District of Columbia 4 year old TWH with Professional Training ridden in wonder bit, full cheek snaffle and synthetic wintec english in ring, round pen, and pasture by  beginner.

Question: Feedback : Thank you for your answers concerning finding a lightweight trail saddle my  tenn.walking horse. 

My main concern is finding a saddle type that will allow the withers to move adequately so the horse can gait: for instance saddle descriptions include "full quarter horse bars","semi quarter horse bars", "full skirt", etc.  I assume that a rounded skirt should be chosen over a full skirt,  and a treeless or flexible tree is better than "quarter horse bars".  I have seen statements that say "wider in the withers, better for gaited horses". I sat on a Tucker, Orthoflex, Aussie, Circle Y synthetic.  

All very comfortable for me, but some can be pricey. What should I be looking for in general...type of tree, full or rounded skirt, etc? Any brands that tend to work for gaited horses? I understand a good fit for the horse by a professional is important in the end.  

Thank you again in advance.

From Panelist Theresa

I have two western type saddle trees  that I prefer to use with my walking horse.

The Arab tree is the widest tree and offers more heigth in the wither which makes it ideal for many of the walking horses. This is my favorite and has lent to fewer lameness problems due to impinging of the nerves. A full quarterhorse tree also works for some of the more mutton wither TWH. I have found that many of the horses that are suited for a QHbar or semi qh bar saddle will need a built up pad with a cut back.  This then can get
dicey with the shoulder movement. Depending on your horses shoulder/wither conformation the QHBars tend to be less versatile in general as far as my experience has been.

I really have no experiece with the spring tree (flexible tree) or treeless saddles with the walking horse therefore will refrain from answering any question related to that.


From Panelist Steve

We have had wonderful experience with the new Abetta saddles, especially their Endurance models with the endurance tree. All of our Walkers love them, they are VERY comfortable for us, they are reasonably priced, they come complete with girth and stirrups and they are light and cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Because they are synthetic with wide padded stirrup fenders, I can ride in shorts. And they really have held up well for us.

The new Abettas are much better than the original ones. I strongly rec. them! They can easily be purchased on line at deep discount. 

Steve Chasko

From Panelist Lee

The most important thing about any saddle is that if fit your horse.  It depends a lot on what his back is like, how wide it is, how long it is, (between withers and hip bones) how his shoulders are set, how full the back is on either side of the spine, and how high the withers are whether a saddle will fit or not.  Unfortunately, makers of saddles do not have
standard sizes or measurements for their products. One maker's "full Q horse bars" may be narrower than another's "semi Q horse bars" for instance.  If your horse has a short "saddle back" (withers to hip bones) a round skirt on a western saddle will usually fit better than a square one.  If he is really wide in the back, full Q horse bars often will fit better then "semi" ones. If your horse has narrow shoulders, a saddle made for one with "wide
withers" (whatever those are) will probably not fit very well.

Not knowing the back type of your specific horse, I can't suggest which of these options will work best. However, a caveat on treeless saddles, or any saddle marketed as "fits all horses".  Nothing fits all horses, they are too different from one another.  A saddle marketed as "fits gaited horses" may or may not fit your horse -- I currently have a couple of horses with backs like obese Q  horses, and none of the "gaited" saddles out there even come close to fitting them.  In the past I had horses with narrower, but longer backs, and they did well in semi Q horse bars, and one even narrower, with square skirts.

Try any saddle you are considering on your horse.. Make sure the gullet clears the withers by at least 2 inches, with you sitting in the saddle, that the tree, when set so that it is about 1 finger length behind the back of the shoulder blade, does not press on the back or interfere at the hip bones.  Be sure it does not sit on the spine (look under the front to see if you can see some daylight through the gullet.)   Then ride in it if you can, to the point that sweat marks appear on the back,  to see  if there are dry spots.

If you are serious about finding a saddle that fits, try to get a bare tree fit and work from that.  With everything else, you have about a 10-20 % chance of really fitting your horse.  For some more information on saddle fitting, try a web search on the subject -- there are some individuals who do fitting and do not sell saddles.

Good luck.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Carol


Thanks for your question, but I think that it is impossible for me to answer.  What I can tell you is that you are right on track for being concerned about saddle fit.  What fits one gaited horse won't fit another gaited just because they are both gaited horses.  National Bridle Shop in Lewisburg, tennessee, usa, has developed a saddle pattern that more closely fits most gaited horses than other western saddles on the market.  Their phone is 1-800-359-1320.  

My personal saddle is the ortho-flex low dally roping saddle.  I love it and it fits almost every horse I put it on, and if it doesn't fit, It usually can be made comfortable by using extra padding.

Thats my 2 cents worth.  Good for you for paying attention to your horse.

Carol Camp Tosh


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