Sarah Linton

Looking at your horse

It is important to look at your horse for saddle fitting. It is something that is often overlooked. Buying a saddle straight off the shelf or off trade me etc without knowing what shape your horse is will often put you in the position of buying something that doesn’t fit.

What shaped back does your horse have? Really look, and take note of what you see.
• High wither • Long wither • No wither
• Prominent spine • Flat backed • Short backed
• Long backed • Roach back • Bum high
• Bulging shoulders • Flat sloping shoulders • Muscle wastage
• Sway backed • Any lumps, bumps or swellings?  

How wide is your horse's spine?

This is very important to know when saddle fitting because you may end up with a saddle that’s too narrow in the gullet channel at the back and then it will sit on your horse’s spine. Too wide and it may sit too low.

Feel either side of the spine towards the back of the saddle area and then put the fingers of your other hand on top of the spine to feel how wide it is. You can then use this measurement when looking at the gullet/channel of the saddle to see how wide it needs to be. Also feel either side of the wither area as well as that is usually wider.

Do a wither profile to give you a guide line of what size gullet plate your horse may need. See more information here.

What does your horse look like from behind?

Get your horse to stand square and stand on a box and look from behind. Be careful when you are doing this as some horses may get a fright.

  • What do his shoulders look like?
  • Are they evenly shaped?
  • Is one bigger than the other?
  • Is one more forward than the other?
  • Is his spine straight?
  • Are his hindquarters even?

  • What does your horse look like from in front?

    Again stand you horse up square in front and look at shoulders, keens, fetlocks etc and see if they are even. Look for unevenness in leg muscles or shoulder muscles. How does the horse naturally stand with his head position?

    What does your horse's feet look like?

    Seem like a crazy question? This can affect shoulder height, which in turn affects saddle fit. Does your horse have one heel higher than the other? Are his feet similar sizes or does he have different shapes all round?

    What does your horse move like?

    How your horse moves with no one on their back is a very interesting thing to watch. Some horses have natural swings one way or walk crooked and this will affect how you feel in the saddle and how the saddle sits on your horse’s back. These can be signs of injury or soreness and may be able to be helped with bodywork and correct exercise.

    Also a horse can move totally different with some one leading him out compared to when he has a saddle on his back. Sometimes a good indication on if he is comfortable with the saddle he has had on his back.

  • At walk – look at him going away from you. Is he swinging his hindquarters evenly or more to one side? Is he lifting his legs the same height? Look at hocks and fetlocks and hooves. Does he hold his tail straight?
  • At walk – look at him coming towards you. Does he swing his shoulders evenly? Does he lift his legs evenly? Look at knees, fetlocks and hooves. Does he hold his head straight naturally or more to one side.
  • Repeat the above but at trot.
  • Watch him move past you as well. Look for evenness of stride, scuffing feet, uneven swing of hindquarters etc
  • Back him up - does he naturally back straight or does he want to go one way or another? Back him standing on both sides – does he favor one side?
  • Just make a note of what you see - don't panic if you find lots of things. They are just observations and not always signs of a problem.