Western Saddle Sizing Guide
What is your Western Saddle Seat Size
All western saddles come with a seat size typically between 12" - 18". Seat size simply measures the distance from the base of the horn to the top middle of the cantle. This distance is then expressed as a size in half-inch increments from 12 to 18 inches.
The following will give you a very general idea of saddle sizes:
- Youth: 12"-13"
- Small Adult: 14"
- Average Adult: 15"
- Large Adult: 16"
- Extra Large Adult: 17"
Sizing for the Rider
- Rider preference for saddle size varies – some choose a larger seat and other prefer a smaller seat. Discipline of riding plays a role in the size of a saddle. In general, you should have 4” between the front of your body and the swell of the saddle. Your backside should rest at the base of the cantle, but not be pressing against the back of the cantle.
- If you have long legs, you may need a larger seat size so your knees do not hang off the front of the fenders.
- A slightly larger seat is better than too small. When sitting in the saddle your thighs should not touch the back of the swell. This can be uncomfortable for the rider.
- When buying a saddle always adjust the stirrups to the proper length so you can assess the feel of the seat and the balance of the saddle correctly.
With a published saddle seat size, choosing the right size saddle would seem to be pretty straightforward. In reality seat size is just one factor determining the fit of a western saddle. Sit in the same size of a variety of different styles and brands of saddles and you'll find significant differences in the fit. You might find that a 14 1/2" Tex Tan fits well but that you need a 15" in a Abetta.
Why the differences? There are a number of measurements in addition to seat size that impact the fit of a western saddle.
- Seat Depth - Some saddles have deep seats designed to keep you in place during extreme activity and others have shallower seats to allow for more movement.
- Seat Slope - The seat angles from the handhold back towards the cantle and the slope can range from relatively flat to steep.
- Cantle Slope - The cantle can be high and straight or have a slope that is mild or steep.
- Cantle Dish - The cantle can be flat or have a recess or dish in the front side that can be an inch or more in depth.
- Fork Style - There are a wide range of fork styles that can range from wide swells to slick fork saddles with barely any swell.
- Fork Angle - Forks can be straight or angle away from the rider.
Each of these features can impact the way a saddle fits a rider. Unfortunately, none of these other measurements are standardized or published in a saddle's measurements. So, when shopping for a western saddle, the only way to truly determine fit is to sit in each saddle. Only then will you know if the saddle is a good fit for you.
The rider’s seat size can effect saddle fit. If the seat size is to big or to small, the rider’s weight will not be distributed evenly and could result in a decreased level of saddle fit.
The rider needs a seat that is also comfortable. The seat size may be correct but if it is not comfortable for the rider, the result is a negative fit. It is the responsibility of the saddle maker to design, build, and shape the seat where the rider is both comfortable and centered.
It has been observed that riders have a tendency to ride a saddle with a larger seat. The reason for this is unclear, but there are indicators. Some of the "rules of thumb" and charts will result in a larger seat than is correct for the rider. Some riders prefer their feet and legs out in front as if they were sitting in a chair. Others feel more secure when pivot effect pushes them back into the cantle and they are braced in the saddle.