How To Fit A Western Saddle To A Rider

A properly fitted saddle will not only fit your horse and make riding more pleasant for you, but it will also put you in the appropriate riding position. This can drastically improve your riding technique and ability to achieve your riding objectives.

Have you ever struggled to pull your legs under your center of gravity with your stirrups? Or sat “downhill” in a seat with a bad angle? Or did your thighs get caught in the fork? All of these things will not only make you irritable, but they will also cause you to ride badly.

Examine the symptoms of inadequate saddle fit as well as the effects of saddle defects and horsemanship ability on saddle fit.

Fitting A Saddle To A Rider

Although personal preference plays a large role in rider fit, there are a few common standards to follow:

Seat Size

Seat size is a typical method for determining the saddle’s size. All saddles have a seat size that is measured from the base of the horn to the highest center border of the cantle. It ranges from 12″ (child) to 17″ (adult) in half-inch increments. Most saddle builders believe that saddles larger than 17″ should not be created because they seat the rider too far back and cause discomfort for the horse.

The truth is that seat size is simply one component that influences saddle size. The depth and angle of the seat, the slope and dish of the cantle, and the style and angle of the fork all work together to define how much space is available in a given seat.

Unfortunately, none of these additional parameters are standardized or documented in saddle measurements.
As a result, to determine fit, you must sit in each saddle. Within a given seat size, you will notice significant variances amongst saddles.

As a general guideline, the distance between the front of your body and the fork should be four inches. Your seat should rest on the cantle’s base rather than against its back. Some people prefer a tighter or looser fit. In general, a saddle that is a trifle too big is preferable to one that is a little too tiny.

Learn more about how to find your correct seat size in our How To section.

Stirrup Leathers and Fenders

The fenders and stirrup leathers on most saddles are of sufficient length for most riders. However, riders who are taller or shorter than the average may require nonstandard fenders. Making do with ordinary fenders might restrict stirrup movement and seem unprofessional.

An exceptionally tall rider may discover that the fender must be lowered to the point where the stirrup leather is visible at the bottom. A rider who is too short may discover that they must force the fender so high into the seat jockey that their forward swing is limited.


A synthetic saddle can weigh as little as 20 pounds while a large roping saddle can weigh more than 60 pounds. While some cyclists are not concerned about their weight, others are.
Most saddle manufacturers have responded by introducing lower weight saddles in their product lines.

However, there are costs associated with losing weight. Most lesser weight saddles, for example, will not withstand the wear and tear of a classic saddle. Make sure you understand the specific trade-offs associated with the saddle you are choosing.

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