3 Common Saddle Fit Terms (And What They Mean)

When you’re trying to ensure a comfortable saddle fit for your horse, don’t be confused by these common terms.

This article is part of our Saddle Up With Comfort Awareness Campaign, brought to you by 5 Star Equine Products.

Tree

The tree is the skeleton for Western saddles. All the remaining terms depend on the tree on which your saddle is made. There are fiberglass and wood trees, which type you use will depend greatly on the type of riding you plan to do with your horse. Saddle-makers create the tree to distribute your weight evenly across your horse’s loin muscles. The purpose of the tree is to create a larger surface area to distribute weight and pressure.

Indeed, a well-built tree is the most important part of a saddle. Unfortunately, a twisted or warped tree can cause pain or pressure points for your horse, and even create health issues.

Gullet

The tunnel-shaped area under the horn and pommel is called the gullet. It creates space for your horse’s withers. If the tree of the saddle is too narrow or wide, you’ll notice it in the gullet area first. 

The gullet’s primary function is to ensure that the saddle sits correctly on the horse’s back without causing discomfort or pressure points. Thus , it should allow sufficient space for the horse’s withers and spine to move freely while distributing the rider’s weight evenly.

An easy test to see if your saddle fits through the gullet is to have a friend first hold your horse. Next, place the saddle on your horse’s back without a saddle pad and don’t secure the front cinch. With the front cinch undone, place approximately 60% of your weight in the stirrup. A saddle that stays in place without digging into your horse’s offside, should be a good fit. If the saddle rolls over, then it’s too narrow through the gullet. If you put your weight in the stirrup and your horse steps over or the saddle sits down directly on your horse’s withers, then the saddle is too wide through the gullet. With a perfect saddle fit, you should be able to mount from the ground without a front cinch attached. If you try this, be careful!

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Bars

The bars are the only part of the tree that are actually in contact with your horse’s back. Further, the flare of the bars dictates how much shoulder room your horse has to move. Moreover, the bars determine how much of the shoulder is restricted. The rock of the bars is usually low, medium, or high. Ultimately, this indicates how far the bars are going to be away from your horse’s loin. Usually, most saddles that aren’t custom-made have a low rock, which is why several horses experience soreness in the low back area.

The bars come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different horse breeds and conformations. Undeniabely, a good fit is important to prevent discomfort or even injury to the horse. A properly fitting saddle should distribute the rider’s weight evenly across the horse’s back. When weight is distributed, there should be no pressure points or areas where the saddle digs in or rubs.

To ensure a proper fit, we recommend consulting with a knowledgeable saddle fitter or professional. They will assess the horse’s back and saddle compatibility. Additionally, a saddle fitter can determine the appropriate gullet size and make any necessary adjustments to optimize comfort and performance for both the horse and rider.

[Read 5 Signs of Saddle Fit Issues]

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