How to Measure for an English Saddle

How to Measure for an English Saddle

Finding the right English saddle is a critical aspect of horseback riding. When selecting a saddle, you want to choose one that suits your riding discipline and is a good fit for you and your horse. A properly fitted saddle helps facilitate communication between horse and rider, prevents injuries, and even boosts performance. In this guide, we’ll provide clear and practical instructions on measuring for an English saddle, emphasizing the importance of a proper fit so you and your horse can ride comfortably. 

What is an English saddle?

English saddles are used in English riding disciplines such as hunter, jumper, dressage, eventing, fox hunting, and trail riding. These disciplines emphasize close contact between the rider and the horse, and the design of the English saddle reflects this need for communication and precision. All English saddles are constructed to provide optimal freedom of movement to the horse, though the design may vary slightly between disciplines. 

English saddles have a lightweight construction and flatter seats compared to Western saddles’ deeper and more contoured seats. The flatter seat lets you easily adjust your position and move with the horse’s movements, promoting a balanced seat. The flaps of an English saddle are often forward-cut, meaning they are angled forward to accommodate the rider’s leg position for jumping. This cut allows for shorter stirrup lengths, typical in disciplines such as jumping and dressage.

Unlike many Western saddles, English saddles do not have a horn. The lack of a horn provides a clear and unobstructed area in front of the rider, allowing for greater freedom of movement and aiding in various riding maneuvers. 

Why is saddle fit important?

Beyond safety for you and your horse, there are other reasons why getting your saddle size right is so important. The fit of your saddle impacts your ability to move and your riding effectiveness and affects your horse’s comfort. A properly fitted saddle allows even weight distribution on your horse’s back, preventing injury and allowing your horse to move comfortably. 

Ensuring that a saddle fits properly is crucial for several reasons.

Your horse’s comfort

A well-fitted saddle prevents discomfort and pain for your horse. If the saddle is too tight or rubs against your horse’s skin, it can lead to soreness, bruising, and even long-term injuries. A properly fitted saddle is comfortable for your horse to wear while riding and competing.

Rider comfort

A properly fitted saddle provides stability and comfort for you, the rider. It helps you to maintain a balanced seat, preventing unnecessary strain on your body and allowing for better communication with your horse.

Weight distribution

A saddle that has been properly fitted helps you maintain a balanced seat. When you’re evenly balanced in the saddle, your weight is distributed evenly over your horse’s back, which is crucial for effective communication with your horse, proper posture, and control as you perform various tasks on horseback. This also prevents sore spots, chafing, and pressure points across your horse’s spine, which can ultimately lead to more severe injuries.

Injury prevention

Like your helmet and riding boots, a properly fitted saddle can help prevent injuries. Ill-fitting saddles can cause a range of injuries to both horse and rider, including back problems, muscle injuries, and even behavioral issues in the horse resulting from discomfort. 

Optimal performance

A well-fitted saddle allows your horse to move freely and use its body effectively, essential for performance when riding recreationally or competitively. You will also ride better in a well-fitted saddle.

Communication and control

You can also communicate with your horse better using a properly fitted saddle. You can have better posture and a secure seat, strengthening the connection between you and your horse while you ride.

Preventing behavioral issues

Discomfort caused by an improperly fitted saddle can result in behavioral issues in your horse, such as resistance, refusal, or anxious behavior. A well-fitted saddle contributes to a positive and cooperative attitude in your horse, ultimately strengthening your bond and enhancing your ride together.

How does saddle material affect saddle fit?

Tree material

The saddle tree is the framework that gives the saddle its shape. It’s made of various materials, including wood, fiberglass, plastic, or a combination. The tree material influences the saddle’s flexibility, durability, and weight. A well-designed tree that matches the horse’s back shape is essential for proper weight distribution and preventing discomfort.

Panel material

The panels are the padded areas beneath the saddle that rest on the horse’s back. They are typically filled with foam, wool, or a combination. The panel material affects the distribution of pressure and impact absorption. Wool-filled panels, for example, can be adjusted to better conform to the horse’s back shape, though these need to be reflocked periodically to maintain the padding.

Seat material

The material used for the seat of the saddle can impact the rider’s comfort and position. Leather, synthetic materials, and various padding options may be used. The choice of material can affect the saddle’s grip, feel, and durability.

Leather quality

The quality of the leather used in a saddle can affect its flexibility, suppleness, and durability. High-quality leather tends to be more comfortable for both the horse and the rider. It is also more likely to mold to the horse’s shape over time.

Parts of an English saddle

Before you begin measuring for an English saddle, you should identify the two main parts you should measure for: the seat and the gullet. Both parts are equally important when determining the best fit for an English saddle.

The seat, or the topmost part of the saddle, where you’re positioned in the saddle, is designed for rider comfort and communication with your horse. The gullet beneath the seat is structured for your horse. The horse’s size is considered when fitting the gullet to ensure it’s comfortable and allows the movement needed for the horse to perform well in your chosen discipline.

How to measure an English saddle seat

The best way to measure your seat size is to measure your thigh from your knee to your buttocks.

  • Step one: Sit in a chair so your knees are at a 90-degree angle, your feet flat on the floor, and your buttocks touching the back of the chair.
  • Step two: Using a measuring tape along your thigh, measure from the back of your knee to the back of your buttocks. 
  • The resulting measurement is the approximate seat size of the saddle you need. 

For a great fit, you should have approximately a hand’s width of room in the front and back of your seat (between two and four fingers is recommended). 

In between sizes? Go up a size with a saddle that feels slightly too big to ensure you are comfortable in the seat. You can adjust the fit incrementally with a saddle pad.

English Saddle Size Chart

Once you take your measurement, compare it to the chart below to select your saddle size:

Your Measurement Saddle Size
<16.5” 15” saddle
16.5” to 18.5” 16” saddle
18.5” to 20” 16.5” saddle
20” to 21.5” 17” saddle
21.5” to 23” 17.5” saddle
23+” 18” saddle

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
Average Adult 17” saddle
Large Adult 17.5” – 18” saddle
Extra-Large Adult 18+” saddle

Remember, this is only a guideline, and you should determine 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 helpful, though, to validate your measurements. You may want to measure again if you find a significant difference between your saddle size and this chart.

How to measure gullet on an English saddle

Measuring your horse’s gullet width ensures that an English saddle fits correctly. You’ll need a flexible measuring tape or a long string and a ruler for this.

  • Step one: Find the widest part of the withers where the gullet of the saddle will sit. The withers are the highest part of your horse’s back, between shoulder blades.  Learn more about your horse’s anatomy →
  • Step two: If using a flexible measuring tape, extend it across the horse’s withers at the widest point. If you’re using a string, gently place it along the gullet area, following the contour of your horse’s withers.
  • Step three: If you’re using a measuring tape, note the measurement where it crosses the withers. If you’re using a string, mark the point where it completes the circumference and then measure the string against a ruler.

Consult a professional saddle fitter if you need clarification on the measurement or saddle fit. They can provide expert advice and assistance in finding the right saddle for your horse.

Gullet Size Chart

The chart below provides gullet-size measurements. However, there may be some variance among saddle makers, so be sure to check their sizing charts before buying.

Gullet Size Inches
Narrow 6”
Medium or Average 6.5”
Wide 7”
Extra Wide 8”

Western saddle sizes vs. English saddle sizes

An English saddle seat size is typically 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 using your new English saddle, you should check that it is the correct fit for you and your horse. Place the saddle on a sheet or very thin towel instead of a saddle pad to test the fit. A correctly fitted saddle should not rest on your horse’s spine at all.

Once you have determined that the saddle fits your horse correctly, you must test that the seat also fits you well. 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 a personal preference. It’s a good idea to try several different saddles by various manufacturers to determine which is right for you.

Here are a few brands that we’ve used and recommend ourselves:

By fitting your English saddle properly, you’ll be able to ride more effectively and safely and enjoy a better connection with your equine partner.

Don’t forget the rest of your tack! At The Farm House, we carry the best English bridles, saddle pads, halters, and more so you can fully outfit your horse for any event or competition.

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Do u use same Sz English as western


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