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Fitting Saddles and Bridles

How to make sure your tack fits your horse or pony correctly.

SaddleIt's so important to make sure that your horse's tack fits properly. A badly fitting saddle can pinch a horse's back and make him unhappy. A bridle that is too tight can rub a horse's head and cause sores. And if your horse doesn't feel comfortable, he may behave badly, and you won't have fun riding him.

Next time you ride your horse, check his bridle and saddle to make sure they fit him perfectly.

A Suitable Saddle
Horses and ponies come in different shapes and sizes, and a saddle that fits one perfectly may be uncomfortable on another. You may have to try several saddles on your horse until you find one that fits him nicely.

Put the saddle on your horse, without a pad, and fasten the girth.

Stand on a block behind your horse, and look through the gullet (the tunnel.) It should be wide enough to clear your horse's spine, and you should be able to see out of the front of the gullet.

While mounted, you should be able to fit at least three fingers between the pommel and the withers.

You should be able to fit at least three fingers between the cantle and your horse's back.

Slide your fingers under the saddle at the front on each side. If you have trouble doing this, especially around the D-ring area, the saddle is too narrow and will pinch your horse.

The stuffing on the bottom of your saddle should be smooth-no lumps and bumps that put pressure on your horse's back. If the stuffing is completely flat take the saddle to a saddler to be re-flocked (more stuffing added).

You should be able to fit at least three fingers between the cantle and your horse's back.

A Fluffy Pad Won't Fix It! Don't try to make a terrible saddle fit better by using a fluffy saddle pad. This might be an okay emergency measure, but it doesn't work long-term. Just ask your horse!

Remember to pull your saddle pad up into the gullet (make a tent) to prevent pressure on your horse's withers and spine.

Bridles & Bits
Put on your horse's bridle and check it out. Have a hole punch handy in case you need to make some adjustments.

First of all, you should be able to slide a finger under the bridle, all over your horse's head. If the bridle is too tight, your horse will be uncomfortable and may shake his head while you are riding him.

Check that the noseband is in the correct position. A plain cavesson noseband should lie about two finger widths below your horse's cheekbone-the bone that juts out on the side of his face.

Make sure the noseband is not too tight, because it could interfere with your horse's breathing. You should be able to stick two fingers underneath the noseband.

A browband isn't adjustable so you have to buy the right size. It should be big enough to allow the headpiece to lie comfortably behind the ears. The browband should lie just below the base of the ears, without cutting in to them.

You should be able to fit the width of four fingers between the throatlatch and your horse's jawbone.

If your horse's bit is the right size, it should stick out about a quarter of an inch at each side of his mouth. If the bit is too wide, it will slide around and won't work properly. If it's too narrow, it will pinch and rub.

Where the bit sits in the mouth depends on how you adjust the bridle's cheekpieces. Ideally the bit should just wrinkle the corners of the mouth. Two or three wrinkles are about right.



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