Horse Shopping; Did You Consider The Back?

I do a lot of saddle fitting both long distance and on site. I have noticed that we run into certain scenarios on a regular basis. When customers purchase or lease horses, they will often test ride the horse, unless it is a baby, and use whatever saddle that the owner puts on the horse. Usually, they make do with that and focus on how the horse moves, etc. What they don’t consider is how the conformation of the horse will determine what type of saddle will be suitable for that horse. They hope that the saddle they currently have works but, they don’t think about how their conformation will meld with the horse’s needs. 


Below are two extremes of lateral shapes. One is a very round hoop tree type.


This one is a typical shark fin wither type with a more angular back.

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A frequent issue is the extremely wide or round horse that needs a hoop tree ridden by the rider that wants a narrow twist.  Below are two naked saddle trees. One is a hoop tree and one is a standard tree.

hoop tree

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standard A shaped tree

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If the horse is laterally wide and broad on either side of the spine, the rails of the tree will also have to be laterally flatter to match the shape of the back. What makes the twist narrower, is a more angled tree with angled rails. It is more A shaped. Granted, there are mono flaps and certain options that can sometimes minimize that issue but you won’t likely get a truly narrow twist with a very wide horse. Therefore, for those of you with tight hips or hip issues, that is something you might want to  consider. The trees shown below will affect the feel of the twist and consequently, your hips.

example of a tree with more flatter, broader rails.


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example of a tree that is more laterally angular

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The other problem we run into is the larger person or very long legged person  that has a very short backed horse. A horse only has so much available real estate for the saddle.The tree points need to sit behind the scapula and and the panels not extend past the last rib, T18 as there is no structural support there. If you need a saddle that is 18” but there is only 15” of space, Uh Oh!


saddle shown extends far beyond T18





Yes, we do have some options. We can offer a more forward flap or a more open seat. A more open seat would be a saddle with a pommel rise that is less steep and a lower cantle with a gentle rise so that the rider has more room. Some of the saddle companies we work with can also offer a certain size seat with a panel that is up to an inch shorter. That does concentrate the weight in a smaller area and  ideally ,we want to disperse the pounds per square  as much as possible.


In conclusion, fitting the horse is often the easy part. Fitting the rider can be a whole different story!

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