Measuring for the Rider:
Measuring the rider for a sidesaddle is very different from measuring for an astride saddle.
To confuse the issue, the system used in Europe and the UK for measuring seat length is not the same as that used in the US. The diversity of saddles and styles necessitated the use of a system of measuring the seat of the rider with the corresponding surface area on the saddle.
To measure the seat of the rider:
Sit on hard hard backed chair, with feet flat on the floor, and your back touching the chairback. Measure from the chairback to the back of the bend at the knee. This gives you the combined length of seat and thighbone, which equals the surface space the rider will utilize on the saddle. If the rider is heavier than average, it’s a good idea to measure across the hips while seated. See the photos below for the corresponding measurements on the saddle.
To measure the seat of the saddle:
Measure down the center of the seat, from a point in line with the front edge of the upright horn, back to the cantle. Older saddles generally are between 17 – 20″. More modern saddles come in sizes as long as 24 inches, with 21″ considered the Medium size.
Fitting to the Horse:
Hundred Oaks, Inc., a reputable seller of Steele and Elan sidesaddles, offers this guide for creating a tracing of your horses’ shape in order to ensure a proper fit when ordering a saddle from them. Please note that this guide may not be applicable when purchasing from other retailers or when buying used, antique saddles.
A horse with very low withers was purposefully chosen for this photo. If your horse has higher withers you won’t have a problem finding the saddle pocket – the hollow spot just behind the withers, and almost directly above the area where the girth will rest. On horses like this one you may have to manually feel for the pocket. One other trick is to put an English style saddle on the horse, ride it a bit, then mark the spot where the front of the saddle rests when you’re finished riding. Almost all saddles will “migrate” to the saddle pocket during use.
It’s vitally important that the tracing be done on the correct area of the back – or any saddles sent to you will not fit!
If you’re unsure about locating the saddle pocket please contact a horse professional to assist you.
Once you’ve located the saddle pocket, use any type of wire – coat hangers, baling wire, very stiff electrical wire – whatever you can shape to your horses’ back and shoulder. PLEASE NOTE: A Flexicurve is NOT long enough for this! English sidesaddles have a point that extends 18 – 22″ down the shoulder of the horse. The tracing MUST show this curve, or your saddle may not fit.
If you send in a tracing that doesn’t show the shoulder, and you want an English sidesaddle, the manufacturer won’t be able to tell if the point will dig into your horse – a situation you do not want!
Try to get the shape of the wire as close as possible to the shape of the horse, then trace it onto paper. You should have a shape something like what’s shown in the upper right hand corner of the photo. The manufacturer will need the original, not a reduced size copy. When it is received, it will be held up to the saddles in the shop to try to find the best fit.