10 Best Western Saddles for Short Backed Horses

Selecting the right saddle for your horse is crucial for ensuring comfort, performance, and overall well-being. When it comes to short-backed horses, the challenge is even more significant. The anatomy of these horses demands careful consideration to prevent discomfort and potential issues. In this blog post, we will explore the unique needs of short-backed horses and provide valuable insights into choosing Western saddles that cater specifically to their requirements.

From understanding the characteristics that matter to practical fitting tips and recommendations for top saddle brands, let’s embark on a journey to enhance the riding experience for both horse and rider.

Understanding Short-Backed Horses

Short-backed horses possess a unique anatomy that requires special attention when it comes to selecting the right saddle. The term “short-backed” refers to horses with a relatively compact length between the withers and the croup. This characteristic can pose challenges when it comes to distributing weight evenly and avoiding discomfort during riding.

One key consideration is the limited surface area available for the saddle to sit on. A saddle that is too long can extend beyond the horse’s natural weight-bearing area, leading to pressure points and potential soreness. Additionally, the curvature of the short back may differ from longer-backed counterparts, demanding a saddle design that accommodates this specific shape.

10 Best Western Saddles for Short Backed Horses

To comprehend the needs of short-backed horses, it’s essential to delve into the intricacies of their anatomy. The compact length between the withers and croup often means less room for traditional saddle placement. As a result, understanding how the saddle interacts with the horse’s back is crucial for maintaining comfort and preventing issues such as muscle soreness or restricted movement.

In the following sections, we’ll explore the characteristics of Western saddles that prove beneficial for short-backed horses. From the importance of a shortened saddle length to the proper placement of bars and the advantages of adjustable rigging, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions when selecting a saddle for your short-backed companion.

Characteristics of Western Saddles Suitable for Short-Backed Horses

Short-backed horses require special attention when it comes to saddle selection. To ensure optimal comfort and performance, it’s crucial to consider specific characteristics in Western saddles tailored to their unique anatomy. Here are key features to look for:

Shortened Saddle Length

    • Importance of a shorter saddle for better weight distribution.
    • Prevention of overhanging and pressure points on the horse’s back.
    • Examples of saddle brands/models known for their shorter length.

Proper Placement of the Bars

    • Explanation of saddle bars and their role in weight distribution.
    • How proper bar placement is crucial for short-backed horses.
    • Ensuring the bars match the curvature of the horse’s back for a secure fit.

Adjustable Rigging Options

    • Overview of different rigging options available in Western saddles.
    • Importance of adjustable rigging for accommodating short-backed horses.
    • Customization options to achieve the optimal balance and fit.

Lightweight Design

    • Recognition of the need for a lightweight saddle to minimize overall weight on the horse’s back.
    • Materials and construction that prioritize durability without unnecessary bulk.
    • Balancing durability and weight to enhance the horse’s comfort during extended rides.

Specialized Tree Shapes

    • Explanation of how saddle trees influence fit.
    • Tree shapes designed to complement the shorter back length of specific horse breeds.
    • The importance of selecting a saddle with a tree that matches the horse’s conformation.

Cutback Skirts

    • Understanding the benefits of cutback skirts for short-backed horses.
    • Prevention of interference with the hip movement.
    • Enhanced comfort and freedom of movement.

Padded Panels and Cushioning

    • Consideration of the padding materials used in the saddle panels.
    • The importance of providing ample cushioning without compromising stability.
    • Balancing adequate padding to absorb shock and pressure points.

By prioritizing these characteristics when choosing a Western saddle for your short-backed horse, you can ensure a proper fit, reduce the risk of discomfort, and enhance the overall riding experience for both horse and rider.

In the next sections, we’ll explore additional tips for saddle fitting and provide recommendations for reputable saddle brands known for their suitability for short-backed horses.

Saddle Fitting Tips

Proper saddle fitting is a critical aspect of ensuring the comfort and well-being of your short-backed horse. Follow these tips to achieve an optimal fit:

Seek Professional Assistance

    • Enlist the expertise of a professional saddle fitter who understands the nuances of short-backed horses.
    • A skilled fitter can assess your horse’s conformation, take measurements, and recommend suitable saddle options.

Dynamic Fitting

    • Evaluate the saddle fit while the horse is in motion. This dynamic assessment provides insights into how the saddle accommodates the horse’s movement.

Check for Clearance

    • Ensure there is sufficient clearance over the withers to prevent rubbing or pressure. The saddle should sit level and not interfere with the natural motion of the horse’s shoulders.

Distribute Weight Evenly

    • Verify that the saddle distributes weight evenly across the horse’s back. Pay attention to any signs of discomfort, such as resistance, tail-swishing, or changes in gait.

Monitor Saddle Position

    • Confirm that the saddle sits in the correct position, neither too far forward nor too far back. Proper placement ensures optimal weight distribution and stability.

Evaluate Gullet Width

    • Choose a saddle with an appropriate gullet width that matches your horse’s conformation. A too-narrow or too-wide gullet can lead to discomfort and potential back issues.

Check for Bridging

    • Assess for “bridging,” where the saddle makes uneven contact with the horse’s back. This can cause pressure points and discomfort, particularly on short-backed horses.

Consistent Panel Contact

    • Confirm that the saddle panels maintain consistent contact with the horse’s back. Inadequate contact can result in pressure points, while overly broad contact may cause friction and heat buildup.

Evaluate Tree Angle

    • Ensure the saddle’s tree angle matches the angle of your horse’s back. An incorrect tree angle can lead to discomfort and restricted movement.

Observe Behavior

    • Pay attention to your horse’s behavior during and after rides. Signs of an ill-fitted saddle include resistance, pinned ears, tail wringing, or reluctance to move forward.

Regular Checks

    • Saddle fit can change over time due to factors such as weight loss or gain, muscle development, or aging. Schedule regular checks, especially if you notice any changes in your horse’s behavior or performance.

Remember that every horse is unique, and the ideal saddle fit may vary. Investing time and effort in proper saddle fitting is essential for the well-being and happiness of your short-backed companion. In the next section, we will explore signs of an ill-fitted saddle to help you identify potential issues promptly.

Popular Western Saddle Brands for Short-Backed Horses

When it comes to choosing a Western saddle for a short-backed horse, selecting a reputable brand known for quality craftsmanship and thoughtful design is paramount. Here are some popular Western saddle brands that have gained recognition for catering to the needs of short-backed horses:

Circle Y

    • Circle Y is renowned for its commitment to producing high-quality Western saddles. They offer various models with shorter lengths and specialized designs to accommodate short-backed horses.

Martin Saddlery

    • Martin Saddlery is known for its attention to detail and craftsmanship. They provide Western saddles with customizable options, allowing riders to tailor the fit to their short-backed horses.

Billy Cook Saddlery

    • Billy Cook saddles are celebrated for their traditional craftsmanship and durability. The brand offers a range of Western saddles suitable for shorter-backed horses, often with compact designs that prioritize horse comfort.


    • Reinsman focuses on producing saddles with horse and rider comfort in mind. Their lineup includes models with shorter lengths and features designed to accommodate the unique conformation of short-backed horses.

Tex Tan

    • Tex Tan has a long-standing reputation for crafting quality Western saddles. They offer various tree sizes and designs, making it easier for riders to find a suitable saddle for their short-backed horses.

Cactus Saddlery

    • Cactus Saddlery is known for its innovative approach to saddle design. They provide options suitable for short-backed horses, often incorporating features like adjustable rigging to achieve an optimal fit.

Crates Leather Company

    • Crates Leather Company has been manufacturing Western saddles for decades. Their commitment to quality and versatility is reflected in models designed to accommodate horses with shorter backs.

Dakota Saddlery

    • Dakota Saddlery offers a range of Western saddles with various tree sizes and styles. Many of their models are suitable for short-backed horses, providing a comfortable fit without compromising quality.

HR Saddles & Tack

    • HR Saddles & Tack is known for its dedication to creating saddles that prioritize horse comfort. They offer Western saddles with shorter lengths and customizable options to suit the needs of short-backed horses.

Big Horn

    • Big Horn is recognized for producing saddles with innovative designs. Their lineup includes models suitable for short-backed horses, often featuring lightweight designs and adjustable rigging for a tailored fit.

When considering a Western saddle for your short-backed horse, it’s essential to consult with knowledgeable professionals and potentially work with a saddle fitter to ensure the perfect fit. These brands, known for their commitment to quality and horse comfort, can be excellent starting points in your search for the ideal saddle.

Maintenance and Care

Proper maintenance and care of your Western saddle are essential not only for its longevity but also for the comfort and well-being of your short-backed horse. Follow these guidelines to ensure your saddle remains in optimal condition:

Regular Cleaning

    • Wipe down your saddle with a clean, damp cloth after each use to remove sweat, dirt, and debris.
    • Use a mild saddle soap or cleaner specifically designed for your saddle’s type of leather.
    • Pay attention to areas where the saddle makes direct contact with the horse, as sweat and dirt can accumulate in these regions.


    • To keep the leather supple and stop it from drying out and cracking, apply a leather conditioner.
    • Choose a conditioner appropriate for your saddle’s leather type and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
    • Avoid over-conditioning, as excess moisture can weaken the leather over time.


    • Store your saddle in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
    • Use a saddle rack or stand to maintain its shape, ensuring even weight distribution on the tree.
    • Cover the saddle with a breathable saddle cover to protect it from dust and debris.

Inspect for Wear and Tear

    • Regularly inspect your saddle for signs of wear, such as loose stitching, cracked leather, or broken hardware.
    • Address any issues promptly to prevent them from worsening and affecting the saddle’s performance.

Adjustable Rigging Maintenance

    • If your saddle has adjustable rigging, periodically check and adjust it as needed.
    • Ensure that all rigging components are in good condition, and replace any worn or damaged parts.

Check and Tighten Screws and Bolts

    • Examine all screws and bolts on your saddle, including those on the stirrup hobbles and cinch rings.
    • Tighten any loose screws to prevent potential safety hazards.

Saddle Fit Checks

    • Periodically reassess the saddle fit on your short-backed horse, especially if there are changes in the horse’s weight or muscle tone.
    • Consult with a professional saddle fitter if you have concerns about the fit.

Use a Saddle Pad

    • Invest in a high-quality saddle pad that provides additional comfort for your horse and helps absorb sweat.
    • Clean the saddle pad regularly to prevent sweat and dirt buildup.

Avoid Excessive Water Exposure

    • Limit your saddle’s exposure to excessive water, as prolonged moisture can damage the leather.
    • If your saddle gets wet, allow it to air dry naturally rather than using artificial heat sources.

Professional Maintenance

    • Schedule periodic professional checks and maintenance by a skilled saddle repair specialist.
    • Professionals can address issues such as flocking adjustments, tree adjustments, and other intricate repairs that require expertise.

By incorporating these maintenance practices into your routine, you’ll not only extend the lifespan of your Western saddle but also ensure a comfortable and safe riding experience for your short-backed horse. Regular care reflects your commitment to both the equipment and the well-being of your equine companion.

Also Read: Do Gaited Horses Need Special Saddles-Unraveling the Mystery


selecting the right Western saddle for short-backed horses is a crucial investment in their comfort and overall well-being. Recognizing the unique anatomy of these horses and understanding the specific characteristics of suitable saddles is key to ensuring a harmonious riding experience.

From choosing a shortened saddle length to assessing proper bar placement and exploring adjustable rigging options, every detail matters. Saddle fitting, with the guidance of a professional, ensures an optimal match for the horse’s conformation.

Additionally, regular maintenance and care, including cleaning, conditioning, and periodic checks, are essential for the saddle’s longevity and the horse’s ongoing comfort. By prioritizing these considerations, riders can forge a strong partnership with their short-backed companions, creating a foundation for enjoyable and successful riding adventures.

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