How To Measure A Saddle Gullet Properly With Full Leather & Fleece On?

You’ve just adopted a vigorous Missouri Fox Trotter, yet still haven’t found his saddle match? Or could it be that your mare is itching to run, but his saddle has gotten too worn-out?

Eventually, every equestrian would have to reach the stage where it’s obligatory to replace or formulate his horse’s saddle. And the majority of us should lack insights about this matter.

Even with the most basic quests, to determine the width of the saddle, you’d probably find yourself struggling about how to measure a saddle gullet width before fitting it on your horse’s back. That’s what brings us to this article, to learn about gullet calibration methods and figure out whether you can take these measurements by yourself without confiding in professional fitters.

Measure A Saddle Gullet With Full Leather And Fleece On
Measure A Saddle Gullet With Full Leather And Fleece On

What Is A Saddle Gullet?

In order to fit a saddle to your horseback, you need the measurements of its width. This index is covered by a middle gap between two parallel bars, which you’ll probably notice if you flip the saddle over.

Part of A Barrel Racing Saddle

They refer to this gap as the gullet, laid beneath the pommel and channeling through the horse’s withers. What determines its width and height are the design of the fork and the saddle-tree’s bar angles. The Horseman’s Handbook of Western Saddles proposed some documented quarter horse bar’s pitch for references as below, though this doesn’t apply to all cases:

Regular quarter bar 5″
Semi-quarter bar 6″
Full quarter bar 6″ to 6″
Extra-wide quarter bar 6″ to 7″
Arabian bar 6″ to 6″

A well-fitted gullet plays a substantial role in boosting the performance of your horse under certain riding disciplines. Unfortunately, there are no standard measurements for the gullets or whatsoever, as each saddle manufacturer runs its own calibration regarding raw saddle-tree or hide’s chunkiness.

Read more: 8 main parts of a Western Saddle

How To Measure A Saddle Gullet’s Width?

Two Most Common Gullet Gauging Methods

1. Through Wither Tracing

As mentioned above, the gullet runs over the wither and depicts how wide it has to be for the saddle to perfectly complement your horse’s wither and shoulder for the sake of smooth maneuverability. Gullets come in all sorts of styles, each crafted solely for certain types of horses.

Once having successfully pinned down the formation of the wither and the shape of your horse, you can trace back to the sizes of the gullet. Invariably, acute withers and cramped barrels would involve a relatively narrow gullet. Meanwhile, broader ones would fit the script better for obtuse withers on a wide-build horse.

Following is a list of common “standard” gullet measurements in market circulation:

Gullet Size

Body Type

5” –  5.5” Pony/ Regular
6″ Narrow Build/ Semi-quarter Horse
6.5″ Average Build/ Quarter Horse
7″ Wide Build/ Full Quarter Horse
7.25” Arabian
8″ Draft Horse

Enough for ranting, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and trace the wither formation straight from the scratch with these materials: a wire hanger/wire, paper/cardboard and marker. Here are the steps (take this How to measure and fit a saddle on your horse tutor by National Saddle Centre NZ as a guide):

  • Step 1: Bend the wire over the withers of your horse by imposing it 2 inches behind the shoulder blade and against the horse skin.
  • Step 2: Remove the wire delicately so that the shape you had created wouldn’t bend.
  • Step 3: Drop the wire onto the paper/carton, and use the marker to trace along the surface of the wire.
  • Step 4: Fix a measuring tape over the wire, 2-3 inches (2 inches for Western saddles and the rest for English saddles) below the wither angle. The distance from each side of the wire would be the gullet width of your horse.

2. Through Professional Saddle Fitter’s Consultation

One of the easiest ways to find a saddle gullet that really accommodates your horse is to enlist the assistance of a personal saddle fitter. A competent saddle fitter is capable of rolling out all the works alongside you and your horse to scrap out the most appropriate saddle styles that serve you both.

Typically they will offer you a catalog of saddles, ranging from Western to English makes, and you will also be educated about what your horse truly desires.

Proper Wither Clearance
Proper Wither Clearance

How To Check If Your Saddle Gullet Is Fitting Properly?

You get to reinvestigate via two senses: your eyes and your common wit.

If there is a clear air cylinder channeled through your sight straight from the wither along with the saddle, then you know it’s a successful show wrap. In contrast, if your view is blocked midway through the saddle, the gullet width is too small then.

Another way to reassure whether your saddle gullet width is fitting sufficiently is to put two to three fingers between the front of the gullet and the wither. Any extra room left and you’d get a loose saddle.

3 Common Myths About Saddle Gullet Measurements

There are three prevailing misconceptions going around the saddle gullet industry.

First of all, it’s believed that standard measurements of gullets do exist. Regardless, there can’t be a precise method circulating around all gullet manufacturers.

Billy Cook may frame their saddle-trees differently from Crates, so different gullet widths should come out despite their applying identical pitching techniques. Most online saddle shops merely use the figures given by the manufacturers, leaving you to take some random shots at how those stats actually stack up.

Secondly, every saddle with the same gullet widths is alleged to fit the same horses. In fact, not only is the gullet width a determinant, but the bar’s angle and twist as well would decide how the saddle will fit, as revealed by Stoney Saddles in their Correctly Measuring the Saddle Tree Gullet video.

To make it more puzzling, the discrepancy between a bare saddle-tree versus a tree with leather and fleece on also yields different gullet measurements. And the different touchpoints where you set the measuring tapes would produce different statistics.

The final most common misunderstanding claims all semi-quarter horse bar saddles have the same gullet width. The point is, in the saddle industry, terminologies are used loosely. Semi-quarter horse bars are sometimes alluded to as quarter horse bars, but there are people who also refer to this term upon wide bars. In short, one term can represent multiple sizes.

The Importance of True Gullet Width

Originally, the saddle gullet was designated for only one mission: to clear the spinous process. Thus its width was narrow to mirror the equine’s skeleton shape, causing the horse’s suspicious lameness (see the very first born English saddles for illustration).

A Saddle With Too Narrow Gullet Width
A Saddle With Too Narrow Gullet Width – Source: Saddlerysolutions.com/

Gradually, the course of movements of the horse was additionally taken into account when fitting the width of the saddle gullet, such as freeing the supraspinous ligament which stretches on top of the spinous process.

When selecting and fitting a saddle, you must bear in mind that there are also junctions of muscle groups that generate free movement surrounding the wither. Here are two of those vital muscle bundles: the multifidus and semispinalis.

The multifidus is located near the spine, realigning and promoting the intervertebral joints. On the other hand, the semispinalis muscles connect the core of the neck to the withers and back. A saddle needs to clear this area entirely so that the neck and shoulder can be easily extended and elevated.

These muscles belong to a dynamic system that supports the lateral movement such as back bending or flexing and releases the lymphatics out of segmented bony canals.

Overly cramped gullets may pressurize the soft spots of the horse’s ligament and nerves, thus hampering equine’s freedom of movement. While excessively spacious ones would slip off the horse’s spine or elevate the rider’s seat too far above the horse’s back.

Read more: Most Comfortable Horse Saddles you should try

Bottom Line

To wrap up, you would’ve noticed by now, apparently, that there are two plausible approaches on how to measure a saddle gullet width: by tracing the wither and by hiring skilled saddle fitters.

We have to attain these figures and sizes properly for the sake of your horse’s muscle flexion and freedom of maneuverability. An excessively narrow or wide saddle width (gullet) would allow it to either pinch your horse’s soft flesh or slip off his back, thus eradicating its original purpose as a horse spine’s shield.

Once again, a light must be shed upon true fit saddle gullets. That’s why the comment section down below is always open for you. Please share with us your personal measures. We’d love to receive your feedback!

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