Horse saddle fitting tips

Alex got in touch with this wonderful tip. I never knew about the 18th rib:

“Every horse deserves a well-fitting saddle - no matter how much he costs, or what work he’s doing.

A poor fit compromises control, it's that simple.

If it bounces around, or slide away from the horse’s centre of gravity, not only are you in trouble, but you're harming the horse underneath.

Muscle waste, back pain, lameness and behaviour problems can all stem from a bad saddle fit.

Make sure...

  • Check there are no sores or rub burns on your horse.
  • Make sure your horse’s movement isn’t restricted. The shoulders shouldn’t be obstructed at any position. Raise your horse’s front leg, to move the shoulder back as far as it will go.
  • Feel for the top of the 18th rib at the back of your horse. This marks the beginning of the back’s weakest point. A saddle mustn’t be allowed to invade this area.
  • Check there’s no hair loss on the contact points.
  • After riding, check for a complete sweat line where the saddle should make contact.
  • Look under the saddle from behind your horse. You should see light at the other end.
  • Slide your fingers under the pommel. They should fit comfortably between your horse and the saddle.

I know saddle fitters aren't cheap, but hiring one could save your horse terrible problems.


Sound advice from Alex  - a big thank you to him.

And thanks for all your comments on Lara's book.




  1. Kinz

    Totally agree, a bad fitting saddle isn’t worth huting a horse and making the horse crabby and uncomfortable, at least not for me.

  2. Kiera

    horses at my stable share saddles, but we make sure they fit though, otherwise they play up. Even if the saddle fits, make sure to check the position of the saddle if your horse is crabby. hope it helps.

  3. Celeste

    I have never seen light go from the back of the saddle to the front. I place my hand under the back of my saddle and the front there is space in those areas. Shoulder area is snug but not tight. The end i able to put my fist in it. Is this acceptable? 😳

    1. jobi

      get a saddle fitter out to check it for you, and show you what you need to look for.

  4. Miriam Goodwin

    What about treeless saddles. I think they are the only way to go. Never had a problem and have had and am having plenty bodywork done!

  5. jobi

    A saddle should fit the rider, just as well as the horse. No one type of saddle will fit every horse, treeless or treed! And don’t wait until there are sore spots appearing before getting a QUALIFIED and REGISTERED saddle fitter out, do so at the first signs of the coat being rubbed.

  6. catherine

    Yea, we had a horse at a stables school and it always bucked when we asked her to go because her saddle was too small and rubbing her skin badly 😳

  7. Tina

    WOW! Great tips!

  8. Thanks very much for all your very cool comments. Cant wait for the next one. It is very educational. 😀

  9. Schanka

    Is there any disadvantages to the treeless saddle? I hack out, jump a little and want to start endurance. 😀

  10. I have a wonderful well fitting saddle, a County made in England,(Dressage) its also very compfortable with a deep seat and i love it

  11. i have a very big percheron and i have a treeless saddle he seems to like it just fine there is swaetspots where there should be but i have also 3 other treeless saddles and he does not like them so not all treeless saddles fit all horses

  12. In the UK we now have the Saddle Research Trust, a non-profit organisation that uses scientific studies to investigate the interaction between saddle, horse and rider. Many fascinating (and thought provoking) results are coming out of this, that will inform every user or maker of saddles.
    So much so-called grumpy or crabby behaviour from horses when ridden is down to discomfort or pain from the saddle – we should always, regularly check our horse’s fit with their saddle. Horses change shape form season to season, as well as from work to non-work and what fit last month, may not fit next month.
    Check your horse’s symmetry and observe his way of going without a rider, also you can run your fingers slowly down his back – about a palm’s width from the “topline”, wither to hip. If he dips or flinches – have your saddle checked.

  13. Renie

    My saddle is custom fit the saddle can be fit your horse using pictures and computer graphics my saddle is perfect And i never used a saddlefitter. my saddle is calf skin cheap saddles are hard And never get soft no matter how much you oil them. Learned my lesson with a cheap Saddle. Still doesnt fit And still hard.

  14. Dorothy

    I purchased a saddle that actually fit my wide backed high withered horse. On the advise of my riding instructor I purchased a 18″, I felt that it would be to large as my other saddle (western) was a 15″, but I trusted my instructor and her advise. Several months after purchase I was in a lesson, flopping around in my saddle and my instructor advised me that the saddle was too large for me, why did I buy one so big? Lesson learned: go with gut feelings on some things such as saddle size and instructors. Expensive lesson.

  15. Denise

    ❓ We have a horse which sits down bottom first and then stretches out her legs and then rolls when we put a saddle on her. She is a thoroughbred and has had several preps before this behaviour started. Someone said it was girth syndrome. Any ideas and any suggestions to cure it. Cheers Denise

    1. Eleanor

      My mare has done that twice while I was lunging her with the saddle on. I’ve never seen anything like it. Just thought she was being a brat. I’d like to know more about this also. And more about girth syndrome. I’ve never heard of it

  16. Kim

    Hows does one find the 18th rib?

  17. early Ferguson

    do you think my Saddle could be why my horse wont go forward just keeps backing up and tossing her head ears back Kindof jemp.n9 around . Cant get her to do a thing and Shes really irritated with Me for a while after.

  18. Shan

    Ok, I also want to know about the 18th rib (like Kim). I am very much a newby to owning a horse, so what is a treeless saddle? ❓

  19. Eleanor

    My mare is thick, so it’s not easy finding a saddle that fits well. I have been using a second blanket under the saddle for extra padding, and this seems to help. I just learned about feeling under the pommel, and it makes so much sense.

  20. Sharon Hanrahan

    Can anyone tell me what the best flexible tree saddle is out there?

  21. Susan

    Folks: We try to fit our horses and ourselves “off the rack”.
    Also, “One size” does not fit all, as Jobi said.

    In the Old Days, saddles were custom fitted to the rider and horse. Sometimes people had numerous saddles because your horse (and your) shape changes throughout the year.

    All that craftsmanship is now extremely hard to find. Consequently, it is expensive.

    And… not all “saddle fitters” are equal. Find a competent one.

    I had a horse who was happy in a $100. saddle, yet when I rode sidesaddle, a beautiful $2,000. saddle did not fit him. Price is not always the deciding factor in comfort for your horse and you.

    Never pass up an opportunity to learn. Try various styles of saddles, too. I used to ride english, but my current horse likes a treeless western saddle. We use it and have a wonderful time. Be flexible in your expectations.

  22. Cheryl

    😀 love the tips, saddle fit is really important for you and your hirse!

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