Horse.com > Horse Articles >

Fitting an Australian Saddle

Recommended Links:
Shop Australian Saddles »
Shop Australian Tack »

Note: This guide is provided for informational purposes only by Down Under Saddle Supply. All saddles, horses and riders are different. Please check with your local professional before purchasing a saddle.
 

Where to position the Australian saddle on your horse:

Heart Girth Measurement

Australian saddles sit more forward on a horse’s back than traditional western saddles. The stirrups are also attached in a more forward position. This puts the rider's center of gravity and weight in a more forward position rather than the middle of the spine. The girth should be 1" to 3" behind the horse's front legs. This position is unquestionably far more comfortable for most horses and greatly enhances horse performance. Before undertaking a long ride with your new saddle, we suggest many shorter rides allowing the padding to conform and adjust to your horse.

How the saddle should fit on your horse:
Saddle Fitment Too High
 
Australian saddles do sit differently on a horse than Western or English saddles, and a different fitment approach is required. Be certain to find someone with the appropriate expertise regarding Australian saddles and how they should fit your horse.

The ABC's of Horse Saddle Fitment

A. The Front of the saddle is too high - The front (pommel) of this saddle is sitting too high. This will result in the majority of the rider’s weight being transferred to the back half of the saddle. It’s a simple principle of weight running downhill. This is uncomfortable for the rider and the horse; within a short period of time the horse will develop white hair, then visible saddle soreness. The saddletree is too narrow for the horse, and you need a wider saddle. The narrower the saddletree, the higher the front of the saddle will sit.                                                                                    
Saddle Fitment Too High Illustration A

B. The Front of the saddle is too low - The back (cantle) of this saddle is sitting too high. This will result in the majority of the rider’s weight being transferred to the front half of the saddle (gravity wins again!). This is uncomfortable for the rider and the horse. Within a short period of time the horse will develop white hair, then visible saddle soreness. The saddletree is too wide for the horse, and you need a narrower saddle or a saddle tree adjustment (if adjustable). The wider the saddletree, the lower the front of the saddle will sit.
Saddle Fitment Too LowIllustration B
 
C. Ideal Fit - The front and back of this saddle is level, distributing the rider’s weight evenly over the horse’s back. Don’t just consider the front and back of the saddle, also look at the seat itself. The seat in this saddle is nice and level. To determine that the saddle is fairly level, just eyeball it, there is no need to use a level. It is not always possible to get this perfect “textbook fitment” shown here. However if the front is a little higher or a little lower, you will be okay, as long as you don’t have the extremes shown above. (Several of Down Under's saddle models are made with a deeper seat and higher cantle, so naturally the back of the seat will sit slightly higher than the front on these models).
Saddle Fitment Just Right Illustration C

When the saddle is level, there should be even contact along the panels at the front of the saddle. There should be two to four inches of clearance between the top of the withers and the top of the saddle chamber.

How can you determine saddle fitment in this way? A good rule of thumb is that you need to have four fingers of clearance at the front of the saddle and certain clearance on each side of the wither.

If you don’t have enough clearance between the top of the withers and the saddle, the front of the saddle is obviously sitting too low on the horse; this is diagnosed in illustration “B” above. If you had too much clearance at the front, the result is shown in illustration “A” above.

How to Ride Australian

Riding Position - Adjust the stirrup leather length so when you’re sitting in the saddle your thigh runs parallel with the kneepad. You’ll ride longer in the stirrup with your feet forward and heels down. You should place 25% of your weight in each stirrup and the balance in the seat of the saddle; this ensures an even weight distribution on the horse’s back. If your horse is developing sore spots, you always need to consider two points, saddle fitment and the rider’s technique. Is the rider placing the correct weight in the stirrups and the saddle seat? When posting in an Australian saddle, you need to use a much lower post than you might have been taught by your riding instructor. You have a few minor riding adjustments to make in order to enjoy the many benefits of an Australian saddle. After you have mastered “Aussie Riding” it is unlikely you will ever want to ride Western or English ever again. 

How to Select the Proper Seat Size:
 
Australian saddles are measured differently than Western or English saddles. Below is a general guide to the size you will need in an Australian saddle.
 
 Western Size
 14"  15"
 English Size
 17"  18"
 Australian Size
 16"  17"
 
 
Approximate Saddle Size Guide - Men's
 
 Saddle Size
 15  16  17  18  19 20
 21
 Weight (lbs.)
 110-130  130-160  160-180  180-200  200-220  220-240  240+
 Waist Size
 28-32  32-34  34-36  36-38  38-40  40-42  42+
 
 Approximate Saddle Size Guide - Ladies'
 
 Saddle Size
 15  16  17  18  19  20  21
 Weight (lbs.)
 95-120  120-140  140-160  160-180  180-200  200-220  220+
 Pant Size
 4/6  6/8  10/12  14/16  18/20  20/22 22+

Please note that these are general guidelines. If you have any questions about which saddle size is right for you, please consult with your local professional.

Horse.com is proud to carry a great line of Australian saddles at the best prices!  Shop Australian Saddles
 


Horse Articles Index
Like this article? Share it!