3 Step Process for self measuring your horse and pony

Gary Slack is available to measure your horse for a fee of $99 for most areas ( more in the country ) and with 41 years experience is one of Australia’s Highest Credentialed Saddle Fitters if you need help. Our philosophy is a happy horse makes a happy rider ūüôā

All horses and ponies are individual in size and shape with bone structure, musculature and body proportions. Your horse or pony is our number one priority and to achieve peak performance we need to look closely at the horse or pony and evaluate their reactions to the saddle. Horses and ponies are flight animals that move their best when they have nothing on their back. When we put a saddle on we restrict their movement. Our challenge is to minimise this restriction. If one of our experienced accredited saddle fitters cannot get to see you and your horse or pony, the next best process is to do our saddle fitting process yourself ! To assist us in getting the best possible saddle fit for each individual horse or pony we have developed a 3 step process for you to follow. To best understand your horse and ponies conformations please click to see the muscular structure and the skeletal frame. To get started click here for the Horse Measurement Template Form, when completed these forms will need to be emailed through to us.

Step 1 – Horse or Pony Measurement Template Form

Step 2 – Horse or Pony Profile

Step 3 – Images of the horse or pony


Step 1 – Horse or Pony Measurement Template Form

It is globally accepted that there are 6 key issues that need to be followed to maximise comfort, safety and enjoyment for horse, pony and rider. Please note: Do not use a saddle cloth when evaluating your saddle just the bare saddle on the horse or pony’s back

a) Tree Size
The shape of the tree must sit parallel to the horses or ponies back shape as much as possible. Saddle trees vary in length, width, depth and style. The aim is to get the best match for your horse or pony.¬†If the tree is too long and flat it will put pressure on the horse or pony when they move, if the tree is too scoopy, it will rock on the horse or pony’s back and cause excess pressure. Our experienced accredited team will assist you with this process of finding the most suitable tree design.

b)Saddle Positioning
You must always use two hands to position the saddle. When placing the saddle on the horse or pony’s back from the near side the right hand must push down on the saddle pommel and the left hand must be positioned at the base of the saddle pushing backwards so that the two hands work in unison to position the saddle back behind the scapula. Positioning the saddle is crucial, push down firmly so that the horse or pony has freedom of movement behind the top of the shoulder. Ideally you should be able to get your fingers behind the scapula and in front of the saddle. Primary is positioning of the saddle at the front of the horse or pony. Secondary is the assessment of the tree length. You need to ensure that the saddle sits inside the Thorasic section of the body and not encroaching onto the lumbar part of the spine. Click here to be linked to the skeletal structure and muscular structure to better understand your horse.

c) Clearance
The saddle tree must be wide enough for the individual horse and pony and must be clear of the spine along the entire length of the saddle. Clearance is also essential at the front of the saddle to ensure the saddle has height and width away from the spine in the wither area. The clearance needed at the front of the saddle varies but ideally a minimum of 4-6cm. Jump saddles usually require a little more clearance than a dressage saddle. It is essential that this clearance is maintained once the rider sits in the saddle. Whilst the saddle is on place your fingers either side of the horse or pony’s spine at the wither to ensure there is suitable clearance between the spine and the saddle. If it is too tight, it will cause a pinching effect, too loose and it will move forward and rock on the horse or pony’s back.

d) Balance
Next step is to ensure that the saddle conforms to the horse and pony’s back with even distribution. Too much bearing down at the front leads to pressure on the scapula and too much at the back puts pressure on the horse or pony’s loins. Either of these situations is not good for horse, pony or rider. An important step here is to ensure that you tighten the back girth point on both sides first as the back girth point is closer to the middle of the saddle and we want to pull the middle of the saddle in to the middle of the horses back for balance. If we tightened the front girth point first it is likely to pull the front of the saddle down and therefore unbalance the saddle from the start.

e) Panel Contact
The saddle panels must contour to the horse or pony’s back shape allowing even weight distribution of the weight of the rider and not dig in to the horse or pony’s back. If we have contact at the front of the saddle and also at the back but a gap in the centre then this is what we call bridging and is not good. We want an even panel contact all the way through.

f) Symmetry
Once the saddle is positioned ensure that the horse or pony has freedom behind the scapula (top of the shoulder), freedom at the back of the saddle panels (near the loins), next ensure the saddle is well clear of the spine and finally that the seat of the saddle is going to place the rider in a centered and balanced seat. If your saddle doesn’t fit the criteria of these steps consult one of our experienced team about the specific issue and we may be able to adjust your existing saddle or come up with some options. Saddle fitting consultations can be organised in any of our 4 stores, online or over the phone. Our toll free number is 1800 62 1843

Step 2 – Horse or Pony Profile
Your horse can either be high wither (high withered horse), medium wither (standard built horse) or low wither (cob type horse). By comparing them to the images here you can assess which type your horse is.
To get your horse / pony’s template use a piece of wire on their back as shown on the first page of the form. Trace this wire onto a piece of paper as you will need to send this to us with your other form.

Step 3 – Images of the horse or pony
We need you to take 3 different photos for us and then email them through to us with all the other information you have gathered on your horse.
Photo 1 – Your horse or pony must be standing squarely on a flat surface with their weight evenly distributed on all 4 legs.
Photo 2 – Place your saddle on the horse or pony’s back with the girth done up. Please do not use a saddle cloth as this covers key parts of the horse or pony that we need to see. What we are looking for is firstly where the saddle is positioned so that we can see the freedom of the horse or pony, secondly the balance of the saddle, thirdly the suitability of the size of the saddles, fourthly the suitability of the type of saddle and finally the girth positioning.
Photo 3 – The next image we need is to taken from the horse or pony’s head looking back at the saddle. This image will assist us with the width of the saddle tree and the clearance over the wither area.
Examples of photos needed

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Once all the steps are completed, post or email to sales@bonnetts.com.au.