Selecting the ideal size of saddle for your riding preferences and comfort.

An excerpt from The Horseman’s Guide to Tack and Equipment.

Seat size is measured from the base of the horn to the top center position of the cantle. Photo by Darrell Dodds.

Saddles are sold with a published seat size measured in ½-inch increments, starting at 12 inches for a child’s saddle and ranging up to 18 inches. Seat size is the distance from the base of the horn to the top center position of the cantle. Anything larger than 18 inches typically is a special order, since most saddle companies don’t keep extra-large sizes in stock.

Finding a saddle that fits isn’t as simple as one-plus-one-equals two. You can’t assume a small adult needs a 14-inch seat, while a large adult must have a 16½-inch seat. A lot of personal preference is involved. Saddle shopping is a bit like shopping for boots; some people want them snug, while others prefer a roomier fit.

“There’s no way to say that a certain size person is going to fit a certain size saddle. Two people might weigh the same, but need different sizes, depending on their builds and what they’re using the saddles for,” notes Webb Fortenberry of Cactus Saddlery.

“If you have a 210-pound man who stands 6 feet, 4 inches, he’s probably going to be lanky, and might need a 14½-inch seat, whereas a 210-pound man who is only 5 feet, 7 inches, has bigger legs and probably needs a 15½-inch seat. Saddle fit has a lot to do with a person’s size and lower body build, in particular, the legs.”

Of course, when it comes to fit, personal preference is most important. Not all team ropers want a snug seat, and not all trail riders want a low, rolled-back cantle.

  • When sitting in a saddle, as a general rule of thumb, there should be:
  • About 4 inches from the front of your body to the horn.
  • At least one finger’s width between your thighs and the swells for a snug seat fit.
  • At least two fingers’ width between thighs and swells for a roomy seat fit.
  • Enough room for your behind to rest against the bottom of the cantle without feeling as though you’re pushed back, pressing against it.
Two people of the same height and weight might not be comfortable riding in the same saddle seat because their bodies aren’t structured alike. Photo by Darrell Dodds.

Keep in mind: Seat size is just one aspect of how a saddle fits the rider. Other factors that affect fit are the fork angle and style, cantle slope and “dish,” and seat slope and depth.

  • A saddle with wide swells, originally known as “bucking rolls” because they were designed to help a cowboy maintain his seat on a bucking horse, or with undercut swells that angle back slightly can help a rider stay in the saddle. On the other hand, a slick A-fork has virtually no swells, so basically there’s a smaller front end to the saddle.
  • A deep saddle pocket with a fairly steep slope to the ground seat helps keep a rider in one position, but a shallow, flatter seat allows more movement.
  • A tall cantle with a steep, upright angle offers more security and back support than a low cantle that angles back. Although a barrel racer might want a tall, steep cantle, a roper or reiner typically wants a shorter cantle with a milder angle.
  • A cantle with significant dish, or recessed portion carved out of the lower face of the front of the cantle, offers more comfort and security than a cantle with little or no dish. Dish can be as deep as 1½ to 2 inches, or much less.


Write A Comment