Proper saddle fit is crucial to a good riding experience. Horses come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny ponies to large draft breeds, and so saddles also come in all sizes as well. It is absolutely essential that your saddle fits your horse correctly and does not cause him any discomfort or pain
The gullet of the saddle is the gap between the two bars of the saddle tree. It is measured at the front of the saddle. You measure your Western saddle's gullet by stretching a tape measure from concho to concho across the front of the saddle directly below the pommel. The pommel is the structure the horn sits on top of. The gullet is the gap underneath the pommel between the sides of the saddle.
A standard gullet measures 7 inches and is the most common measurement found in saddles described as having "full quarter horse bars". Any gullet that measures larger than 7 inches is considered to be wide. An extra-wide gullet is going to measure 8 inches or more and is commonly found only in saddles designed to fit draft horses or draft horse crosses.
The purpose of the gullet is to allow for the free movement of the horse's shoulders and back. A gullet that is too narrow will pinch the horse's back. If your horse needs an extra-wide gullet, chances are high that pinching is the problem you are experiencing with standard saddles. A gullet that is too wide for your horse will sit down on his back and cause rubbing, often leading to uncomfortable sores.
Finding the Right Saddle
You will likely have to do some shopping around before you find a saddle with an extra-wide gullet, since an extra-wide gullet is not standard in any Western saddle other than those specially designed to fit draft horses. Have your horse professionally assessed by a saddle fitter so you know exactly how wide a gullet he needs. When you are saddle shopping, it is a good idea to measure the gullet of every saddle independantly to make sure it is truly extra-wide. The exact measurements of so-called extra-wide gullets may vary greatly between different manufacturers.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.