Your saddle is the connection between you and your horse. An improperly-fitting saddle can make your ride uncomfortable and can cause sores to develop on your horse. When selecting a saddle, you want to choose one that is suitable to your riding discipline and is a good fit for both you and your horse. An English saddle is a bit different from Western saddles, so it’s important to know the proper way to measure and fit one. This guide will provide you with the information you need to measure an English saddle for an optimal riding position for comfort and effectiveness.
Why Seat Fit is Important
Beyond safety for you and your horse, there are other reasons why getting your saddle size right is so important. Your ability to move and your riding effectiveness is impacted by the comfort of your saddle. And top performance requires a properly-fitted saddle. You and your horse will perform better if the saddle size is optimal.
What is an English Saddle?
English saddles are usually used in English riding disciplines such as hunter, jumper, dressage, eventing, fox hunting, and trail riding. Each riding discipline requires some variations in saddle design, but all English saddles are constructed to provide optimal freedom of movement to the horse.
Parts of an English Saddle
Two parts to an English saddle will need to be measured: the seat and the gullet.
The seat, or the topmost part of the saddle, is designed for the rider’s comfort — it’s where the rider is positioned in the saddle.
The gullet, beneath the seat, is structured for the horse. The horse’s size is taken into account when fitting the gullet to ensure the fit is comfortable and allows the movement needed for the horse to perform well in the particular riding discipline.
Both the seat and the gullet are equally important when determining the best fit for an English saddle.
How to Measure an English Saddle Seat
The best way to measure for your seat size is to take the measurement of your thigh from your knee to your buttocks.
Sit in a chair so your knees are at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor and with your buttocks touching the back of the chair.
Using a measuring tape along your thigh, measure from the back of your knee to the back of your buttocks.
English Saddle Size Chart
Once you take your measurement, compare it to the chart below to select your saddle size:
16.5” to 18.5”
18.5” to 20”
20” to 21.5”
21.5” to 23”
You should have approximately a hand’s width of room both in front and in the back of your seat for the English saddle to be properly fitted. (Between two and four fingers is generally recommended). If you are in-between sizes, you should go up a size with a saddle that feels slightly too big to ensure that you are comfortable in the seat. You can adjust the fit incrementally with a saddle pad.
General Fit by Saddle Size
This chart provides a general view of what saddle size you should plan to expect for children and adults:
Child or Small Adult
14” - 16.5” saddle
17.5” - 18” saddle
Remember, this is only a guideline and you should determine the right saddle size based on your measurements and personal preference. You’ll want to see what feels the best for you, allowing you the ability to move as you need.
The chart can be useful, though, to validate your measurements. If you find there is a large difference between your saddle size and this chart, you may want to measure again.
How to Measure Gullet on an English Saddle
Selecting an English saddle with a properly-fitted gullet size is important for your horse’s comfort. You can generally determine the size required by looking down on your horse’s back from a position above. An average-sized horse will usually need a medium gullet.
If you are unsure of the right size for the gullet for your horse, you can measure your horse’s withers. Take a flexible-but-firm wire and place it over the horse’s withers two inches behind the horse’s shoulder blade, then bend it so it lays over the withers against the horse’s skin.
Next, lay the wire on a piece of paper (or more, if needed) and trace along the inside of the wire, making sure you do not bend the shape you formed. This method provides the measurement of the withers and the gullet.
Note: If you are unsure about the correct gullet size for your horse, please consult a professional.
Gullet Size Chart
This chart provides gullet-size measurements. However, there may be some variance among saddle makers.
Medium or Average
Western Saddle Sizes vs. English Saddle
A good rule of thumb is that an English saddle seat size will run around two inches larger than a Western saddle. So, if you ride a 15.5” Western saddle, you will likely need a 17.5” English saddle. This is not an exact calculation, and you should always measure and test it first to be sure you get the right fit.
How to Test the Fit of an English Saddle
Before you use your new English saddle, you should check that it is the correct fit for both you and your horse. Place it on a sheet or very thin towel to test the fit instead of putting it on a saddle pad. A correctly-fitted saddle should not rest on the horse’s spine at all.
Once you have determined that the saddle fits your horse properly, you need to test that the seat fits you well also. Sit in the saddle to ensure that you feel balanced and centered. You should have two-to-four inches of room in the front and back for a comfortable fit.
Best English Saddle Brands
The best brand for an English saddle is very much a personal preference. Following are some that consistently get good reviews which we recommend:
It’s a good idea to try a number of different saddles by various manufacturers to determine which is right for you.
A properly-fitted English saddle provides a comfortable ride and effectiveness for both you and your horse. When you start with the measurements and then test the fit to suit your personal preferences, you will find the best English saddle for you.
It’s no secret that we love Ariat here at The Farm House. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about the Ariat Ascent line, along with some great options to consider for your own riding wardrobe.