Monday, May 23, 2011

Reader Question on Saddle Fit

Received this question: Is there a way to fit a saddle that has full quarter bars to a horse that needs a medium bar without buying a new saddle?

I think we can all agree that it is impossible for one saddle to fit all horses. This is because the difference in the widths of the saddle-tree bars, their angle, length and flare. I also think we all have saddled horses with saddles and bars too narrow for the best fit....that's probably because most of us have saddles older than our horses.

Quarter horse bars are going to narrower in width and have a steeper angle than say semi-quarter horse bars (medium bars) and full quarter horse bars. Horses today seem to have shorter withers, bigger shoulders and flatter backs, hence the move away from older quarter horse bars fitting higher withered horses, to semi and full quarter horse bars.

You really should have a saddle that fits your horse, but money wise, this is unrealistic for most people. You can do a little bit to fit the horse through using the appropriate saddle pad and/or blanket, but you can't make up a really poor fit this way. Imagine piling up a bunch of folded blankets on a chair then sitting on it,....doesn't feel balanced at all, does it?

I use an Impact Gel felt saddle pad and a blanket on top between the pad and the blanket. I think my saddle pad is half inch thick, certainly no thicker than three-quarters of an inch. I don't like the real thick one inch saddle pads, not do I use anything but felt. A few months ago, I went to a much thinner, all wool blanket which helps reduce the space between the saddle and the horses back. Previous to this I was using a blanket folded in half which produced more bulk and weight.

Saddle pads have came along way in the last twenty years. It's common to find a pad with a cut out to protect the withers and a tented center than protects contact from the horse's backbone. I always tent the pad and blanket at the withers when I saddle so when I cinch up it's reduces any discomfort at the withers.
The pictures show the saddle, pad and withers relationship before and after tenting. I think it also allows a better saddle bar to horse withers and shoulder fit.

You can try to fit a better fit for your saddle using different pads and blanket combinations. Look to ensure the flare of the forward saddle bars fit the shoulders below the withers and fit the back at the same time. Look for two inches (or two fingers) of clearance in the gullet from the top of the horse's withers.

Maybe a neoprene pad may not slip as much, although I would hate to use a rubber pad as I think it reduces the ability to breath and gets hot faster than a felt, wool or fleece pad and I am describing the pad that makes contact with the horse's back. I find it kinda odd that a lot of pads are described by the material the saddle sits on as opposed to what makes contact with the horse.

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