Shopping for Western saddle for new horse, need some advice

Hi all. So, my background is mostly English riding (eventing, trail, foxhunting, stuff like that), but when I was a kid I used to ride western and I even taught it for a while at a kids’ camp. Fast forward almost 50 years, last spring I bought the great great great granddaughter of the wonderful Morgan who helped me survive high school. She’s 9 but has mainly been a broodmare and riding-wise is a blank slate. I’m starting her in my English tack, but I’m telling you, she has a trot to die for–easy to sit to even when she’s really moving out. I keep looking at her and thinking how lovely she’d be in Western tack. I’d like to get her a Western saddle but, I mean, back when I used to ride Western we never gave the slightest thought to how the saddle fit the horse. I know the basics of fitting an English saddle and of course there’s YouTube and all, but if I were to look for a used but decent Western saddle, is there anything I should know? I’ve even seen some treeless Western saddles. I’m riding her right now in a wide jumping saddle, which seems comfy enough for her. I just don’t want to walk into a Western tack store and feel like a moron. Plus I live around Saratoga Springs, NY, which isn’t exactly a Western riding mecca. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance…

Lots of good reading at this website:

The Proper Position of a Western saddle

Saddle fit - Western compared to English Part 2

Saddle fit - Western compared to English Part 3

Good luck!

Any pictures of the horse? If she rides in a wide English, she will probably need Full QH bars in a western. The main thing to look at is gullet angles, as different manufacturers put in different width gullets. Abetta had about 5 different trees, Fabtron is another good name brand.

I am looking for a western saddle too. my trainer recommended tex tan, but it seems they are going out of business so not many inventory left. Another brand that seems people like is circle Y.

Lots of older Tex Tans around if you don’t mind used. My semi-QH tree fits a lot of horses, though not the wide models. As mentioned, the angle of the tree can make saddle fit better or not at all. They are usually a good buy at reasonable cost, in the low hundreds, not thousands of dollars.

I have never been a big Circle Y fan because they often have poor workmanship under the top layers, use nails not screws. Good leather though.

I don’t know how your mare is built, but both of my Morgans have done great in Crates saddles (older Crates, if you can find them). The equifit tree and the flare of the saddle seem to suit them very well for movement and fit great.

Thanks for the input, everyone! I’ve only had this mare for a few months now and haven’t been able to access a good saddle fitter even for my English saddle (although the mare seems just fine with it). I’ll be doing my homework now…!

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As others have said, with a western tree you have two different measurements to consider - the width of the tree (how far apart the bars are at the pommel (also called the “gullet”)) and the angle of the bars. I bought a tool for measuring your horse for both from this website - Once you figure out what your horse’s measurements are, you can use the tool to either order a custom saddle from them, or measure other saddles in person without having to actually put it on your horse. That may be a start, at least.

Having fit both English and Western saddles to my horses, I find that English is way easier, simply because you can see better on what that tree is doing. Western is harder to see b/c of all the leather.

But the same basic principles apply. You want the bar angle to match the horse’s angle. You don’t want any pinching nor any bridging. You want to try to find a tree that evenly and perfectly sits along the horse’s back. Perhaps one “benefit” of Western saddles is that you can sometimes change what pad you are using to help an “almost” saddle fit alright; but with English you can adjust the tree flocking often times.

I agree that if you are currently using a wide jumping saddle, you should focus mostly on Western saddles that are full QH bars. But that is just a guideline. Meaning, one saddle company could have a semi-QH bar tree that fits the same as another saddle company’s full-QH bar tree. There is no standard in the industry, which is maddening! So don’t get hung up on one single dimension, such as bar angle or gullet or anything else. Because if you change one, it influences the fit of something else.

The links that GhR009 posted above are great.

Your best bet is to haul to a tack store with lots of Western saddles you can try on horse. I understand if you do not have that in your area (I don’t have that for English!). The second best bet is to ASK FRIENDS! Seriously. Even ask strangers. If you see a saddle on a horse that is similar to your horse’s build, ask to try it on. You won’t know if a saddle fits until you place it on the horse’s back. If you find one, then write down the serial number and try to find the same one online.

This is how I found my English saddle. I tried a few from Dover’s which didn’t fit. As I continued to take lessons here and there, my trainer would also find other clients willing to let me try their saddle on my horse. Found someone who had a lovely Tad Coffin A5 that fit my horse and then I found one myself online (For a steal of a deal, I think!).

I’ve done the same thing when searching for barrel saddles. At the races, I’d ask friends or people I hardly know, if i could try on their saddle. Never had anyone turn me down, because I think we all know how frustrating saddle fitting is.

If she has a short back and broad shoulders, you might want to see if an arabian tree would fit. It is flared out at the front and is shorter behind, so it doesn’t rub her hips. Most of the barrel saddles also have shorter skirts. As far as I can tell, most western saddles are more easily modified with padding than english saddles are.