This is the back of a Tennessee Walking Horse, commonly known as a gaited horse. They use these horses a lot in field trials for their quiet disposition, forgiveness of our stupidity and long, smooth stride that covers a lot of ground quickly. Keeping their backs healthy and fit is so very important for the amount of work they do for us. And if some of you are like me, you did not know there was a difference in fitting your horses back with different style saddles. Well, I have learned a lot here lately. I’ve done a lot of research, made a lot of phone calls and asked a lot of questions about saddles. I had written a post about saddle fitting the english saddle and now find it time to write about saddle fitting the gaited horse.
Recently I purchased a Haggis Saddle made in Canada by Jack Haggis. Awesome saddles, but I wasn’t sure how it was supposed to fit my horses. Each horse should have it’s own custom fitted saddle, but like me most of us have more than one horse and less than a few dollars, so several horses have to share a saddle. That’s one of the things I like about the Haggis Saddle. With a little padding it can fit more than one horse comfortably.
Notice that the saddle is sitting just behind the large muscle over the scapula. This saddle could be moved back slightly to give a more comfortable and secure fit. The bars at the withers are tapered out upwards to the withers to allow more freedom of movement of this large muscle. Gaited horses have a longer stride and therefore, that particular muscle has a longer length of movement and needs more room to avoid pinching. That is why the bars are tapered on gaited saddles, unlike english or western saddles. The withers on gaited horses, particularly TWH are usually higher and narrower. Some gaited horses like Kentucky Mountain horses have withers more like the quarter horse, but still need a gaited saddle. The gullet at the withers is higher allowing for the height of the withers.
The back of the saddle should still fit at the 18th rib and not past it. The bars angles upward on these saddle to take pressure off the kidneys. The bars do not sit on the horses back at this point.
The saddles come in standard tree with pretty much fits the TWH or mountain horse tree for the wider or flatter withers like quarter horses.
At any rate, the fitting is the same as for other saddles, you just need to understand that the bars on the Haggis Saddles will not make contact at the 18th rib. The rigging come in english or western and is adjustable. Wonderful! This allows a proper fit and less chance for rub behind the elbow. On these saddles you don’t have to worry about the width of the gullet on the spine or if it is sitting to close to the spine. Gaited horse saddles come in the western style or endurance style also. But that doesn’t mean that any english, endurance or western saddle will fit the gaited horse. You must remember that the gaited horse needs a saddle with a gaited tree or flex tree. Also, there are Tarpin Hill Saddles which are field trial saddles that are made similar to these. Other than that, Tucker makes a good gaited horse saddle. Hope this helps clear up any questions you have about fitting the gaited horse. Happy riding!