Saddle Fitting Cards

Saddle Fitting Cards

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“As we all know” saddle fit is a very controversial subject. I for one don’t believe in the terminology “saddle fit”. The only thing I see is the ramifications of a poorly fitting saddle. I think the issue is tree fit (not saddle fit), for the tree is the foundation of the saddle and it is from here that many fitting  problems stem.

Saddle makers, saddletree makers and their customers can benefit greatly from standardising the way that saddle trees are measured. Communication between all those involved will improve if everyone involved is using the same terminology and system of measurements.

Many saddle makers and tree makers use the “Dennis Lane Card system” for the following reasons.

Simplicity – This is by far the simplest, quickest and easiest method of any that we know of at this time. A complete set measurements of one horse can be achieved in a matter of minutes. All you need is a set of the cards, a pencil and paper to record your results.

Communication – The sizes that your horses measure, can be conveniently and quickly communicated over the phone or email to anyone else who is using the Dennis Lane Card system. There is no need to send drawings or castings of horse’s backs by mail. 

Reliable – The cards are more reliable and easier to use than the old “bend a piece of wire over the horse’s back” system.

Comparable – Using this system, the measurements that you take has instantly provided a category and size. This is comparable to other sizes, and you see how the other sizes compare. Back-maps and casts do not in themselves provide a size and are not easily compared against each other.

Economical – A one-off investment enables you to measure and record and infinite number of horses. Unlike any of the casting type measuring methods. 

Consistent – Due to the above advantages this system of measurements and numbers is being used by more and more saddle makers and saddle tree makers. This is leading towards a more consistent terminology throughout the industry.

Plastic – The cards are made of UV stabilised cour flute.



The cards that can be supplied are designed to classify the horse’s backs, identifying the differences between the width, angle, rock crown and twist. Identifying these differences should assist us in choosing the appropriate size tree, to fit our customer’s horses. It also could lead us to designing better fitting trees.

I have adopted the letters D & S to designate the broader categories, of the shape of the horses back. This originates from Xenophon, a famous Greek horseman who was considering this problem in approximately 360 BC. Xenophon described horse’s backs in two ways, double back (D) or single back (S). With the double back, the flesh rises on either side of the spine, so that the spine lies in a slight depression. Single backs, have the spine rising above the flesh forming a ridge.

I have added a number to designate the size within these categories. Thus I have a code: S4, S5, S6, S7, for the single backed horses and D4, D5, D6, D7, D8, D9 & D10 for the double backed horses. There are 4 rock/bow patterns R3, R6, R9, R12. I have made trees in every category, but have found that some are more common than others.

The next step in the process is to calibrate the trees to the horses. I am asking individual tree makers to take the range of trees that they produce, (as far as fit is concerned and not style). Put the trees on horses and assess which horse they are designed to fit.   Then using the cards find which category their horse fits into.