The Cactip

September 12, 2012 3 min read

When you are first learning to ride, or are breaking in a new horse, the most complex and frustrating thing can be getting the proper fit with your saddle. The most common error in proper saddle fit is improperly saddling your horse.

There are three primary schools of thought when it comes to saddle fitting, but every saddle maker will most likely tell you something different. It is important to do your research and find out what works best for you and your horse. At Cactus Saddlery, we have over 150 years of combined experience in saddle making, and these are our recommendations for achieving proper saddle fit.

The most efficient way we suggest that you fit your saddle, is fitting with a bare tree. We understand that your local dealer may not carry a stock of bare trees for you to use, that is why we have made it possible for all of the Cactus Saddlery dealers to order bare trees for you to purchase.

The first step in fitting your horse with a bare tree is deciding what kind of tree you need. It is important when you are selecting a tree that you research the quality of the trees that each saddle company uses. Cactus Saddlery offers over 40 styles of tress, using the finest manufacturers in the industry. Each of our trees is put through a rigorous 7-point inspection before a saddle will be built. The tree creates the foundation for your saddle, and if the foundation has issues, you will have major problems with your saddle down the road.

Now, let’s narrow down how to select the proper tree for you and your horse.

Questions to ask yourself:
  1. What event do I want to participate in?
All trees are designed for saddles with a specific function in mind, and it is important that you find a saddle that was made for your event. Some saddles and trees are designed to serve multi-functions and may be a good choice for you. Do your research and find out how trees differ, and what would best suit your needs.
  2. What style bars do you need?
This can be very tricky; a general rule of thumb to follow is that horses with high withers typically use regular quarter horse bars. Horses with mutton, or flat, withers typically use full quarter horse bars because they tend to be flatter. Again, this is just a general rule and may not be true for all horses, but it is a good place to start.
  3. What gullet width do you need?
Again, a sticky question. Higher withered horses tend to use a 6 ½ inch gullet because it will sit up close to their back and provide a good foundation. Mutton withered horses can use a 6 ¾” or 7” gullet width. This will allow the saddle to fit lower and flatter against the horse’s back.
  4. What material do you want your saddle to be made of?
This is highly related to what event you participate in. Most trees are wood and covered with rawhide, but there are trees made from other materials that make the saddle lighter or more flexible. Be sure to research your event to see what would work best for you.
  5. What seat size do you need?
The seat size will affect the length of the bars, slightly. The general rule of thumb is that there should be two finger widths of space between your leg and the swell of the saddle. Having said that, you may prefer more or less space, the important thing is for you to be comfortable and secure.
If you have any questions about these topics and want a good place to start, call your local saddle dealer and see if they have suggestions. You can also contact the saddle makers themselves. We here at Cactus Saddlery offer a contact form on our website, You can submit your questions, and one of our fantastic customer service reps will discuss your options and give you our suggestions.
In our next blog we will discuss putting the bare tree on the horse’s back, and what to look for to know you are getting a proper fit.

Katie Whitney
Katie Whitney

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