Saddle Glossary

Here is a list of terms and phrases that we often use to describe tack on our website and in our store. 

Adjustable Tree-An adjustable tree is a tree that can be altered by a saddle manufacturer or representative for a fee. Unlike exchangeable gullets, an adjustable tree cannot be done by the saddle owner or rider at home. Saddles with an adjustable tree will be labeled with the current tree adjustment. 

Buffalo-Water buffalo leather is one of the most preferred leathers for quality saddles. It is naturally soft, grippy, and durable. Some saddles are fully water buffalo leather, while other saddles have buffalo seats. The texture of buffalo leather is natural, not embossed. Buffalo leather varies in quality, as all leathers do. Contact us about a specific saddle if you have any questions. 

CAIR-The CAIR Cushion System is alternative to traditional wool flocked saddle panels. CAIR saddle panels are air panels that are not adjustable and do not “remember” any specific horse the way wool panels do. CAIR panels are found exclusively in Wintec and Bates brand saddles. 

Channel-The saddle channel is the space between the panels on the underside of the saddle. The channel width is determined by the tree and the panel shape, and can vary from 2.5” to 4”. The channel should never touch the spine of the horse, nor should it be narrow enough to pinch the spine at the sides.  

Double Flap-most English saddles are double flaps. There is a sweat flap between the horse and the girth billets, and there is a flap on top between the girth billets and the stirrups and rider’s leg. Double flap saddles are necessary for hunter and equitation riders, and fox hunters. They are preferred by many riders. Jumping and all-purpose double flap saddles will require a long girth, while double flap dressage saddles require a short girth. 

Endurance Saddle-An endurance saddle can be Western or English in style. They are generally comfortable for the rider, and lightweight for the horse. They can be suitable for casual riders, trail riders, as well as endurance racers. 

Exchangeable Gullet-An exchangeable gullet is a gullet system and set of gullet plates which can be exchanged for one another to adjust the fit of the gullet for different horses. 

Flap Length-The flap length is the measurement from the stirrup bar to the bottom of the flap. The correct flap length will vary based on riding discipline, rider's preference, and leg length. 

Flocking-Flocking is the wool that fills the panels of an English saddle. Wool flocking can be adjusted by a saddle fitter or entirely replaced if needed. A flocking adjustment can affect the fit of a saddle and is beneficial if the wool has compressed or if the horse is lacking musculature. 

Foam-Foam is an option for the filling of English saddle panels. Foam does not need regular adjustments the way that wool does, however it does degrade over 10-15 years and must be fully replaced. Foam saddles can be lighter than wool saddles. Foam cannot be adjusted to fit specific horses the way that wool does. Many high-end French saddles like Devoucoux and CWD use foam panels. 

Gullet-The gullet is the arch of the saddle in the front. The width of the gullet needed is determined by the width of the horse's spine and the musculature of the horse. 

Monoflap-A monoflap saddle is a saddle in which there is only one flap, rather than a top flap and a sweat flap. Monoflap saddles are not appropriate for hunter and equitation riders, or fox hunters. Many dressage riders, show jumpers, and eventers prefer the increased connection with the horse that a monoflap allows for. All monoflap saddles require the use of a short girth. 

Panels-English and English-style endurance and trail saddles have two panels on the bottom of the saddle that sit on each side of the horse’s spine. The panels are filled with wool, foam, or air, and distribute the weight of the rider evenly across the horse’s back. Western and Western-style endurance and trail saddles have panels that are lined with synthetic fleece or genuine sheepskin. The fit of Western saddles is determined by tree size and shape, and the use of thick or thin saddle blankets. 

Saddle Tree-The tree is the foundation of the saddle, and is usually made out of wood or a similarly solid material. The tree determines how the saddle will fit a horse and rider. The tree distributes the weight of the rider and keeps all weight off of the spine. The overwhelming majority of saddles in all disciplines have solid trees.

Seat Measurement-The seat measurement is the measurement, in inches, from one fixed point on the saddle to a second fixed point on the saddle. Generally speaking, a well-fitting Western saddle will measure 2" smaller than a well fitting English saddle. That is, a person who fits in an 18" English saddle will generally fit in a 16" Western saddle. This is further complicated by the depth of the saddle seat. A flatter seat suitable for cross-country or jumping will fit a larger person than a deeper seat suitable for dressage, even if the saddles measure the same in inches. This is part of why coming to the store to try saddles, or taking saddles on trial is so important to finding the right fit for you and your horse. 

Self-Adapting Tree-A tree that is designed to adjust to fit the horse it is used on is a self-adapting tree. These trees will work for some, but not all, horses. Some saddles that use self-adjusting trees are Pegasus Butterfly saddles and the Saddle Ranch "Flex Panel" system. Note: self-adapting trees are not the same as "treeless" saddles. Self-adapting trees will not appear in our saddle search options if you select a specific tree width because the saddles do not have a true tree size. 

Tree/Gullet Measurement-The gullet measurement is used to determine what the tree size of the saddle is. At the Aiken Tack exchange, we use to measurement of the gullet in conjunction with the shape of the tree and the stamped manufacturer's tree size. 

Treeless-A saddle that does not have a tree is a treeless saddle. These saddles instead use various types of padding and solid or flexible reinforcements to distribute rider weight and protect the horse's spine. 

Trial-A saddle trial at the Aiken Tack Exchange is a predetermined period of time in which the customer takes the saddle and uses it on their own horse or horses to determine if the saddle is the appropriate size and fits correctly. See our Saddle Trial page for more information. 

Twist-The saddle twist is determined by the shape of the saddle tree, and is the width of the saddle between the thighs of the rider. Some riders prefer a wider twist, and some prefer a narrower twist.

Wool-Wool flocking is used to fill the panels of English saddles. It is the traditional material used for panels, and has been a part of saddle making for hundreds of years. Wool is heavier than foam, and requires readjustments if the wool becomes compacted or deflated. Wool can be adjusted or replaced to better fit the horse and lengthen the life of the saddle.