The Truth Behind Custom Saddles

Posted by Lynnsy Diekman - Saddle Up on Oct 19th 2022

As a successful saddle company, we wanted to share our thoughts on a popular topic within the industry. That topic is custom saddles. I first want to start off by saying we are in no way saying anything negative about other companies or their abilities, just facts we have discovered and a different point of view.

Saddle fitting is already a controversial topic and everyone in the industry usually has a totally different opinion on it. If you are unsure what to actually look and feel for, it can be a very stressful experience. One thing that we run into a lot is customers ending up with a “custom fit” saddle. This means that they designed and received a custom saddle that is supposed to be custom fit to their horse’s back. While this idea sounds like the answer, it can actually be quite the opposite.

We usually come across this situation when a customer has a hard to fit horse and they have been told this will solve it. Many makers advertise a custom option that they guarantee will work for your specific horse. However, we find so many of these “custom fit” saddles don’t end up fitting that horse at all. Saddles are a lot like jeans. Every single brand has a night and day difference. They have different angles, materials, bar patterns, rock in the bar, twist in the bar, gullet measurements, and more. Not all trees work for the same body type, and you can’t go off measurements alone to try and build it.

The most accurate way to tell if a saddle fits is by feeling it. Many of these custom companies have you submit photos, back tracings/back molds, or measurements of your horse’s back. These can give a general idea, but it is still not 100%. When you submit these photos or measurements/molds of your horse to build your “custom” saddle, it is still a shot in the dark.

You can only see so much in a picture. You can’t physically feel and observe the horse’s back. For instance, when we look at pictures for an out of state customer, sometimes you can’t tell if there is a shadow on the back or if that horse has muscle atrophy behind the shoulders. It gives you a general idea, but it is not accurate to determine a perfect saddle fit.

When it comes to measurements, there is no standard measurement you can give of the horse’s back to designate saddle fit. Many makers say they can go off measurements, but it is impossible. Each maker has a completely different tree that has unique specifications. That is why there is no universal measurement. One maker's Full Quarter Horse Bar is not going to be the same as another. Those terms can be thrown out the window because they are not “one size fits all”. You can do back tracings or molds, but it is only as good as how you traced them. If one little thing is off, then it is not an identical replica of your horse’s back.

I can’t tell you how many times we have checked a “custom fit” saddle on someone’s horse and the tree doesn’t even come close to fitting. It is unfortunate because these custom saddles are expensive and sound like a guaranteed solution when they may not be. It is extremely sad for us to see so many people go this route and end up heartbroken because it didn’t work.

We aren’t trying to say ordering a custom saddle is a bad idea. It can be a great option for people wanting a certain look and style. However, having a custom saddle made does not mean it will be the perfect fit for your horse, no matter how they advertise it.

Saddle fitting is key to optimal performance and comfort for your horse. We understand it can be stressful, but make sure you are seeking help from a professional saddle fitter. Just because you have a hard to fit horse, doesn’t mean a custom saddle is the answer. We are very successful with finding in-stock options for our customer’s horses without looking at custom saddles.

If you have any saddle fitting questions, please feel free to reach out! At the end of the day, our goal is to find the perfect fit for the horse and rider. It isn’t about just making a sale. It is about ensuring your comfort, safety, and success with your equine partner.