Saddle Fit to your Horses back
Please Note-- If you do buy a difficult horse to fit such as Mutton withered (almost no wither ),down hill backed (bum high) convexted or bunchy shoulders ,sway backed ETC and nothing off the self will fit,then you must be prepared to pay a bit more for a saddle to fit your horse,as custom work will be required in most cases,with these type of horses we recommend our new Try before you buy system ,if you don't use this system and go ahead with a saddle then you will have 28 days of trial for exchange or refund less 10% restocking fee on a return ready to sell saddle.
While fittng the saddle may seem difficult ,there are some basic rules to this that will make sense.
Firstly the western saddle will sit back further than the english saddle,the front of the bars should be at least 2 finger widths back from the shoulder blade,however some saddlemakers may differ regarding this position and perfer the tree closer to or up on the shoulder but this will depend on the type of tree (to be on the shoulder must be of a wider tree with more rock in the front bars),although it is good to have the saddle maker or fitter put some trees on the back of the horse to see what tree will best fit and the position best placed ,however this is not always possible ,so the made up saddle will have to be fitted ,and in my opinion the worlds best saddle fitter can't read the horses mind ,so we have to read his body language.
Using the white sheet test, put the saddle on the back in the right position,check wither height and do the saddle up firmly (not too tight) when doing up the back cinch do not do this up tight (just enough to be able to slip your hand between the horse and the cinch strap ,make sure you are using a girth connector strap to stop the cinch moving too far back or forward ,check between the sheet and the saddle front of the bars for how snug it might be, keeping in mind the extra thickness of your hand ,for e.g. a little too tight might not be, due to your hand.
Next while your hand is still between the front bar and the horse ask the horse to step forward to feel for any finger pinch ,tightness will indicate more pinch ,also read the horses discomfort signs either when on the ground or in the saddle ,on ground signs will be moving away from a bad fitting saddle that the horse has not been happy with ,ears back or tail swishing ,please keep in mind that some horses tend to have habits of these traits ,so may not be a total indication of a bad fit.
It is also good to remember when fitting a saddle to the horse that if the back is still sore from a poorly fitting saddle then even one that fits the horse may still hurt ,so give the horse time to heal (a week or 2 detending on soreness ,any visable damage then please consult your vet.).
Once you are mounted other signs to look for besides the on the ground signs are,bucking when mounted, once moving the horse maybe pulling the reins from your hands by lurching its head forward ,this is a sign that the saddle is too tight in the shoulders .Another sign of this is short stepping ,where the horse can't step out due to restiction on the shoulders.
Also be aware of the back of the bars ,check that they are not pressing on the horses hindquarters ,for if there is presser back and front of the bars this is called bridging (not good),sometimes the saddlemaker can build up the under bar of the tree to remedy this or you can have a special saddle pad (blanket) made for your horse to help better this situation,this is called shimming.However nothing is better than to have the saddle fit the back properly.
After you have finished your trial ride there is 2 ways of testing for a good fit, one is the dirt test and the other is the sweat test ,the dirt test will show up with more dirt colour in the areas of pressure on the white sheet test.
Where as the sweat test is usually after a longer ride ,and I suggest you ride up and down hills and over the kind of terrain that you are likely to be riding .
Once back from the ride, remove the saddle and blanket to see if the sweat has an even pattern where the bars have been sitting ,if it is wet where the length of the bars are ,this will indicate good contact ,if there are any dry spots ,say at the front of the bars this usually indicates too much pressure,this is a sign that the sweat flow has been interferred with ,long term this will also interfer with blood flow in which this can also interfer with the hair follicles and result in the whitening over the pressure area (long term is usually permanent ,like freeze branding).
Please note that some flat dry spots can be a borderline indication of a near good fit and a good pad may help the fit such as my shoulder relief pads ,where as if the hair is distubed (ruffed up ) this is a serious bad fit problem.
I hope this has helped in some way to knowing good saddle fit ,although one could write a book on the subject of which I'm sure many have ,at least hopefully this is a shorter guide to saddle fit.
If more info is required you can go to youtube and search for how to fit a western saddle.