Disclaimer - I am not a saddle fitter, just a tack nerd. As part of our mission statement, we are always learning.
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to saddles is the gullet measurement. Measuring the gullet is commonly misunderstood in all types of saddles, and it is easy to see if you take a browse looking for saddles online. There is no consistency anywhere. The only true way to know the gullet measurement is to take the information from the specifications that are set out by the manufacturer of the saddle. To define it, the gullet is the distance between two points on the saddle’s tree. On western saddles, it is where the pommel swells meet the bars on the tree. Not to be confused on the bar channel, which can vary from the front to the back of the saddle. English saddles are even more confusing, and it is generally the space between the panels of the saddle, but the tree points are the crucial information you need when fitting.
The gullet measurement is only 10% of the information you need to determine if a saddle might fit. Other factors to take into consideration on a tree is the angle of the bars, the rock of the bars, and flare. The angle of the bars is commonly set into Semi-Quarter Horse Bars, Quarter Horse Bars, Full Quarter Horse Bars. Generally speaking, Semi Bars has a steeper angle, Quarter Horse Bars is a “standard”, and Full Quarter Horse Bars is wider and flatter. Some companies will have coordination between the bars and the gullet width, however, there is NO STANDARD and you can have the same bars with two different gullet widths. For example, you may need a saddle with QH Bars, and a wider gullet, or you may need a saddle with QH Bars that has a great angle in the bars which would make them flatter or you may need a saddle with QH Bars with more width in the gullet and less angle steeper bars. All is possible depending on the saddle’s tree.
One companies measurements will not match other manufacturers, very similar to the clothing dilemma many shoppers face. A medium isn’t a medium in all brands. One company with a Full QH Bar is not going to be the same as another one in the Full QH Bars.
The gullet measurement in English Saddles is a bit more of a mystery than in western saddles. It is even farther from western saddles, as we have no comparative bar angles. In English saddles, there is no standard measurement, no standard place to measure. Nothing is the same. This is why when fitting saddles, I always recommend to work with an independent saddle fitter. However, good saddle fitters are getting harder and harder to find, so educate yourself as much as you can. Listen to your horse, and guess and check. One of my favorite saddle fitter blogs is Saddlefitting.Us on Facebook.
A common trend is to measure the gullet from dot to dot on English Saddles. This is dated information, but we were taught to believe that this is the first point of contact with the horse. The truth is, these dots shouldn’t make contact with your horse’s wither, and the dots change depending on the saddle. Some people will measure Dee Ring to Dee Ring, but that is more incorrect as the Dee and easily be moved or changed and have nothing to do with the structure of the saddle.
One way to estimate the gullet and find a place that will give you a more accurate measurement is to go 2” down from the top of the panel, and 1” in from the front on both sides.
On average with these measurements, you will find:
Under 4” is a rough narrow fitting tree
4” – 4-1/2” is a rough medium narrow tree
4.5” – 5” is on average a medium tree
5” – 5-1/2” is roughly a medium-wide tree
5-1/2” – 6” is on the wider side
6”+ is an extra wide tree
Now was before these are all estimates, each company will label these measurements differently. A medium tree is a Stubben saddle is going to be different fit than a medium tree is a CWD.
With all of that being said, we really want to know about the tree points on an English Saddle. These are the points on the tree that run down and along the shoulder of the horse. The tree points create stability from the fit of the saddle. If they are too tight they will pinch your horse, and if they are too wide they will still pinch your horse, but in a different section. When looking for a correct fit, one thing you want to look for is the tree points to be on the same angle as your horse’s shoulder for even, consistent contact.
Sources and Recommend Reading