How to Measure Your Saddle Tree

Here are some general measurements that all saddles will fit into. please keep in mind that the brand of saddle and the type/make of tree they are building on varies brand to brand and even year to year-just like car bodies and styles vary year to year within the same make, right? When a saddle company discontinues buying the trees they are building the saddle on from one company ~ the new tree maker has his/her own idea of what a semi QH, QH and wide QH tree measurement should be- so while its still built on a QH tree…it could be up to 3/4 of an inch wider or narrower than the same brand and make of saddle you might have purchased 1 year earlier!!

Tree variance also depends on the brand of saddles and can vary as much as 1-inch difference brand to brand (Circle Y, Herford, Crates, Martin, Billy Cook etc.) …which is why I am giving you a range on each tree size.

Here are some general rule measurements to assist you in deciding what tree your saddle has in it:

the gullet on a semi QH tree usually measures 5-6.25

the gullet on a QH tree is usually 6-6.50

the gullet on the Full QH tree is 6.50-6.75

the gullet on a wide tree are usually 7 to 7.25

*draft trees are up for grabs and what some companies call their draft saddles can’t even begin to accommodate a draft horse’s needs. but in my experience is 7.25+

Another consideration is the front bar pad shape. When fitting the shoulders there are 2 basic shapes. rectangular and tirangular. I realize thats a head scratcher for everyone. Let me explain: a rectangular shoulder is a full shoulder that doesn't narrow much behind the shoulder in the hind trapezius area where the wither descends to the back. These horses require a front bar pad that is flat top to bottom and front to back and doesnt narrow much as it goes under the pommel in the "twist" . the openness in this area of the front bar allows the full shoulder (lets say 7" in front ant 7" behind the scapula) room to move freely as the leg extends forward. If the saddle doesn't have enough room under the pommel the saddle will appear as if it is held up in front by the hind trap. and the front bar tips are not making contact at all. The horse will be severaly pinched and the hind trap. will begin to atrophy and develop white spots because the saddle is resting too hard under the pommel. 

 

 

 

 

Matthew 7: 13-24

 

 

 

Matthew 7: 13-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the horses shoulder were "triangular" meaning that it narrows behind the shoulder, this saddle would  settle and make proper contact in front.  "Wider" will not fix this issue if the front bar pads are not designed to fit this type of horse. All that will do is allow the front of the saddle to sink and become unblanced front to back and will still cause pressure on the hind trap. In this case...you would need to shim up the front to relieve the pressure, or get a pressure relief pad (The Right Fit saddle pad can be designed with this option). building up the front may help relieve the pressure but could create an unacceptable "bridge" under the rider to where the saddle iss only making contact in the front over the shoulders and in the rear over the loin. Equally uncomfortable for the horse since the tree is not making proper contact over the ribs where the horse should be carrying weight. when this occurs, the horse cannot lift their back enough to relieve the front and rear pressures and will get sore and it is very fatiguing. 

 

Wade trees are different and so are gaited trees…these gullets can be as narrow as 4 inches and the bar angle as flat as 105 degrees…meaning 14″ wide on a 4″ gullet!!

So lets just not go there, ok?

FYI: people don’t often pay attention to loin pressure when attempting to determine saddle fit. This is a “rocker” or “bow” issue in the saddle tree bars, and could be combined with a skirt length issue, or a padding issue. could be either or a combination. The amount of contour or “rocker” that the tree has is an enormous factor in fit as well. No matter how wide the tree is, if its strait from front to back and your horse needs more contour (swayback) or visa versa- he needs a straighter tree (mule backed) … the tree won’t fit and you will have to go wider to eliminate bridging…and when you do that you are loading your horse’s shoulders with all of your weight. The too strait tree in its “proper gullet width” will bridge-leaving gaps under the seat of the saddle/causing pressure point on shoulders and loins.

The tree that has too much “rock/bow” will cause pressure points from a deep spot in the mid back under rider where your horse needs it to be shallow and straighter.

 

My best advice is to take your horse in for a saddle fitting with the saddle of your choice to be certain its a good fit for your horse.

The purpose in my saddle educations section is to raise your level of awareness on saddle fit. NOT to assist you in making the final decision on your own. Saddle fit is a HUGE concern. People don’t put enough emphasis in making certain that their saddle fits their horse and this is a huge factor in horse behavior and training. If they are hurting how can they possibly concentrate on learning when all they can think of is getting the problem off their backs?

Just because you are a trainer doesn’t mean you are an expert on saddle fit!

I urge you to take your horse and saddle to a saddle fitting expert and have it checked out. It will save you money in training bills as well as vet. bills. 

If your horse gains weight or widens with age…. have it checked AGAIN. Just because it fit when you had it checked 2 years ago…doesn’t mean it will fit now- there might be an adjustment needed until the horse gets back into shape.

Owners tend to check saddle fit once and forget it. This is an area that needs assessed often just like farrier work and dental work and their diet for weight and conditioning control!

Here’s an “aha” concept: do you wear the same size clothes as you did in high school? or since you’ve had children? or since your knee surgery 5 years ago? or how bout after the holidays???? horses go thru body changes too!   These oftentimes rapid changes can mandate a new saddle!

And sometimes, there isn’t a tree that will fit your horse perfectly…so then a saddle fitter must compensate with suitable padding adjustments… and THIS is why I developed The Right Fit Saddle pad! It is the one of the few (very few) pads on the market designed to adjust to these changes in your horse. (Go to the page on this site to read about the pad)

As for your needs…… pant size determines your size seat.  see “so you’ve bought a nice horse lets get started the right way” section.

I wish you the best of luck and I am sure in hopes I have a saddle in my shop that will fit both you and your horse.