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Saddle Fit Project

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Saddle fit has generated a lot of questions and responses on this forum, with many expressing frustration with the validity of the information available and the so called "experts" on the subject. On this forum we are preaching to the choir, as they say. To give us a voice with the general riding public on this subject, the ASMA board has initiated the SADDLE FIT PROJECT.

The general purpose of the SADDLE FIT PROJECT is to develop a consensus as to what factors and/or areas need to be considered to achieve a positive saddle fit. The general riding population then can add this information to their decision process. As with saddle fit itself, this project will be ongoing.

To get the information out to the public, it will be listed under the standards and procedures section of the ASMA web site for starters. Once, we have developed the project to the point where we feel it can be released to the public; the info will be made available to anyone so they can add a section to their web page, a possible handout etc. The web sites are the key, as the more sites that have the info the more hits one will have on a web search.

The next post is a draft concept outline of the project. Nothing is cast in stone. Look forward to input from one and all. If you do not want to list your ideas on the forum then use info@saddlemakers.com. To follow the progress go the ASMA web site www.saddlemakers.org and click on SADDLE FIT PROJECT.

For starters – What constitutes quarter horse bars, sem-quarter horse bars, and full quarter horse bars??? Is it bar pattern, gullet width, or angle, or a combination.


The subject of western saddle fit or saddle fitting has generated a good deal of interest within the general riding public and the saddle industry. This interest has been sparked for many reasons, and a lot of information has been written in various horse publications and the Internet. Some of this information is good, some is bad, some is misleading, some is incorrect, or some is incomplete leading to frustration among all parties involved.

The elements of saddle fit are – the horsethe saddlethe rider. These elements are interrelated and a change in one or the absence of one will effect the others. The goal of a positive saddle fit is to achieve a fit that is positive over time and not a moment in time. The procedure or method that is used is not of concern, if the final result is positive.

The following are areas or items one should or needs to consider in relationship to each of the elements of saddle fit.



The conformation of a horse/s will change over time.

* Weight - gain or loss

* Fitness - fit or unfit

* Age - young or old.

A horse under the age of 6 has not fully developed their conformation and as they develop may yield a negative fit.

* Mare after having a foal


The saddle has two sub-elements: the tree and saddle construction.


Each tree maker has developed their own bar patterns and tree measurements, therefore trees made by different tree makers may or may not fit the same. Also, tree makers are constantly modifying their bar patterns and tree measurements to conform to the ever changing conformation of horses. Therefore, a tree made by the same tree maker 20 years ago may fit different than one made today.

* Bars - angle, shape, rock, twist, length

* Gullet - width and height


The saddle/tree can fit both the horse and rider, but if the saddle construction is not compatible, then you may have a negative fit.

* Rigging position

* Skirt length and depth


* Seat size

The saddle and the horse can have a positive fit, but if the riders’s seat size is wrong you may have a negative fit.

* Rider’s balance

If saddle fit is important to you, we suggest you seek out a experienced saddle maker or tack store owner. One who understands the three elements of saddle fit and their relationship to each other and has spent as much time in the saddle as they have building saddles or running their tack store.


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Hi Bob,

I think this is a good start in the direction of saddle fit research, but I think there are a few areas that might give you trouble. First off, how do you justify fit? Will you use pressure reading pads, or just have an expert say this fits or this doesnt fit? Secondly, when you introduce so many horse or subject related variables, you invariably have to increase the number of horses that you use in order to find statistical significance. For those that are inexperienced in research statistics, statistical significance is basically showing the tester's ability to say that a treatment (whats being changed in the experiment) caused an effect. This is reported as a P value, and typically if P is less than 0.05 it is significant. There are many different ways to test significance and the proper way is really dictated by how the project was set up (repeated measures vs no repeated measures). If a measurement is not significant, then you cannot say that it actually caused an effect.

So, what does this mean? If you take one tree and measure how it fits to the horse, then change bar length or any other variable that you feel contributes to saddle fit, and see that by changing this variable, you see no difference in bar length, that measurement will not be statistically significant. So in order to test all of the variables you have listed, you would need multiple trees that are the same in every way, but change bar angle, then you would need trees that had all the same attributes, and change the bar shape, so on and so forth, until you have tested all the variables by themselves. You wouldnt want to have two trees with different bar lengths and different bar angles, because you wouldnt be able to say whether it was the bar angle or the bar length or a combination of the two that caused a difference in saddle fit. You would also need to test each tree with individual differences in "Tree variables" and test them against each difference in horse type (postparturition mares, fit and unfit, young and old, etc). You would also need as I said multiple horses that fit into each category to eliminate and individual error associated with the confirmation of that individual horse and give you a representation of the whole population. The variables associated with horse can be somewhat difficult to measure as well and therefore categorize them into the correct group. For example, what constitutes a fit horse? I know that many of us could look at a horse and say hes in good shape, or hes way out of shape, but those are not scientific measurements that quantify their fitness. One way to get around this is to use horses that are in different body condition scores, since the body condition scoring system is a valid scientific method of assessing their body composition.

There are many other things that can contribute to making this area of research very frustrating and complex, but my last consideration for you is who will do this research? If you can get one person or a group of people to do each and every test, great. If not, you will have significant error associated with different individuals doing different parts of the project, maybe even in different states. Why is this a problem? Without an accepted, standardized way of measuring any of the things you are interested in, two different individuals may measure something differently or say that saddle fits, that one doesnt.

I dont want you to feel like I am saying this is impossible or even a waste of time. By doing the research correctly, I feel that you would be able to definitively say what goes into saddle fit. If you are interested at all in me helping in any way I can, I would be more than happy to because I feel that this is an area of saddlemaking that could use some standardization and actually reliable information and knowledge.

Hope this helps,


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We have been making progress on the Saddle Fit Project. After much discussion it was determined that in reality saddle fit is subjective; in other words what is a positive fit to one rider may not a positive fit to another rider. Also, it was determined that positive saddle fit needs to be over time and not a moment in time. Therefore, the Saddle Fit Project will focus on the elements and factors that effect saddle fit and how they are related to each other. To follow the progress go the ASMA web site www.saddlemakers.org and click on SADDLE FIT PROJECT.

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I just strolled through it. You look at all the variables. The explanations and illustrations are very clear and understandable!!!

I also like that you have added related articles.

It must have been looooots of work! A huge Thank You to all who put in their time and knowledge!


Edited by Tosch

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The Saddle Fit Project has been finished and is now titled WESTERN SADDLE FIT.

Saddle fit is subjective in that what is a positive fit to one rider may not be a positive fit to another rider. In developing the information for the project, we found that it is next too impossible to define a system or way to achieve a positive saddle fit. Each saddle maker or saddle fitter has developed their own system to achieve a positive saddle fit. Therefore, as long as the saddle fit is positive in relation to the requirements of the rider, the method used in determining the positive saddle fit is not of concern and it is not our intention to recommend or dictate any method.

Therefore, the Saddle Fit Project focused on the elements and factors that effect saddle fit and how they are related to each other. As with saddle fitting this is an on-going project and as new information is developed, it will be added.

The WESTERN SADDLE FIT information is available on-line or in printed book form.

Go the ASMA web site www.saddlemakers.org and click on WESTERN SADDLE FIT.

The WESTERN SADDLE FIT book can be ordered on the web site for $9.95 + 5.50 postage

Edited by ASMA

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