Learn what the bars are.,
Locate the cantle.,
Find the fork of the saddle.,
Locate the pommel.,
Find the gullet.,
Understand the term ‘saddle tree’.,
Examine the rocker of a saddle.,
Look at the twist of the saddle.,
Examine the flare of the saddle.,
Check out the seat of the saddle.
When you’re looking at new saddles, one of the things you’ll need to pay attention to is the bars. The bars are the weight-distributing foundation for the saddle; the part of the saddle that rests on the horse and holds you up. There are two ‘bars’ that distribute weight evenly on either side of the spine. If your saddle is well-fitting, the horse’s back will be in contact with the entire length of the bars.;
, On a saddle, the cantle is the rear section that acts as the back of a seat; it slopes upwards a bit like a chair. The bars are connected to the cantle at the bottom, holding the entire saddle together. The cantle is a term that references both an English and a western saddle.
, On a western saddle, the fork is the section in the front that holds the bars together. It is located underneath the horn, and has the appearance of an upside down ‘U’ shape. There are two primary types of forks – a slick fork and a swell fork. A slick fork is the most popular, and is recognized by sides that angle straight up to the horn. A swell fork is recognized by thicker, curved edges that rise to the horn., On an English saddle, the pommel is the front section of the saddle that holds the bars together. English saddles don’t have horns like western saddles do; they just have a rounded section at the front – the pommel. Think of it as a smaller, rounder version of the cantle.
, Another very important aspect of fitting your saddle to your horse is making sure the gullet fits properly. The gullet refers to the empty space between the bars of the saddle. When the saddle is placed on a horse’s back, you can examine the fit by looking at the gullet from the front and back.
, The saddle tree refers to the bars, cantle, fork/pommel, and the gullet. These are the areas that must be examined when sizing a saddle. So when checking your horse for fit, look at the parts of the saddle tree.
, The rocker refers to the angular curve of the bars from the front of the saddle to the back. Imagine it as similar to the shape/angle of the base of a rocking chair. Depending on the shape of the topline of your horse, you will have to try saddles with different rocker angles.
, A second important angular measurement of the saddle tree is the twist. This refers to the angle the bars bend outwards; typically they are closer in the middle and further apart at the front and back, like ‘) (‘. Some saddles have wider twists than others, which may affect the measurement for the horse and rider.
, The flare of the saddle is the amount the bars of the saddle flare out at the front. This is how much the bars curve upwards at the front and back of the saddle, by the cantle and pommel/fork., This term is the easiest to recognize; the seat of the saddle is the part that you sit in. The seat has two primary things that should be noted – the length and slope. The length of the seat is how much space it takes up from the front to the back; a well fitting saddle will allow you to sit forward without being pressed against the cantle, and will give about four inches between your position and the front of the fork/pommel. The slope is the angle from the front of the seat to the back, and comes in three options: high, medium, and low. Each slope is found in seats for different types of riding.