EASY FIT SADDLE FITTING TEMPLATES

CUSTOM WESTERN SADDLE TREE

A good saddle starts with a custom western saddle tree.

EASY FIT SADDLE FITTING TEMPLATES
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, very few any 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 common sizes that fit a lot of horses, and those are the western saddle trees for sale in most of the mainstream industry supplies. We are breeding and cross-breeding horse breeds from around the world as well as crossing carts and workhorses 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 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.

The majority of production saddle manufacturers offer a single tree that will fit all horses. Some manufacturers offer Semi, QH, and full QH sizes, but none of these sizes are interchangeable between makers. Some companies sell trees in different gullet widths, assuming that changing the width in one small area will solve all fit issues. Many vendors will offer one or two larger tree sizes and shim them to fit, hoping that the extra padding will go unnoticed. Some people construct trees for various breeds, believing that all that breeds have backs that are similar. Some people take the advice that someone had a horse that looked just like yours and that this saddle worked well, even though the manufacturer has changed the tree shape many times over the years. There is always the person that has 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 it is not complicated some say it is very complicated. Some make-up imaginary issues that will cripple your horse for life if you don’t correct the issue right away. With the 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 3D back profiling system, which provides us with angle measurements every 2 inches in the saddle fit area, the rock, the saddle fit area length, and whither length. This gives us the twist of the tree for a western saddle tree.

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

Photo at right, looking at the underside of a bare tree from the front down the at 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 twist of the tree to match your horse’s back all along the back is the key to distributing weight evenly 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.

Being able to quantify and communicate this info when looking at your existing western saddle, looking for a new saddle, or looking a how your horse has changed over time is the missing puzzle piece.

What will affect saddle tree fit?

Generally speaking, it is the total surface area of the bars that actually make contact with the horse’s back (the longissimus muscles). The weight of the rider 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, wider and more balanced the rider is over the middle of the bars the lower the PSI (pounds per square inch).

Rock

Most tree makers talk about gullet width to solve rock issues. Rock is the curve of the back in the area where the custom western saddle tree sits.

Wither length and shape

A longer or shorter wither is seldom considered when measuring a horse’s back, yet 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 then this is usually the type of tree they have.

Gullet clearance at the back of the handhold

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.

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

Years ago, rawhide-covered wooden trees were the best option available. In fact, they work so well, that many saddle makers still use this “tried and true” construction. There are problems, however. Any hole in a sewn seam of rawhide can allow moisture in, then there is a good chance the wood will warp. If the wood warps, then the fit changes.

Rawhide-covered trees give more than fibreglass, and the rawhide always brings it back into shape until they start breaking down, or you pull too hard. The biggest problem with the wood rawhide system is that they are separate pieces of wood held together with a nail on a tin strainer plate and rawhide. Then rigging and stirrups are placed on each side and continually work at loosening the joints and pulling the whole tree apart.

Rawhide saddle trees are a long-standing tradition that can last a hundred years. But a saddle reinforced with composite materials can last 200 years or more.

Our tree bars are shaped to your horse’s back measurements, united with the cantle and swells, bonded into a single unit with the composite ground seat, and then completely covered in composite material. The tree is further strengthened with the cable rigging, a loop of cable that loops through the tree and pulls the tree together. The stirrups are hung over the top of the trees, and the stirrup slots are eliminated, adding more surface area to the tree bars.

Our western saddle trees are hand-made using a glass-infused polymer reinforced with steel tubing. The ground seat is incorporated in the moulding process binding together the bars, cantle, swells and horn which makes the tree stronger, saves hours of labour, and reduces weight. The seat can be customized for the rider with our seat shim between the seat cover and the tree, and for the horse with shims in between the bar and the skirts. When the trees come out of the mould, they are malleable and easily shaped to your horse’s measurements in our tree shaping machine. In 24 hours they cure to their permanent shape, and the separately made cantle and swells with the embedded cable rigging are screwed and glued to the bars and ground seat. Finally, the complete unified tree parts are covered in fibreglass for additional strength.

Depending on your location, if there is a Representative that 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 had excellent success in building saddle trees that fit, with customer measuring their own 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. (https://shop.easyfitsaddles.com/saddle-shop/) This cost is refundable, 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 (https://easyfitsaddles.com/3d-equine-back-profiling-system/) Sample of a remote fit submission https://easyfitsaddles.com/saddle-fitting-templates-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.
  • Take pictures and send them along with your measurements.

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

rm 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 that starts having behavioural issues is oftentimes trying to communicate discomfort somewhere. An ill-fitting saddle is certainly one possible cause. What does a person do if something is irritating their body? If the horse’s focus is on the irritation, then 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 a sound horse, but that doesn’t mean the horse is ready to carry a rider. You would be far further ahead to wait, do absolutely 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. ay indicate that the horse is a sound horse, but that doesn’t mean the horse is ready to carry a rider. You would be far further ahead to wait, do absolutely 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 comparison of the new to old shape will tell.
If shims won’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 along with the ground seat inserts allow for a custom fit. See more

Each tree is custom fit to your horse, we start with 4 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 allows 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, 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 take into consideration, 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, especially 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 all the way 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. Simply moving the bar pads down on the tree bars can also make significant changes to the fit.

In our Easy Fit Saddles, the cable rigging is a continuous loop of 1/4” poly-coated, stainless steel, aircraft cable which is moulded into the swell and cantle of the tree. This type of rigging was invented by a well-respected saddle maker 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 both the front and back of the saddle tree, giving it even contact and weight distribution along the length of the bars. And, because it is holding 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 that 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 always 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 start to lose their topline and muscling in their later years. Horses also change shape through conditioning cycles; they generally come in fat and out of shape in the spring and lose weight and increase conditioning through the 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 they can be shimmed, and the cable rigging allows the rigging to sit in the proper position 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 important 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 very unstable.

EFS Remedy
The EFS Saddle fitting template system includes rock cards that are used to 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 is how it works: The card is placed 4 inches off the spine. The B mark in the centre of the card is placed on the mark 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, make a note of the gap in the pocket behind the scapula. Make a note of 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 there is a representative that 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 the process of 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 2 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. As well, once you are balanced in the stirrups with your feet under you, you won’t require as long of a saddle. You start to 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 start to move more freely with more power

EFS Remedy – We’re just going to give you this answer right at the start because saddle fitting without the right measuring tools or the right 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 really 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 the shape of a horse’s back 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 the terms Quarter Horse bars, semi QH or anything else, so you can’t rely on those terms when you are 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 be comparing 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 will measure.

Feeling under the saddle – Running your hand under the saddle to feel for tight or loose spots is a common method. If you have done this a lot, then 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 take a 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 note of how long your horse’s back is. (Back of scapula to last rib.) If it’s short, then a longer saddle may hit them in the hip and/or poke up. Does it have a lot of rock or is it quite flat? (Curve along the length of the back.) Stand on a stool behind them and look at their back. Does one side have a bigger wither pocket? If you feel the back of the scapula, is one side further ahead of the other? Horse asymmetry is very common.

Use wire – You can take wires and shape them to the contours of your horse’s back, and make 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 as to where exactly they sit on that saddle. The angle in relation to the rock in each area is very important. 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 that has been enjoying the life of leisure in a pasture for a year. Mature horses will maintain their general bone structure throughout their lives, so a custom saddle may just 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 come and measure your horse for you.

Horses come in all shapes and sizes, and often it is hard to find a saddle that fits your horse well. Without measuring, you may not even know your saddle has a poor fit until your horse tries to tell you through pinning his ears when saddling, constant tail swishing, or just general bad behaviour. White spots on the wither indicate that some real damage has been done to underlying tissues.
EFS Remedy: Measuring your horse gives us excellent 3-D data on the shape of your horse’s back. We measure your horse using our 3D back profiling system, which provides us with measurements in 10 places along your horse’s back. Additionally, we measure the rock (curvature front to back). From these measurements, we custom-build a tree to fit its back type.