hairs from too much pressure • Stumbling from too heavy a weight • The uneven balance of rider weight.
Here is a simple guide to working out if the horse they are thinking of buying is actually suitable for them in both size and conformation, including examples.
17hh Sec D
This horse has a very high point of wither and is xw fit, but also has a low flat back and a very short saddle platform. He needs the saddle set well back from the withers and scapular to balance the saddle and allow free shoulder movement.
The same horse's saddle platform, from the back edge of the scapular to the last rib is 48cm/18 ¾”, but the shoulder needs to be able to move, most horses with high, wide withers need the saddle set back, so the shoulders are free, and the saddle seat balance is level. This horse can only just take a relatively short panelled 17” straight cut GP. Although the saddle platform measurement is 48cm/18 ¾”, the saddle needs to be 3-5cm1-2” back from the scapular, and if the horse is croup high, the saddle needs to end in front of the last rib. So this horse saddle platform is only 43cm/17 ¼” hence he has a 17” saddle.
Saddle set back out of the scapular/shoulder blade.
17” GP saddle on 17hh Sec D, set back from the shoulder.
Bruce a 15hh riding horse, nicely put together.
Scapular to last rib 47cm/18 ¼” when you take off 5cm/2” for shoulder movement, that gives you 42cm /16” very small space for a saddle on a 15hh horse.
16.5” saddle set as far back as it can go without going past the last rib.
This is Bruce’s 16.5” saddle with a short than average panel, this is how to measure panel length.
The basic equation is measure scapular to last rib, if the horse has a straight back with no rise to the croup subtract 5cm/2” this will give you the panel length your horse can take, most saddle panels measure longer than the seat size by up to 2” especially saddles with deep gussets on the rear panel.
20yr old WHP, saddled the same way for over 5 years with a lovely back not looking his age! He is slightly croup high, with a wither that runs a long way back.
43cm/19.5” scapular to last rib but 43cm/17” scapular to rise in croup.
This is a 16” saddle on the WHP with a short panel which he likes working in. The rider is a small light weight.