Choosing the correct saddle gullet size
To work out what size western bar and gullet your horse needs, you need to know a bit about saddle tree construction and the general conformation of your horse.
When we discuss full quarter horse bars, semi-quarter horse bars and quarter horse bars we're talking about a parts of the saddle tree, its construction and how it all relates to your horse in terms of proper fit.You don't have to be an expert on all the ins and outs of saddle tree construction to get a saddle that fits both horse and rider. Still, it's to your advantage to have a basic understanding as to how saddles are constructed.
When someone talks about bars, gullets and flare, it's helpful to be able to understand what is being discussed. The whole purpose of saddle tree design is to address fit to the horse, fit to the rider, and intended purpose.
Here are some of the basics of saddle tree construction and the relationship to saddle fit.
Western Saddle Tree Parts
1. Think of the saddle as having two sides, top and bottom. The top part is designed to fit the rider, the bottom to fit the horse.
2. The foundation of the saddle is called the tree.
3. You can think of the tree as having four main parts, the fork, bars, seat and cantle.
You will also find the fork referred to as the swell or pommel. No matter the term, it's the front part of the saddle and the cantle is at the rear.
4. The bars attach to the fork in the front and the cantle in the back.
The bars are runners whose purpose is to distribute the weight of the rider evenly over the back of the horse. To accomplish this, the bars are angled to come into contact with the horse over as much of the bar area as possible.
The conformation of horses is such that the angle of the bars when joined at the fork or front of the saddle is different than the angle at the cantle or back of the saddle. This is called the flare.
The really critical measurement however is up front where the bars join the fork in the area called the gullet. The gullet is an opening which makes room for the horse's wither.
There are two parts of the horse that you do not want to have pressure placed on, the wither and the spine.
The width and height of the gullet must be such that no pressure will be placed on the wither.
The bars, as they run along the back of the horse are separated at the top by a channel. The channel serves to prevent pressure from being directly applied to the horse's backbone. The height and width of the gullet are measured in inches.
Bar Angle and Gullet Widths.
Quarter Horse Bars are designed to fit narrower western horses which were common place up through the 1960's. These bars have a narrow angle. Gullet width of 5 3/4"- 6".
Semi-Quarter Horse Bars as horses got bigger and wider from the 1970's they requiring a wider angle in the bars. Semi-quarter horse bars fit most of today's western horses. Gullet width of 6"-6 1/2".
Full Quarter Horse Bars have even wider angles to accommodate wider-bodied horses and horses with flatter or "Mutton" withers. Gullet width of 6 3/4"- 7".
The gullet width should be about the same width of the wither's, approximately 2" below the top of the withers. Just remember, the main thing you need to know is, is your horse narrow, wide or in-between!
Hopefully this has helped clarify saddle fit and gullet size for Western Saddles.