Taking the shoulder to hip measurement
We are no longer building saddle trees. We have two saddle fit videos available on our westernsaddlefit.com website. Western Saddle Fit - The Basics, aimed at riders, is available either on DVD or streaming on Vimeo while the six hour series Well Beyond the Basics, aimed more for professionals but understandable by anyone, is available by streaming on Vimeo. (We left this website up because we have had many requests to keep the information available.)
If people are concerned about bar length, one of the things we often ask for is the shoulder to hip measurement on their horse(s). It can be tough to tell size and length in a picture, so getting this measurement gives us a good, general idea on how long the horse’s back is. This isn’t going to be a precise number. A 27.85324959843" horse does not exist. The measurement changes as the horse moves of course, but when we use this measurement as a general comparison between horses, it is useful.
First, with the horse standing square on a level area, feel and find the back of the shoulder blade. On really muscular horses, this is harder to feel, but you can tell where it is in general. (Wow, amazing the change in the weather just between pictures!)
Next, feel and find the point of the hip. This is pretty easy to find since there is not a lot of muscle covering up the bone. It sticks out more on thin horses and on horses with less bulgy muscles but even on really muscular horses, it is pretty easy to find.
Then use a tape measure to get the distance between those two spots.
So, what is the general length? Apparently 29” is the “average" thoroughbred. I have measured an 18 hand TB at 31” and that was a BIG horse.
From the numbers we have got back so far (no scientific experiment here) 26” to 27” is pretty common for a lot of quarter horses. Dancer here measured 28.
But there are a segment of quarter horses that are shorter backed, with 24” to 25” being their measurement. It is just an idea at the moment, but we seem to find these horses also are commonly the really round backed types. Whether that is a consistent body type or not remains to be seen.
The shortest horse we have measured is 23” and that was an 800 lb or so Arab. That is a pretty short horse to fit with an adult sized Western saddle, but there are ways of making it work. While the rider was an adult male, he wasn’t large so that helped.
So that is the scoop on how we recommend people measure the shoulder to hip length. Not at all necessary to be able to build a tree for someone, but another tool in the tool box for those short backed horses.