SADDLE FITTING AT HOME
How to make saddle fitting wires:
Cut 2- 20 inch wires, copper is best but baling wire works! or you may go to staples or amazon and purchase a “soft wire device” or “flexible curve” . Fold in half into the basic shape of a V with the bend being 1 to 1 1/2″ wide to accommodate the width of the wither bone itself..put a piece of tape on the bottom of the left side to keep the left and right separated. Place wires on horse so that the tape is on the left side.
For those of you who are uncertain of where to pace the wires: Get a dry erase marker and draw a line along the edges of the scapula bone, or gt a piece of masking or medical tape ready to place on the horse once you locate the rear of the scapula. You can find it by manually picking up the horses front leg and moving it forward and backward and watching the bone to find the edges. Then place the leg back down next to the other leg…keeping in mind the horse must be “square” and head strait forward with both front legs placed evenly apart and “squared up”. This is best with a 2nd person to keep the horse squared and head and neck motionless.
Once you have the scapula marked and the leg properly placed then you can clearly see where to put each wire.
Make certain the wires are touching the horses body snug from top to bottom. NO GAPS. When they are correctly shaped you will tap the end of the wire on his left shoulder and the other end should NOT lift off the right shoulder. Then you know they are snug enuf to be accurate. Do not make them so snug that they make deep dents.
WIRE #1: Gently form the wire over your horses withers OVER the scapula about where you would place the front edge of your saddle(find the middle of the bone~draw a line strait down the middle then place your wire on the back 1/4th of the scapula approx 1″ from the back edge of the bone. Keep an eye on your tape or your marker line as your horse shifts around to be certain its accurately placed just behind the scapula bone. Make certain that the wire is on the “back 1/4 of the scapula approx 1″ in front of the tape or line that you drew. Make certain the entire wire is formed to the horse all the way to the end of the wire. Mark the wire where the top of the scapula is(the blue line in the picture). You cannot be on top of the bone because the gullet assessment will be too narrow and yet you cannot be too far down the side of the bone or the gullet will be too wide… so TAKE YOUR TIME HERE!!! Find the top of the bone and make a mark 1/16-1/8″ down from that line. move your horse around to be certain you are accurate, Now, step to the rear of your horse for the necessary visual reference to be certain of accuracy on both sides. The width of your horses scapula determines the amount of front bar flare you will need in your saddle. The scapula MUST have sufficient space to pass underneath the front of the saddle but not so wide that the front of the saddle sinks down under pressure and traps your horses shoulders.
***If you are 1/4" off you will be searching for a saddle that is too wide and the issue of saddle fit will be ongoing and you won't understand why.
Buying a wider saddle than necessary is fine as long as you add a 2nd pad or blanket to elevate the front of the saddle and keep it balanced front to back. But if you don’t balance the saddle you will be creating a new type of pain for your horse. Wider is NOT better unless you plan to over pad your horse.
WIRE #2: This is your gullet width. And in western saddles it can be a tricky combination for some horses. Because you might be trying to fit a horse with large shoulders but having a hollow shoulder or a horse that is fuller behind the shoulder (gullet) than over the shoulders(bar flare). If the horse is sway backed the relativity of these measurements changes their application.
Place the wire directly BEHIND the scapula bone (mold it to your horses shape). It is correctly placed if you can place a finger in front of this wire and not quite touch the line you drew on the back edge of the scapula bone), this measurement needs to be within the downward slope of your horses wither But not on the ribs near the bottom of the wither where it disappears into the back where the ribs begin to spread and get fl
The wires should fit snug and evenly on horse on both sides of his body to be accurate.
Remove the wires from the horse and lay them flat on a sheet of paper or cardboard. with wire #1 placed on top and labeled, and wire #2 placed below it on the same sheet of paper. DO NOT allow the tails of the wires to swing out of position because this will make your horses shoulders appear symmetrical and they may not be… it is common for 1 shoulder to be steeper than the other…. any lack of symmetry in the shoulders will need to be corrected via shims before ANY saddle will be comfortable for your horse. (This horse clearly doesn't have symetrical shoulders and will require shims to balance the saddle.)
Trace the underneath of each wire with a pencil or pen and remove the wires from the paper.
Place your tape measure at the top of #1 and drop vertically down to the mark you made on the wire at the top of your horses scapula/shoulder. which should be approx. 1.5″ – 2.5″ Then turn your ruler or tape sideways so you can measure the distance across from one side of the wire to the other side( left to right~from shoulder to shoulder). write that # next to the line on the outside of the wire. This is your gullet width.
Then do the same at 3″ down from the top. This determines your bar angle. (90, 92, 94,,,etc). This angle is impertive to the comfort of your horse. If the bar angle is too horizontal the top of the bar will pinch the top of the shoulder and flare off the bottom on the lower shoulder. Essentially, the angle between shoulder and front bar paddle will not match.
Wire #2: measure down the same distance as line #1 on 1st wire… this measurement alerts me to how much room your horse needs in the “twist” under the pommel. When your horses leg extends forward the scapula bone has to have enough room to slide under the front bar paddle and into the twist without hitting the tree under the pommel. The bar angle over the ribs needs to mirror the rib angle not to trap the ribs and make them sore- and not so flat that the top edge of the tree bar pressures the spiney processes. These are many of the issues that a qualified saddle fitter should be able to detect and have sufficient experience to advise properly.
The 2nd wire measurement indicates how much room your horses scapula needs under the pommel to avoid hitting his shoulder under the saddle in the twist.. If your horse doesn’t have enough room here he will short stride. This horse requires 5.25" gullet width. This saddle is slightly too wide.
Most horses require a minimum of 5.75″ in this area under the pommel.
I will also need the length of the horses back from wire #1 to the point of the hip. at the top of where the hair begins to swirl at the flank.
This gelding’s back can take up to a 26″ skirt length without inhibiting his movement.
The saddle skirt should end 2″ before the flank swirl. Saddleskirts that set on the rise of the hip will interfere with the hip action in bends and flexions, push the saddle forward, and cause extreme pressure on the spiney processes, kidneys and loin that is unprotected by the ribs. To add to the discomfort is the increased pressure on the shoulders.