Making a cast of your horse's back

When looking for a saddle to fit your horse with a challenging build, it is easier to transport the shape of the horse's back than the whole horse.  A simple method of creating a cast of your horse's back is to purchase a box of plaster impregnated cotton gauze strips from your local art & craft store (like Blick) or order online and follow the instructions for use.  There are a variety of sources.  

It is not necessary to "line" the horse's back with plastic or petroleum jelly.  Measure the strips into lengths which will be long enough to reach from one side of the horse to the other like a saddle blanket.  Dip the pieces in warm water and spread across the horse's back, overlapping the strips. Apply a second layer of strips lengthwise, smoothing the ends into the layer below.  Working quickly apply a third layer crosswise like the first layer.  The plaster cast needs to harden on the horses back otherwise, the shape will shift and an inaccurate shape will be useless.  Be aware that hardening plaster generates a fair amount of heat, so you don't want to make too many layers of gauze.  After 30 to 45 mins, lift the cast off of the horse's back and brush off the plaster dust.  It still needs to cure for a minimum of 24 hours, so DO NOT put the cast directly into a box and ship.  It will lose it's shape and you will have spent your time and expense on something that will not serve the purpose intended.

Now, with a duplicate of your horse's back, you can take it to a saddle shop, private party or ship it to a saddler to make a custom saddle to fit your uniquely built steed.

Measuring for a sidesaddle


When measuring for a sidesaddle, there are five measurements needed to ensure the best fit possible. (The best way to obtain the first four of these measurements, is to drop your leg over the end of a picnic bench.)

1.  Seat length.  Mark behind the seat, and then measure the length of the leg, from behind the knee to the back of the seat.  This corresponds with the measurement of the saddle from in front of the horn to the cantle.

2.  Seat width.  This should also be measured in the "sitting" position.  Mark the left and the right sides of the hips and measure across.  This corresponds with the width of the seat of a sidesaddle.

3.  Height of the knee.  Measure from the top of the bench to the top of the knee.  This corresponds to the height of the horn on the saddle.

4.  Circumference of the knee.  Measure around the knee.  This dictates how far out from center the top horn is to be set.

5.  Type and size of the horses back and withers.  The best way to accomplish this is to make a cast of your horses back to send to the saddler or seller of the saddle your are considering using.  Instructions on how to make a back cast can be found here.