Next, we are looking at gullet width to ensure the width of the saddle is not too tight or too loose in the pommel.
Ideally, there should be 3 fingers clearance between the saddle and the horse’s withers.
This should be done with the rider in the saddle, as the rider’s weight will sit the saddle down on the horse’s back to where it will be when riding. If the gullet is too small, it will pinch the horse’s shoulders. If the gullet is too wide, the saddle will sit down too low on the shoulders and wither area. Either will cause pain to your horse when moving.
Now, we’re looking at panel contact.
Make sure the front, center and rear of the panels are making contact with the horse’s back. There should be no gaping at any of the areas where the saddle sits on the horse’s back.
Looking at the billets, they should run down in a straight line from the saddle toward the ground. Ideally, the billets should allow the girth, when done up properly, to lay approximately three fingers width behind the horse’s elbow.
Now, we’re going to do the fit of the rider in the saddle.
A saddle that fits the horse properly, but does not fit the rider, will cause the rider to be off-balance. This can cause pressure points on your horse, resulting in pain.
To determine the seat size, generally, there should be three fingers width between you and the cantle. The build of the rider will decide the length that fits best.
Contacting a professional saddler is always a good start to determine whether your saddle fits. Tack shop owners or store associates may be able to lead you in the right direction as well and can have a basic understanding of several brands. When testing a saddle, always make sure it is fitting the horse as well.
Lunging and test rides can be very beneficial to evaluate not only lameness and muscle tone but saddle fit as well. A saddle that is too small or too wide will create pressure points that cause pain. A horse in pain will usually be reluctant to move forward, unwilling to stretch downwards or lift the back in the correct carriage.