Saddle Sizing & Fitting Guide
TO DETERMINE THE WIDTH OF SADDLE REQUIRED
A method to determine what width of saddle best fits your horse is to make a template of your horse's wither:
1. Take a piece of wire (perhaps an old coat hanger?) and cut it to a length of 42cm (about 16.5").
2. Bend the wire roughly as shown in the diagram below, then bend the wire over your horse's back just behind the
wither and at the point where the front of the saddle will sit.
3. Press the wire firmly into shape (so that it does not spring open when you remove it from your horse's back).
4. Then measure the distance apart of the two ends of the wire, as shown in the diagram below.
This measurement is used as the WIDTH guide for Zaldi, Ludomar and other makes of saddle.
Zaldi manufacture 5 different widths of saddle and the following widths can be ordered:
Ludomar make a 'standard' (32cm) width or a 'wide' (33cm) width.
28.5 cm (approx 11.25") very narow - muy estrecha
30 cm (approx 11.8") narrow - estrecha
(Some UK manufacturers denote this by N, or sometimes by the number 2)
32 cm (approx 12.6") normal. (Some UK manufacturers denote this by M, or sometimes by the number 3)
33 cm (approx 13") ancha - wide. (Some UK manufacturers denote this by W, or by the number 4)
34 cm (approx 13.4") very wide - muy ancha
(Some UK manufacturers denote this by XW, or sometimes by the number 5)
Seat size is measured by taking a straight line from the saddle 'nail' (see bottom left of diagram below) to the centre of the cantle. This gives you the saddle tree size. This is a common method used to measure saddle trees on European saddles but NOT on 'Western' saddles. You will find that a 'Western 15" saddle is usually the same as a 17" European/English/Zaldi saddle, so beware of this difference in measuring method.
In general sizes less than 17" are for junior riders or small adults, 17" and 17.5" being the most popular sizes, with 18" popular with the larger rider.
See below for more information on the latest saddle trees available.
See the diagram below: For how to measure for saddle width
More saddle fitting information
When choosing a saddle you will need to determine the seat size to suit you but also your horse. Consider the length of your horse's back because this also affects the optimum size of saddle for your horse. If the saddle is too long the rear of the saddle may put pressure on the horse's loins, which not only causes discomfort but can inhibit movement and even cause damage to the horse's back. Care must be especially taken with some Spanish horses as this breed tends to be shorter in the back than many other breeds (not a 'fault' but actually an advantage if your pursuit is advanced dressage, Alta Escuela and other collected disciplines). In our webshop we have indicated the length of the saddle over the horse's back for many of the saddles.
Balance is important, i.e. you should be able to comfortably sit centrally in the saddle (lowest point of the seat on some saddles). If you are forced, or find you can only sit comfortably, to the back of the saddle then you could transfer too much weight towards the horse's loins and you could cause the horse back problems.
The saddle must vertically clear the horse's wither, when the rider is sitting on the saddle. As a guide there should be a minimum of about 3.5cm (about 1.5" or 2 fingers' width) clearance. The saddle must also clear the horse's spine and sit with an equal bearing surface at the front and rear. Zaldi make most of their saddles with a central 'canal' approximately 7cm (2.75") wide to clear the horse's spine.
The diagram above shows you one method to help you choose the best width.
Remember your horse's back can change shape and this will occur due to changes in age, work (more work more muscle) and feeding regime, so regularly check the saddle's fit.
Some general saddle information
Materials: Saddles are now available in a variety of materials as well as traditional leather. Some of the new generation of synthetic materials, such as the ranges available in Z-plus, are very easy to clean, just with soap and water, and virtually stain-proof as well as being strong, hard wearing and available in a wide range of colours.
Trees: A 'new generation' of high-tech trees are now being produced by Zaldi to a very high specification. Made from special thermoplastic materials (and some also incorporate carbon-fibre) developed in conjunction with CIDAUT (Foundation for the Investigation and Development in Transport and Energy) these trees possess the necessary characteristics of rigidity with a great capacity to deform and absorb energy in specified areas.
Not only do these trees provide the desired flexibility, with designed-in energy absorption, they are light in weight.
The saddle tree may be considered the 'heart' of the saddle and must have some elasticity to help disperse the rider's weight over the horse's back, but the tree must not be 100% elastic because friction points can be created which could also cut off the horse's circulation in the middle of the spinal column.
Zaldi's saddle trees are specifically designed and differently shaped to suit each individual application.
They include; deep dressage, very deep dressage, semi-flat jump, intermediate all-purpose, light flexible endurance/raid, comfortable 'mountain', resistant 'country' and a new lightweight design for the traditional Spanish Vaquera saddle (the latest generation T + T range of Vaquera saddles also incorporates lightweight state of the art carbon fibre, or carbon-fibre/polypropylene mix trees).
You can see some of the new tree designs at the bottom of the picture below.
Traditional style Vaquera saddles are now available with the new Zaldi tree and being more flexible and significantly lighter in weight are kinder to the horse's back. Panels are now available filled with either natural animal hair or latex rubber. Older traditional saddles tended to be very rigid, relatively heavy, made in one 'standard' size and were filled with rush or straw fibres and the saddle would basically 'mould' itself to some extent to the horse's shape with the disadvantage that the saddle became less transferable from horse to horse.
Some Ludomar saddles now feature the 'flexible' tree as an option at minimal extra cost.
The traditional stirrups used on Vaquera saddles are effectively 'safety' stirrups, as it is unlikely you can slip your foot through the stirrups (so long as you have correctly sized stirrups, i.e. not a child riding in adult/full size stirrups) and be dragged in a fall. Even these have been modernised now and are available in the traditional design but much lighter in weight, using alloy or plastic materials.
Some information reference Zaldi saddles