A gullet on a saddle is a metal bar that is slightly bent (similar to a coat hanger) sitting inside the saddle above the horse's wither. When purchasing a new saddle horse owners can pick the seat size (to properly distribute weight of the rider), gullet width and bar angle for the horse. Fitting a saddle to a horse and the rider is equally as important.
For example wider-bodied horses like a quarter horse with a flat wither need a wider gullet and wider angles for the bar while a thoroughbred with a high wither would need narrow gullets.
Photo: correct gullet size
A problem in the saddle industry is that saddle makers tend to have their own unique way of measuring that gullets on their saddles, making it almost impossible trying to find a universal way of doing it. An ill-fitting saddle can cause a lot of damage to a horse’s back so its important you work with an experienced saddle fitter when buying a new saddle.
Please note it is not only the gullet width that determines whether a saddle will fit your horse or not, its only on small aspect of fitting a new saddle.
You will also need to take into consideration the angle of the bar channel.
Photo: Gullet of a saddle
There are a number of 'correct ways' of measuring a saddle gullet, hence many saddles are measured incorrectly as there are so many different ways of doing it. The only correct way of taking the gullet measurement if to follow the instructions from that particular saddle manufacturer to get accurate measurement.
The width of the gullet is measured 'from dot to dot' on english saddles. For english saddles you want to have 3 fingers between the horse's wither and the saddle. Stick your hand under one of the panels where the shoulder blade is to feel how tight it is, if its too tight it will be too hard to get your hand inside without lifting the saddle. If a horse's saddle is too tight it can pinch their shoulder and be really uncomfortable, however if its too wide it its even worse as it can sit on top of the horse's wither and spine which can cause permanent damage. Many riders also use a gel or cut out saddle pad to ensure the best fit. Things to consider when fitting an english saddle:
The saddle tree is designed to fit the horse first, and then be fitted to the rider.
The seat size is still important too as it will distribute the riders weight properly, but its the actual saddle tree that is the most important aspect to consider first.
Bars and gullets are not the same, The gullet is space between the bars, and the bars measurements are related to the angle they sit at the horse.
Photo: Gullet width & Angle of the bars
For western riding discipline saddles you measure and from concho to concho to determine the gullet width. Another aspect when trying to find the best western saddle fit is the gullet on the back of the saddle. If its too narrow will do damage to your horse’s spine and if its too wide it wont stay down and connected when you're riding. In summary - what to look for when buying a new western saddle:
The most common quarter horse gullet size is 6.5" gullet which usually comes with a semi-quarter horse bars. The second most common is a medium/wide gullet of 7 inches and full quarter horse bars.
See saddle fitting size chart below.
Photo; bars of the saddle
The main thing to remember when looking for a properly fitting saddle that as long as the saddle has an adjustable gullet and can go from a wider tree to a narrow angle then he should be able to adjust to your horse needs and shape of your horse. The rider’s weight should sit evenly over the middle of the saddle automatically if you have the right seat size.