The T4 model is made from a synthetic material with suede effect seat and knee pads, making the saddle very lightweight. Kent and Masters offer an adjustable, leather saddle with a flatter tree shape to compliment the low wither, flat backed profile of a cob type.
The saddle features straight cut, slim line panels to reduce any bulk between horse and rider, moveable knee and calf blocks and changeable birthing options. Designed for wider horses, with a drippy material on the seat, also offering a close contact feel, optimizing perfect balance.
The straighter-cut flap and panel give maximum freedom of movement behind the shoulder, making it particularly suitable for native breeds, cobs and wide horses. [Disclaimer: EQUUS may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our site.
On the other side of the equation are those shark-withered Thoroughbred types who sprout white hairs even under a sky-high gullet. Your saddle stays put, but you’re always on the lookout for signs of damage to your horse’s back and withers.
Yes, there are all sorts of horses whose shapes make finding the right saddle difficult, and there’s a lot at stake. A saddle that pinches a horse’s shoulders or presses on his withers can have all sorts of negative effects.
Chances are, you’d wind up with painful blisters on your feet, and you might end up with a backache. A saddle that doesn’t fit causes tension, and when his body is tense, every footfall hits the ground with greater force.
If the tree fits the contours of your horse’s back, everything else will fall into place. If the tree fits the contours of your horse’s back, everything else will fall into place.
It must distribute the rider’s weight evenly over the horse’s back, while keeping pressure off his spine. Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of variations in bar spread, flare, width, rock and length that can enable saddle trees to fit the contours of any equine back comfortably.
• Bars (rails on an English saddle) are the two strips that run parallel to your horse’s spine and are connected in front of the fork or pommel and in the back by the castle. If the bar angle and the twist are a perfect match for the horse’s back, chances are everything else will fit as well.
“You would never want to put a flat tree on a horse with a bit of a sway in its back or vice versa. Horses with broad backs and low withers often do best with saddles that have hoop-shaped trees.
Sometimes that broad back crops up in other types, like Baroque horses or gained breeds. “Some of my saddles, like the Fidelity dressage model, offer a more sloping pommel shape,” says Temple.
“You can be in a very wide Fidelity and be amazed at how comfortable it is.” Other ideas include suspending the tree slightly over the horse, but that can mean a loss of contact. Note that many round-barreled horses are also short in the back so consider round-skirted Western saddles over square skirts if that’s the case for yours.
To ensure a good fit the saddle features a changeable gullet system, movable blocks at the knee and calf, and four birthing options. • The Big Horn Harbinger Saddle, now made by American Saddlery, comes in leather and synthetic Western models, with 15 ½-inch and 16-inch seats.
The leather models feature short, rounded skirts for the short-backed horse. • Alleging Mountain Trail Saddles offers a fully customized fit, starting at around $1,350.
Models available include Western trail, Cascade Wade, renegade endurance and plantation trail, with different design choices including leather color, skirting style, rigging options and tooling. Many Thoroughbreds and their crosses, Appendix Quarter Horses and other athletic riding types sport high, sharp---“shark”---withers that make saddle fitting tough.
Many of these horses have withers that taper into a broad, athletic back with a well-sprung rib cage. On the other hand, says Temple, “Many in the natural horsemanship community, as well as other fitters and veterinarians, feel that fitting a horse with a too-wide saddle and using shims to lift the front is actually advantageous.
The use of front shims to lift the saddle balances the rider, while the extra width in the tree gives the horse great comfort and freedom of movement.” “A more angular horse with hollows behind the shoulder does better in a tree with a longer point,” says Anderson.
High-withered horses will benefit from models with thicker gussets and trapezium or K panels, which fill in hollow areas behind the shoulders. • Collegiate Saddles offers hand-crafted leather saddles for a variety of English disciplines---including dressage, evening and jumping---all with the Easy-Change Gullet System, which allows you to select a gullet bar that best fits your horse.
• Barrel racing or gained saddles, available from many makers, tend to offer ample clearance at the withers. “The key to high withers is finding a saddle with sufficient clearance,” says Anderson.
“The two- to three-finger rule isn’t an accurate measure.” Instead, Anderson suggests riding in the saddle for about 20 minutes. Then check that the saddle is not resting on top of the withers, both at the gullet area and toward the stirrup attachment or bar.
He looks like a bulldog from the front, with a concave pocket behind his shoulders and a fair average back. There is so much variation in this group that you’ll want to consult a certified saddle fitter or speak with a few manufacturer representatives to be sure.
“All riders know that their horse changes shape due to changes in diet, work program and maturity, and naturally they get frustrated when they discover their saddle no longer fits their horse perfectly,” says Ron Bates. “Now, for the first time riders can monitor these changes and even do something about them.” Prices range from $1,220 to $2,999.
• The Cashed Trail Saddle, made by Martin Saddlery, is built on the Axis saddle tree, which features bars that curve away from the horse’s shoulder to avoid interference and stirrup leather cutouts along the bars to allow for even pressure along the back. The Western-style trail saddle weighs just 24.5 pounds and has a soft, double-padded seat for rider comfort; it sells for $1,695.
And often traits that seem to go together naturally---tall and narrow, round and short, and the like---don’t when it comes to equine withers and backs. But if you take the time to analyze how your horse is put together and what a “good fit” means for him, you’re more likely to choose a saddle that will make you both happy.
It offers close contact to avoid that ‘perched-on-top’ feeling and the medium depth seat is ideal for a range of activities. Four birthing options maximize the saddle's stability, and the suede-effect seat covering and knee pads are non-slip and comfortable.
Lisa's review: This style of saddle really suits my Anglo Arab (as many Arabs lack wither, a bit like cobs) and it’s really useful that if your horse changes shape the saddle can be easily adjusted thanks to its changeable gullet system. The soft suede-effect seat and knee rolls makes it hugely comfortable to ride in, as well as offering good security.
The K2 GP has been designed for riders looking for an extremely comfortable, high quality, all-round saddle, suitable for all major disciplines. It’s great for both hacking and jumping, and I find it easy to maintain a correct and secure position when riding.
Price at time of review £449Reviewed by Vicki Squire from Southampton who used this saddle for 10 months Ideal for multiple disciplines, this saddle has a slightly deeper seat that offers support and a strong balanced rider position.
The Adjustable Flexible system enables you to individually tailor their thigh and knee support and the Air Cushion system combined with an anatomically shaped tree and performance panel, ensure your horse’s maximum comfort for freedom of movement and your peace of mind. Vicki's review: The Easy-Change Fit Solution is great if your horse changes shape through the year, as mine does.
The anatomic shaping of the tree, generous panel design and Air Cushion system will provide comfort and freedom of movement. An adjustable ergonomic stirrup bar and Flexible knee roll provide comfort and security.
After five years of use there are no signs of wear, but I’ve always made sure it’s cleaned and conditioned regularly to keep the leather looking good. The tree has a flat rake castle for a more open seat making it ideal for cross-country riding.
It’s ergonomically designed to allow the rider, even a total beginner, to sit in the correct ear/shoulder/hip/heel alignment with ease. Lucy's review: This saddle offers a versatile fit due to its flexible tree, and my horse has always found it comfortable.
Price at time of review £702Reviewed by Louise Hayden from the West Midlands who used this saddle for three years Suitable for all levels of dressage to help the rider improve their seat and leg position.
Built on a lightweight, flexible tree with an easy fit gullet system so the saddle can be easily adjusted. The shape of the knee roll and seat helps me sit comfortably and in the correct position.
Price at time of review £895Reviewed by Kate Ingram from Hampshire who used this saddle for one year The low profile panel design of this saddle offers the rider a closer contact with their horse and good stability.
Kate's review: The changeable gullet of this saddle is great, especially if you have a young horse who’s changing shape, as it makes adjusting the fit far easier. I find this saddle really comfortable to ride in, and I like the fact you can move the knee roll to suit you and support you where you need it.