Oklahoma 13 year old TWH riddden in copper snaffle 6.5 and looking for saddle, by beginner.

Question: Mine is a saddle question.  I need to buy one for my TW and am not sure which kind to get.  I was looking at the light weight ones.  Big Horn makes one for gaited horses.  Do gaited horses need a special saddle? What would be the best kind to buy?  I do have some minor back problems; that's why I was looking for something not too heavy.  Also, how do I know what size seat to get?  The Big Horn only comes in a 16.

Thank you,


From Panelist Lee

The most important thing about getting a saddle for a gaited horse, or any horse, is that it must fit the horse.  There is no "one size fits all" saddle for gaited  horses, as no two horses have exactly the same back.  So, look at your horse -- is his back short or long?  A shorter backed horse will work better in a round skirted western saddle if you choose to ride western.  Check to see if his back is narrow and high withered, or round and flat withered? The type of saddle you get will depend a lot on this.  If he is narrow, a narrower saddle is needed, if he is broad a wide (full Q horse bars are usually the widest) saddle is needed.  

Price is really no factor in the saddle that is appropriate in fit, only the way it fits your particular horse.  Sometimes a really inexpensive one will fit better than a very expensive design -- and sometimes not!  See if you can take your horse to a local tack store that has an assortment of saddles,new and used,  and ask if someone will help you see what fits.  The only saddle that will probably not work for your horse is a forward seat jumping saddle, otherwise, just about anything that fits and is comfortable for you both will work.  The problem will be to figure out if the saddle fits. The old fashioned way was to set the saddle on the horse, see that there was at least two inches of clearance at the gullet (the open area under the horn on a western saddle) that the spine wasn't being touched by the tree, and that the bars fit snug to either side of the withers, then to take the saddle out for a ride, sweat the horse, and see if there were dry spots on the back under the withers (meaning the saddle was too tight there). 

Most dealers won't let you do this with a new saddle, since it makes the new saddle automatically a used one.  Now days there are saddle fitting clinics, computerized saddle pads that give you read outs and show exactly how a saddle fits.  If you can't get to one of those (and they aren't that common) you will have to eyeball the saddle on the horse's back to decide how close it comes to fitting.  One that sits way up high is probably too narrow and tight, one that sits low enough for the withers to touch the gullet is too wide.

As to size -- most average size women  and small men use a 15 inch seat -- a smaller woman would be comfortable in a 14 1/2.   A larger woman or average man would probably be OK in a 15 1/2 or 16 inch seat.  Go sit in some saddles if you can to figure out what is likely to fit you best. 

Saddle fitting can be a real trial -- good luck finding something that works for your horse, and don't worry that you need something special just because he is gaited ... just be sure what you do get fits as well as it can. 

Lee Ziegler


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