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Saddles for Arabians

From: Monica.Iveland

Dear Jessica,

I enjoy reading your list, and I have a problem I hope you could help me sort out.

My horse is an arabian, 11 years old. I have used her for dressage, endurance rides, trail and showjumping. The problem is saddles. I cannot find a saddle that fits her properly. I have to use 32" extra wide saddles because of her broad back wich is typically for arabians. But still the saddle does not seem to fit good. I have only had Stubben saddles, since I believe in their quality and long use, but now I am interested in trying another brand if that should fit her better. The problem is not the height of the saddle in the front, but how it lies against her back down towards the shoulder area.(I am sorry I cant describe it better, my english is seldom used when it comes to things like saddles).

Can you recommend some saddles for me to have a look at, and do you know if there is some measurements I can use to find her a saddle that fit. And something else, I have lately wanted to buy a western saddle for trail. Do they have some special saddles that would fit a broadbacked arabian, and what would they be called?

Thanks for any help! Monica&Kampala

Hi Monica -- first, you're by no means alone with this problem. Saddle-hunting is a popular activity among owners of Arabians and other breeds that tend to have low or no withers.

It may actually be easier for you to find a suitable Western saddle, since the term "Arabian bars" will make sense to most good saddlemakers. The danger is that if you purchase a show saddle, it may be too long for your horse's back. Many modern show saddles have extra length to accomodate more tooling and more silver; these saddles can be horribly uncomfortable for short-backed Arabians, as there may be interference between the back of the saddle and the horse's croup! The same is true of some endurance saddles, but fortunately this is changing as Arabians and half-Arabians dominate the Endurance world.

Your best bet for other saddles -- dressage, all-purpose, and endurance -- may be to look for special saddles designed FOR Arabians. They do exist. One USA company, Hartmeyer Saddlery, carries a line of saddle made by The Arabian Saddle Co. (Walsall, England). These saddles are available in many models, from Lane Fox equitation to Endurance models. The ones I have seen are well-made, with wool-stuffed panels.

Ortho-Flex saddles are also popular with many riders -- these can occasionally be found used, and they are certainly worth trying.

The telephone number for Hartmeyer is 1-800-225-5519; the FAX number is 1-765-9525.

Measuring your horse is now a much easier task than it has been before -- there is a new measuring device available, although not at ALL tack shops just yet! It's called the SaddleTech Gauge, and it's a more reliable and sophisticated and standardized version of the kind of measuring that horse-owners have previously needed to do for themselves. It's a good gadget -- it works well, it's accurate, and although it won't tell you what saddle to purchase, it will definitely help you avoid ordering and trying something that simply can't fit your horse. And since UPS charges something like $18 to send a saddle one way, and the would-be purchaser is generally responsible for shipping costs in BOTH directions, it makes much more sense to me to pay the very low cost -- $5 -- to rent the gauge for a day. You can rent it directly, or ask your local tack shop to rent it for you -- just call the company at 1-888-SADDDLE.

BTW, I've met the gauge's creator, and the reason he wants to promote THIS method rather than his infinitely more costly (and profitable?) previous venture, the computer-gauge (the one that involved taking your horse to the saddlery and having them test saddles by putting them on the special pad, on your horse) is that the abuses of THAT item were rampant within the retail industry, both here in the States and abroad. Retailers were programming the computers with "hot buttons" so that, for instance, hitting F3 would bring up a screen that indicated a BAD fit, whereas F6 would bring up a screen that indicated an EXCELLENT fit.... and oddly enough, the saddles that "fit" were either very costly or just happened to be cluttering the inventory!

So that's the story behind the gauge, and I think you'll be quite impressed with the usefulness of the gauge if you give it a try.

Good luck!


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