Saddles connect the rider and horse, both physically and metaphorically. Therefore, ensuring the right fit for both the rider and the horse is essential to forming bonds and having comfortable rides. One of the vital pieces to consider on a Western saddle is the gullet, which determines how the saddle will fit the horse. This article will show how to measure a Western saddle gullet in five simple steps so both you and your horse can enjoy the ride.
Difference Between Western and English Saddles
There are two types of saddles for horse riding on the market. Western saddle is designed for comfort and prolonged use. It is mainly used for ranching, barrel racing, and sightseeing. Comparatively, an English saddle is smaller and more flexible. Typically, English saddles are used for dressage and show jumping.
What is a Gullet?
Equestrian newbies would do well to acquaint themselves with the different components of a saddle. The gullet is where the saddle bars join the fork at the front of the saddle to make room for a horse’s withers. A saddle must not touch the horse’s withers or spine. Doing so will cause pain or severe discomfort to the horse. If the gullet is too short, it will rest on your horse’s withers, and if you have one that’s too wide, the saddle will pinch your horse’s shoulders. You can measure a proper balance between the two in 5 easy steps.
Step 1: A Narrow, Wide, or Intermediate Horse?
The first step in measuring a western saddle gullet is determining whether your horse is broad, narrow, or in the middle. Knowing this will put you in a suitable ballpark for saddle gullet sizes. A narrow horse will use a quarter bar with a gullet width of 5.75 inches (14.61cm) to 6 inches (15.24cm). A broader horse breed would use a full quarter horse bar with a gullet width of 6.25 (15.86cm) to 6.5 inches (16.5cm). These differences in width may seem minute but will make a big difference. Ask your saddlery for help if you are unsure about the bar.
Step 2: Level the Saddle
Make sure your horse is standing still on a level surface. Tie them to a post if you have to. Next, place the saddle on your horse’s back without a saddle pad. Then check to see the saddle is level all around the horse.
Step 3: Look at the Gap From the Front
Stand next to your horse to see the front of the saddle. You should be able to see a gap between the horse’s withers and the saddle fork. A Western saddle gullet should rest around 2 inches (5 cm) beneath the highest point of the horse’s withers.
Step 4: Use Your Fingers to Measure the Gap
Put your hand between the gap of the gullet and the horse’s withers. The hole should be about two to three finger widths. The gullet is too narrow if you can fit less than two fingers. This can lead to pressure sores developing due to friction rubbing between the saddle and the horse’s withers. The gullet is too broad if you can fit more than three fingers in the space. Thus, your body weight will pressure your horse’s spine.
Step 5: Go For A Ride
The best way to ensure you measure the gullet right is to listen to your horse. After you’ve saddled up, take your horse for a short ride and see how they respond. If they seem agitated or less responsive, the gullet may be causing some discomfort. You’ll know the gullet fits just right if your horse is happy and displaying no signs of irritation.
Measuring the gullet of your Western saddle is crucial in ensuring both rider and horse comfort. Practice these five easy steps on how to measure a Western saddle gullet, so both you and your horse feel confident, comfortable, and happy when riding.