A good saddle starts with a custom western saddle tree.

Selecting the correct rock card

Proper western saddle fit becomes more critical; the more time a rider spends in a saddle, the longer the ride and the heavier the load. Minor imperfections in the western saddletree fit that may have little consequence on a short, once-a-week ride can cause significant soreness after a full hard day in the saddle for both horse and rider.

Western saddle trees have no standard of sizing; each manufacturer produces mostly one size, some a few sizes, and very few more than that. There is no good system for horse owners to quantify and communicate to western saddle tree makers the shape of their horse’s backs. There are standard sizes that fit a lot of horses, and those are the western saddle trees for sale in most mainstream industry supplies. Going from store to store you will most likely see the same shape of trees in different-looking saddles. We are breeding and cross-breeding horses from around the world with our riding horses, so the demand for odd shapes and sizes of saddles has increased. In the general horse population, we have seen our horses get generally wider and shorter through the back in recent years. Some say our colder weather encourages our horses to get thicker; we are probably feeding our horses better as well.

Most production saddle manufacturers offer a single tree that will fit all horses. Some manufacturers offer Semi, QH, and full QH sizes, but none are interchangeable between makers. Some companies sell trees in different gullet widths, proposing that changing the width in one area will solve all saddles fit issues. Many vendors will offer a larger tree and pad up to fit every horse, hoping that all that extra padding will go unnoticed. Some people construct trees for various breeds, believing all horses of said breeds have similar backs. Some people take the advice of a person they look up to that had a horse that looked just like yours and that this saddle perfectly, even though the manufacturer has changed the tree shape three times in the past year. There is always the person with the magic saddle that fits everything they put it on. Then there’s the custom tree maker that can make a tree to fit from a photo. Some say fitting a saddle is not complicated, and some say it is very complicated. Some makeup issues that supposedly will cripple your horse for life if you don’t correct the issue with their saddle. There are treeless saddles that will conform to any back. The flexible tree saddles that will bend to conform to any back. There is a bewildering array of saddle fit solutions on offer, it is no wonder people pull their hair out when trying to find a saddle to fit,

The first thing we do is measure your horse’s back using our Easy Saddle Fit System, which provides us with angle measurements every 2 inches in the saddle fit area, up to 5 rock curves, saddle length gullet width, and whither length.

Measuring is the missing puzzle piece in saddle fit.
Bare tree underside view
Looking at the bar angle and curve change from front to back

The photo at right shows the underside of a bare tree from the front down the bars, gullet and channel. The bar angle changes from a narrower angle in the front to a flatter angle in the rear. The angle gradually changes, following the rock or curve of your horse’s back to give us the twist of the tree. Getting the tree twist to match your horse’s back all along the back is the key to evenly distributing weight and a comfortable fitting saddle.

Measuring the gullet area only gives you one piece of the saddle fit puzzle. Each horse’s back is unique. The length of the wither, the length of the saddle fit area, the symmetry of the back, the angle of the bars all along the back, and the curve or rocker of the back are all additional pieces to the puzzle. The rock is measured in the saddle fit area, where the bars will lie on the back. The curve or rocker is unique to that horse.

The missing part of the puzzle for horse owners was quantifying and communicating this information when looking at their existing western saddle, looking for a new saddle, or looking at how their horse has changed over time.

What will affect saddle tree fit?

Generally speaking, the total surface area of the bars needs to make contact with the horse’s back (the longissimus muscles). The rider’s weight must be balanced in the middle of the saddle to distribute their weight evenly. Below is a further breakdown of the details:

Western Saddle tree pressure

The longer and wider the bars are, and the more balanced the rider is over the middle of the bars, the lower and more equally distributed the PSI (pounds per square inch).


Rock is the curve of the horse’s back from behind the scapula to the last rib and is where the tree bars sit. Horses can vary from very little to a lot of curvature. The bars need to be of similar shape to match that curve.

Wither length and shape

A longer or shorter wither is seldom considered when measuring a horse’s back, yet it is one of the more important parts of the horse to fit.

The crown of the bar (the curve of the bar across its width from top to bottom)

More crown usually means the bars will fit more horses somewhere on that curve, but only in a narrow strip where it makes contact resulting in a hot spot on a long ride. If people say their saddle fits everything, this is usually the type of tree they have.

Gullet clearance at the back of the handhold

The handhold is the hole just behind the horn, at the front of the seat. This is usually the lowest point of the tree on the horse’s back that we can see. Have a look. With the horse in motion, the withers will rise through the tree. When riding, try putting your finger back through the handhold and feel for clearance between the horse and saddle, be careful not to get pinched. This is overlooked in most saddle-fitting documents and videos.

Channel clearance beyond the handhold

A long withered horse may make contact further back in the channel. Get a flashlight and have a look. Take a riding crop and run it thru.

Flare front and back

The tree bars should curve away from the horse’s back in front to guide the scapula under the bar and in the back so the bars don’t poke the horse while moving up and down a hill or ditch. Pockets behind the scapula can lower the saddle bar tips, so they cause interference with the scapula.


Trying to determine if your saddle is fitting correctly all along your horse’s back is difficult because first, it’s a complex series of angles and curves (rock), and second, you can’t see what’s going on underneath the saddle. Measuring in one location only cannot explain the angles and rock all along your horse’s back where the saddle will be sitting. Our Easy Saddle Fitting System captures comprehensive measurements of both horse and/or saddle so we can obtain a 3D understanding of the angles and rock all along the contact areas.

Western trees for pleasure and/or work.

We make and sell all custom saddle trees.

  • Trail
  • Western and Cowboy Dressage
  • Working Equitation
  • Penning & Sorting
  • Australian
  • Gaited
  • Mule
  • Warmblood
  • Friesen
  • Barrel Racer
  • Ranch Cutter
  • Endurance
  • Reiner
  • etc
Custom Tree FAQ

Depending on your location, if a representative can get to you, your horse can be measured up, and your saddle order can take place onsite.

We’re very confident in our remote saddle fitting service in areas where one of our saddle fitters cannot travel to you. We have successfully built saddle trees that fit, with customers measuring their horses.  See photos of a remote fitting using our 3D Equine Saddle Fitting system.

– The first step is to order a 3D Equine Saddle Fitting system from us. ( This cost is refundable, with less shipping, if you return the templates to us.

– The cards come with written instructions. Online you can watch our video and download a PDF ( Sample of a remote fit submission

  • We invite you to arrange a call with us on a video chat if you are unsure, so we can see what you are looking at.
  • Please take pictures and send them along with your measurements.

It does take a bit of effort, but the results are well worth it.

Mould the wire to one of the bars. It will be more accurate if you measure from the centre of the gullet channel, over 4 inches back and centre. Then you have a curve in a repeatable location; the curve will vary by location.

I’m so happy you asked! It’s the first thing to check if they start to play up. A good horse with behavioural issues often tries to communicate discomfort somewhere. An ill-fitting saddle is undoubtedly one possible cause. What does a person do if something is irritating their body? If the horse focuses on irritation, they are not listening to you.

A saddle fit to an atrophied back will block those muscles from developing further & his gaits will not only suffer, but he will be in discomfort. A vet may indicate that the horse is sound, but that doesn’t mean the horse is ready to carry a rider. You would be far ahead to wait, do Now ride or saddled work, and rehab the back properly. Then, when the back is better, you’ll have better luck finding a saddle that fits. This may indicate that the horse is sound, but that doesn’t mean the horse is ready to carry a rider. You would be far ahead to wait, do Now ride or saddled work, and rehab the back properly. Then, when the back is better, you’ll have better luck finding a saddle that fits.

The shim system in the bar pads can do the job as long as the new horse is within the shape range of your previous horse. Measuring your new horse’s back and comparing the new to the old shape will tell.
If the shims don’t work, the saddle can be returned for a refit. We will disassemble and rebuild the saddle to your new horse’s measurements. Call to arrange a measurement of your new horse and an estimate to update your saddle.

The ground seat shape is critical to comfort in the saddle. The main idea is to create a shape that maximizes contact of the seat leather with the rider. Each person is a unique shape. Women are different from men. Our moveable stirrup position and ground seat inserts allow for a custom fit. See more

Each tree custom fits your horse; we start with four base sizes of trees and can make 1/2 on request.
The base bars of our tree measure:

  • 14″ seat – 8.5″ thigh, Cut Back thigh 10″- approx overall length 24″, bare tree bar length 19″.
  • 15″ seat – 9.5″ thigh, Cut Back thigh 11″ – approx overall length 25″, bare tree bar length 20″.
  • 16″ seat – 10.5″ thigh, Cut Back thigh 12″ – approx overall length 26″, bare tree bar length 21.”
  • 17″ seat – 11.5″ thigh, Cut Back thigh 13″ – approx overall length 27″, bare tree bar length 22″.

Our cut-back mobile gives you an extra Inch in the seat, allowing you to use an inch smaller tree base, and leaning the swells ahead gives you extra room. Using our round skirts with no reveal is our shortest combination.

Our adjustable stirrup and seat insert aid in becoming a balanced rider, ear, shoulder, hip, and heel alignment. This posture requires less saddle seat length and allows your natural shock absorbers, the curves in your neck and back, and your knees and ankles. You will feel more connected to your horse thru your seat, and your calves will be in contact with your horse.

Each horse is a unique shape, angle all along the back, the curve of the back, and length of the back. An off-the-shelf tree may fit in the front and back where you can see, but that is only a small position of the saddle tree. We measure your horse with our SADDLE FITTING TEMPLATE SYSTEM. This will give us a 3D picture of your horse’s back that we can communicate, repeat and compare over time. We consider your horse’s age, conditioning, asymmetry and riding goals. We then create a tree that will fit now and allow for future changes with our shimmable bar pads.

Once your horse reaches maturity, its bone structure will change very little, but your horse will change shape through conditioning and age cycles. And often, horses will be asymmetrical, primarily through the wither area. An interesting exercise: with someone holding your horse straight, stand on a stool directly behind your horse and look for symmetry/asymmetry along your horse’s spine up to the wither.
EFS Remedy: Removable pads under the tree bars have shim pockets that allow you to change the rock and/or angles to keep the saddle fitting as your horse changes shape throughout conditioning and age cycles and to keep the saddle sitting straight side to side. Moving the bar pads down on the tree bars can also significantly change the fit.

In our Easy Fit Saddles, the cable rigging is a continuous loop of 1/4” poly-coated, stainless steel aircraft cable moulded into the swell and cantle of the tree. This type of rigging was invented by a well-respected saddlemaker named Hamley around 1918, but the idea was difficult to apply to a wooden tree. It’s an old idea whose time has come.
Why use cable rigging?
1. Cable rigging can be adjusted to any rigging position (full, 7/8, ¾, or centerfire), unlike traditional saddles, which only accommodate one position. The full position is the most forward position and puts the cinch behind the horse’s elbow. Your horse’s conformation, particularly the wither and shoulder, will determine which position is best for him. You want the rigging to allow the horse to move his front legs freely without being bumped or rubbed by the cinch. For asymmetries, the position can be adjusted differently on each side, in conjunction with shimming, to pull the saddle off of a small, weak, or atrophied shoulder so it can rehabilitate.
2. The cable rigging pulls evenly on the front and back of the saddle tree, giving it even contact and weight distribution along the length of the bars. And, because it holds both the front and back of the saddle, it can eliminate the need for a back cinch.
3. All the leather and steel plates used in traditional rigging are replaced by cable, providing you with less bulky, close-contact, lightweight rigging.

When measuring horses that are asymmetric through the whither with my EFS horse measuring system, I suggest you pad up the small size until both are equal, then measure over the shims. I have also measured the large side and used the resulting measurements on both sides to build a symmetrical tree. Either way, we build the tree symmetrically, and when you get the finished saddle, you will need to shim the tree to level it.  The asymmetry usually comes with a rotation; the cable rigging position can be altered with a strap on one side to help keep the saddle from falling over to the small side. 

Young horses grow and build muscle to about 5 -7 years of age, level off, and then lose their topline and muscling later. Horses also change shape through conditioning cycles; they generally come in fat and out of shape in the spring, lose weight, and increase conditioning through summer work. 
Ideally, you should measure your horse when they are in their normal riding condition and when they are fully grown and filled out. EF saddles have a few ways to compensate for changes: bar pads can be repositioned or shimmed, and the cable rigging allows the rigging to sit properly for the horse. 

Rock refers to the curve of a horse’s back along its length, from the wither to the last rib. It is essential to consider rock when looking at saddle fit. If your horse’s back has lots of rock (a distinctive curve/drop) and your saddle tree doesn’t, it may bridge, meaning the tree bars only make contact in the front and back and not in the middle. If your horse’s back has very little rock (flatter), then a saddle with lots of rock might only make contact in the centre and tip forward and back like a rocking horse. Either scenario will result in high-pressure points and soreness on your horse’s back. The rocking horse scenario would also be precarious.

EFS Remedy
The EFS Saddle fitting template system includes rock cards that determine the curvature (rock) of the horse’s back along its length from the wither to the last rib. The cards also help us to determine the length of the horse’s back and wither.

This works: The card is placed 4 inches off the spine. The B mark in the centre of the card is placed at the base of the withers and held perpendicular to the horse’s back. The card should rest on the last rib offset mark and base of the withers offset mark and extend over the withers. Try the various card profiles to determine the appropriate card. Record the card number. Record the distance forward to the back of the scapula and backward to the last rib. Recorded as (example) Rock card 2, front 7.5 & back 8.5. The card should run over the scapula; if necessary, note the gap in the pocket behind the scapula. Note the asymmetry and rotation of the scapula from side to side. If you can take a few pictures so I can see what you see, that helps.

Option 1: Onsite saddle fit Depending on your location, if a representative can get to you, your horse can be measured up, and your saddle order can take place onsite. Discover our EFS reps to find one nearest to your region.

Option 2: We also have remote saddle fitting kits, which are easy and convenient. We provide simple step-by-step instructions with everything you need to take measurements of your horse. With a self-addressed express post bag, everything is convenient to suit your busy lifestyle and remote location. Once we receive your measurements, we can begin ordering your custom-made saddle. kits,

Thoracic vertebrae move more or less with the front of the horse. The lumbar region behind them is unattached to ribs, looks like airplane wings, and moves more or less with the hind end. A saddle that extends past T18 straddles the two areas and can interfere with the horse’s movement. Western saddles have done this for years. A longer saddle also moves the rider into the back of the saddles, creating more interference. Keeping the rider balanced over their feet and as close to the whither as possible makes the rider a much easier load for the horse to carry.
We make shorter trees with thigh cutouts in the swells to get a larger rider into a shorter tree. Also, once balanced in the stirrups with your feet under you, you won’t require as long of a saddle. You use all your body’s natural shock absorbers instead of bracing against them, which minimizes sore muscles. You move with your horse, and your horse will move more freely with more power.

EFS Remedy – We’ll give you this answer right at the start because saddle fitting without the right measuring tools or saddle maker who can build the saddle to those measurements is really difficult. Before we make any saddle, we measure the horse, so we have a comprehensive, 3-D description of your horse’s back from the scapula to the last rib. When the saddle tree is built, it is moulded to your horse’s dimensions. Adding shims into the bar pads under the tree can help maintain fit should your horse change through age or conditioning. We have a measuring kit you can purchase from us, or if we have a fitter in your area, they can do it for you.

Issues faced in saddle fitting – The angle and width of the horse’s back change gradually all along its length. Trying to put that into something measurable is a challenge. But we all know that if your saddle doesn’t fit your horse, he will likely be cranky and sore and may also be restricted in his movement. And just like shoes for people, one size does not fit all.

The permutations for a horse’s back shape are infinite, as are the shapes of saddles produced. If your horse is to carry you comfortably, you want to get it right. If the saddle is too narrow in the front, it will pinch the wither. Too wide, and the saddle may fall onto the wither. If the tree bar (the framework inside the saddle) is too flat, then only the tips of the bars will sit on the horse, losing equal weight distribution along the bars. Too much rock and all of your weight are in the centre, and the saddle will feel unstable. Too long, and the saddle may hit them in the hip. These are just some things to consider in saddle fit; many fitting solutions require more refined evaluation.

Let’s talk about some not-so-great methods of determining saddle size requirements. Standard saddle sizes: It’s interesting to note that there is no industry standard for Quarter Horse bars, semi QH or anything else, so you can’t rely on those terms when looking at fit. Equally, you cannot lump various breeds into size categories.

Measuring between the conchos – Not all conchos are placed in the same spot on all saddles, so you will not likely compare apples to apples.

Measuring between the tree tips – People often measure saddle tree width by measuring the distance between the front of the tree tips. Consider that the longer the tree bars come down, the wider they measure.

Feeling under the saddle – Running your hand under the saddle to feel for tight or loose spots is a standard method. If you have done this a lot, you may glean some information from doing so, but it requires you to lift the saddle to get your hand under there and move it along. It also requires you to have the horse on-site to try the saddle.

Rock – How do you measure the rock (curve along the length of the horse’s back)?

What you can do – Analyze your horse – First, stand back and look at your horse. You may have to look at other horses to get a feel for how your horse compares, although, having measured many horses, looks can be deceiving, so it’s not a scientific method, but it will give you some information: Are the withers high or rounded? Make a note of how long your horse’s back is. (Back of scapula to last rib.) If it’s short, a longer saddle may hit them in the hip and/or poke up. Does it have a lot of rock, or is it relatively flat? (Curve along the length of the back.) Stand on a stool behind them and look at their back. Does one side have a more oversized wither pocket? If you feel the back of the scapula, is one side further ahead of the other? Horse asymmetry is prevalent.

Use wire – You can take wires and shape them to the contours of your horse’s back and make a note of the distance between each wire. For the rock, lay the wire 4” off the spine, approximately where the tree bars will sit. When you place the wires under a saddle you are considering purchasing, you must pay special attention to where exactly they sit on that saddle. The angle of the rock in each area is critical. If a horse has a deeper pocket behind one, whither find a saddle, you can shim on that side so the saddle sits level.

Saddle placement – Ensure the saddle is placed in the proper spot. Placing the saddle too far forward will turn a perfectly fitted saddle into one that does not fit.

Horses changing shape/size – Horses of different breeds mature to full size at different ages. Horses who have been under work may be more muscled up than one who has been enjoying leisure in a pasture for a year. Mature horses will maintain their general bone structure throughout their lives, so a custom saddle may need to be tweaked on occasion to maintain fit.

Weight changes – If your horse goes from fat in the winter to slim in the summer, get the saddle to fit for the larger size and compensate with different blanket thicknesses or shims. You can’t do much for the horse if the fit is too tight.

Saddle fitting is complicated. The expertise of a professional saddle fitter can make the whole experience much easier and provide better results. EFS sells a measuring kit that you can use to measure your horse now and down the road when you think he may have changed. Alternatively, if we have a fitter in your area, they can measure your horse for you.

Easy Saddle Fit Kit

Easy Saddle Fit Kit
Easy Saddle Fit Kit

The Easy Saddle Fit Kit is a game-changer for equestrians because it allows them to measure their horse and saddle remotely and accurately. Here are some more points on this subject:

  • The kit eliminates the guesswork and frustration of finding a saddle that fits both the horse and the rider. It also saves time and money by avoiding unnecessary trips to the tack shop or the saddle fitter.
  • The kit contains a measuring device, templates, instructions, and a video tutorial. It is easy to use and can be done by anyone, even without prior experience or knowledge of saddle fitting.
  • The kit precisely measures the horse’s back shape, including rock, angle, twist, gullet width, and wither length. These measurements can be used to compare different saddles and find the best match.
  • The kit also helps to prevent saddle-related problems, such as soreness, injury, poor performance, or behavioural issues. A well-fitted saddle can improve the horse’s and rider’s comfort, health, and happiness.

If you want to learn more about saddle fitting in general, you can check out this saddle fitting guide from SmartPak Equine. It provides useful information on how to tell if your saddle fits correctly and which type of saddle suits your riding needs.

Some articles on saddle fit.

Can a saddle be comfortable for women?


Lightweight Western Saddle

The Easy Saddle Fit Kit is a comprehensive tool that provides everything you need to measure your horse and saddle remotely and accurately. The kit includes a measuring device, templates, instructions, and a video tutorial that can be accessed online. The instructions are available for download, and pictures are taken at each step of the measuring process to ensure that you are doing it correctly. Additionally, you can contact the company by phone or video app if you need any assistance during the process.