Introduction to Saddle Fit

Growing up as a young rider, most of us saddled up with whatever saddle was available never thinking about saddle fit. Unless you grew up with someone knowledgeable about it, those white spots that appeared on the horse’s withers weren’t alarming. Today as more emphasis is placed on the horse’s comfort, those white spots are like smoke coming out of a burning building – HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM! At Circle Y, we believe achieving proper saddle fit is the first step to an enjoyable ride. Our introduction to saddle fit will get you on your way to understanding and deciding if you have a saddle fit issue.

Trees are designed for the majority of horse conformations. However, there is no standardization in the industry of what is a semi, full, draft, or gaited fit. At Circle Y, we do our own research and tailor our trees based upon the hundreds of horses we individually fit each year. That is why you’ll find several tree fits that work well on many types of horses.

The gullet measurement is important, but it is the most misunderstood. It is not the defining factor of saddle fit. Most importantly, not every saddle with a specified gullet measurement will fit the same. The angle and twist of the bars affect how the saddle will fit. Additionally, the way a saddle maker takes the gullet measurement is on the bare tree and not with the leather on the saddle. If you’re looking to purchase a used saddle and the seller provides a gullet measurement, understand that measurement can vary greatly depending on where he/she held the measuring tape and is not the true gullet measurement.

The front of the saddle tree bar (approximately the front edge of the concho) should be behind the shoulder blade (scapula) to allow for freedom of movement. Placing the saddle too far forward over the scapula can cause unnecessary rubbing and pressure (white spots). The blanket or pad and the skirt of the saddle can cover the back of the scapula but the bars of the tree must be behind the shoulder blade. This is important as a saddle will travel back/forward to settle into this sweet spot.

The illustration below is a simplified view of the goal of saddle fitting: to achieve bar contact between the tree and the horse. With a good fit, the bar angle matches the angle of the horse for maximum contact, and there is sufficient clearance between the wither of the horse and the swell of the saddle.

When there is little bar contact and the pressure is concentrated in a particular place, the result can be pinching, rubbing, or white marks. Note that pinching does not always mean the horse needs a wider fit – in fact, concentrated pinching often means the fit is TOO wide, as seen in the Tree Too Wide illustration.



Dry areas within sweat marks and a dropped back indicate the saddle is bridging.

The rock of the tree should also match the rock of the horse (amount of curve in the back). A horse with a very straight back may have issues with the saddle rocking from front to back and require a mule tree which has less rock, or corrective padding. Likewise, a horse with a swayback will require a bridge pad to keep the saddle from bridging. Bridging occurs when the tree does not make contact in the middle because the back is dropped. A bridge pad will fill in the gap between the horse and saddle. A horse with high withers and hollows behind the withers will also need a corrective pad – see the full collection of bridge pads to find your horse’s pad solution. Watch this helpful video to see how a bridge pad aids the comfort of your horse and if you might need one.

For more detailed saddle fitting information, please visit our Saddle Fitting Made Simple page.


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Rider Safety Check

Watch these tips to help keep you safe in the saddle.  Before mounting, conduct a thorough walk-around tack check every time you ride. Check these points:

✔️saddle and pad should be centered
✔️ cinch is in great condition and centered
✔️ tie straps and latigos should be in good shape: soft and supple free of rips, cracks or tears – never use leather that is cracked or overly dry or nylon that is frayed
✔️ there are hobble straps on the fenders
✔️ stirrup leathers are strong and in good shape
✔️ saddle is rigged the same on both sides
✔️ bridle is fitting correctly
✔️ check all Chicago screws for tightness
✔️ check everywhere metal meets leather


Use our tips to check your saddle fit.

Julie Goodnight Explains Circle Y’s Flex2® Tree

The Circle Y Flex2® tree has a dual-bar system which provides both stability and flexibility where they are needed. The rigid ground seat combined with the high-density bars will never overflex in the middle when you sit in the saddle. The high-density bars provide stability under the rider for weight distribution which makes the Flex2® saddle an option for riders of all sizes. The low-density bars are what’s flexible which conform and flex at the tips with the horse to provide freedom of movement. It will never flex in half or get wider over time. The only caution to a Flex2® tree is do not rope out of it. Not all “flex” saddles are the same and has become a generic term in our industry. Only Circle Y has this Flex2® design to ensure safety and rider weight distribution and are offered. The Circle Y Flex2® saddles are available in a 17″ and 18″ seat size. Riders of all sizes may safely ride a Flex2® tree because of the dual-bar system and rigid groundseat to prevent overflexing.

Riders love the Flex2® – find your perfect model > Shop Now


YOAKUM, Texas (November 11, 2009): Circle Y Saddles, Inc., America’s Leading Saddle Brand, and world renowned clinician Julie Goodnight have collaborated to design her exclusive five-saddle Peak Performance™ line. With each saddle personally ridden by Goodnight, these saddles were designed to her specifications and riding requirements.

Because Goodnight rides several different Western disciplines, there is a saddle designed for all types of work or pleasure. The 1470 Rocky Mountain High Performance saddle is designed for ranch work featuring a Kevlar® reinforced wood tree for superior strength and is the saddle Goodnight uses for Ranch Horse Versatility. The 1752 Monarch Arena Performance/Performance Trail model is Goodnight’s personal favorite for everyday use. It has a Flex2® tree and features specified by Goodnight to keep the horse and rider comfortable in the arena and out on the trail. The 1750 Wind River Trail has all the features of the Monarch but with a round skirt. The 1751 Blue Ridge Gaited Trail is designed for the gaited horse and has all the comfort features that are signature to the entire line. The 1560 Sierra Nevada Arena Performance is for the arena performance rider to keep you correct in the seat for precise cueing.

All Peak Performance™ saddles have a leather skirt liner with gel bar pads to keep your horse comfortable, Tunnel Skirt™ to eliminate pressure on the horse’s spine, close contact cut out skirts for precise cueing, and trees engineered to provide a great fit for the horse. To keep the rider comfortable is a padded seat with a narrow twist and broad seat pocket, pre-twisted stirrup leathers, and on the Flex2® models are Softee® seat jockeys and fenders for zero break-in. There is also matching tack and coordinating matching wool pads.

“Julie has added a whole new dimension to our Team of Champions. It is no accident that this new line of Peak Performance™ saddles, inspired by Julie Goodnight, all have state of the art features designed with the horse and rider in mind,” said Mark Jemelka, general manager of Circle Y Saddles.

Julie Goodnight is a world renowned clinician, natural horsemanship trainer, and host of RFD-TV’s Horse Master with Julie Goodnight. She has experience ranging from dressage and jumping to racing, reining, cutting, and wilderness riding. Her upbeat and logical style of teaching applies to her “Communicating Clearly with Horses and Riders” philosophy. Read more at

Circle Y Saddles, Inc. is America’s Leading Saddle Brand. Circle Y’s innovative products reflect the current trends in design and are ahead of the industry in technology. Circle Y started saddle manufacturing in 1960 in the small Texas town of Yoakum. Still located there, Circle Y continues to produce high quality saddles and tack with the heritage and tradition the company was founded on. Circle Y saddles and tack are sold through a network of authorized dealers; visit to learn more.