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Saddle sizing

What’s the western saddle seat size equivalent to a 17.5in English saddle? How is it measured? (English is measured from the saddle nail to the middle of the cantle.)

How is tree width measured? (English saddle are measured across the gullet, dot to dot.)

What about rigging? The horse I’m shopping for has a pretty forward girth groove (like I’d probably use a point billet on a dressage saddle). I also remember having a western saddle for my pony when I was a kid that would flip up in the back, so I don’t want that happening. Is rigging placed differently for different disciplines? Is the stirrup bar (if you call it that) placement influenced by what discipline the saddle was built for?

I know that there’s no substitute for trying sales on the horse, but I’d like a better idea of what I’m looking for/at before I start looking.

15.5" Western for a 17.5" English, but how flat or how much rise in the front of the [ATTACH=JSON]{“alt”:“Click image for larger version Name: 049.JPG Views: 1 Size: 17.2 KB ID: 10514627”,“data-align”:“none”,“data-attachmentid”:“10514627”,“data-size”:“full”}[/ATTACH]
seat will affect fit as will the type of swell. For a horse with a forward girth groove you need a saddle that has the rigging rings/plates directly under the swell (my mare is built with a very forward groove) otherwise your cinch billet will not hang straight down.


I’m gonna advertise my ignorance again… what’s the swell? Is there a book I should read or something?

It’s the stuff around the horn. The pommel area.

You measure western saddles from below the horn to the front of the cantle.
Since some swells are more forward, some seats more slanted up and back to the cantle, you almost need to try saddles for fit, one size won’t sit the same on a different saddle.

Also the difference in swells will have more room for your thigh or less on the same size seat.
Here is a picture with names of part of a western saddle:


For some western events, you want a flat seat with little holding you in there, like calf roping.
For others like reining, you want a bit taller front to help you in your stops, but more room in the seat to have a little more wiggle room, for cutting even more, many prefer a larger seat size for that reason.

If a seat is padded, double padded or slick can also make a difference in how it measures for fit.

My guess would be, most western saddles may sit around 16" like a basic 17 1/2" English seat.

The thing the horn sticks out of

I was always told to subtract 2 inches from an English seat size to “convert” to Western. So a 17.5 inch English would be 15.5 inch in western. Of course, it’s going to have some variation. I myself ride in a 14.5" barrel racing western saddle and a 17.5 inch Tad Coffin jumping saddle, so I am quite outside the norm. But that’s where I am comfortable and what fits me.

Western seat size is measured like this, most of the time:

It is hard to get the REAL gullet measurement on a finished Western saddle. The true gullet measurement should be done on a bare tree, which of course you can’t do after the saddle is finished. YOu can try to get a ballpark by going concho to concho on the western saddle, but make sure you don’t go too low.


Usually when a saddle flips up in back, then the saddle tree is too wide (either gullet, or bars, or both) for the horse. While rigging plays a factor, most brands don’t really give you an option to change the rigging. Unless you specifically saddle shop for a brand that does allow for different rigging locations.

What kind of saddle are you looking for?
What type of tree does your horse use now (narrow, medium, wide)?

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Barrel racing saddles typically “hold you in there” quite well for shenanigans. :smiley:

Not correct. :cool: For example, if you are using a western saddle that is too narrow, no amount of padding will compensate for that. And a bigger thicker pad will actually make it worse. Think about if you wore shoes that were too small for your feet, and you also decided to wear really thick wool socks. It would make the “too small” shoes even worse.

Sometimes … if the saddle is a bit too wide for a growing youngster, you can make it work with padding and possibly shimming. But that’s if all the elements are right.

Personally, I feel like it is much more difficult to fit a Western saddle than an English b/c it is harder to see exactly what the tree is doing under all that leather, and you cannot modify the tree like you could possibly do for English.

If you are able, I would haul your horse to the saddle shop. Then you can save time by trying saddles on his back on the stop. It can give you an idea of what type of tree he might need or what brand might work. The maddening part of western saddles is that there is no standard of trees. So while one company might have a semi QH bar saddle that fits your horse, the other company might need to be their full QH bar to fit your horse. Every brand of tree is different, in what they call their tree.

Based on his photos, he;s got decent shoulders and decent withers, but he’s not really wide-looking. I would suggest that you start your search with the semi QH bar saddles, but again, there will be exceptions to that.

You are also going to want something with good gullet clearance over his withers, because they are set BEHIND his heart girth and it will make saddle fitting more challenging. You’ll want to try to find something, most likely, that is closer to 7/8 or full rigging, based on your horse’s conformation.

Thanks! I was about to ask what 7/8 rigging was then I realized that picture wasn’t an ad 😂! That gives me quite a bit to work with.

Your horse is really cute, Andalusian? Just a note, I ride a 17" or 17.5" jump saddle and a 15" barrel saddle fits me. My horse has a forward girth groove and I use a 7/8 rigging.

Your horse has a short back and some curve, choose a saddle with small skirts or round skirts so it does not impede on the loins. Also curve or “rock” in the saddle bars to accommodate the curve in his back.

Thanks! He’s an Irish Draught. That are thought to have some Iberian influence from Spanish Armada shipwrecks off the southern coast of Ireland way back when.

The skirt is the layer of leather closest to the horse? Like what the sheepskin is attached to?

Yes, the skirt is the base of the saddle with the sheepskin. Well enjoy that youngster, he’s going to get more beautiful as he matures. Lucky you!

Western saddle is 2" smaller than English Saddle
Seat size refers to Rider height and weight


Here some more info about different styles of western saddle rigging