Whether you’re on the hunt for a new saddle or are sending your saddle off to be fitted, knowing how to make a wither tracing is a useful skill.
Fortunately, the process isn’t complicated, and you don’t need a lot of equipment. You’ll need:
- Flexible curve (at least 14 inches long) which you can find at many hobby/craft stores, office supply stores, tack shops, or Amazon
- Large piece of paper or manila folder
- Chalk or water
- Piece of cardboard (optional)
The most difficult part of making a wither tracing is placing the flexible curve in the correct place. With your hand, find the rearward end of your horse’s shoulder blade. You can usually feel it a few inches below the horse’s withers. Mark this area by drawing a line with the chalk or a finger dipped in water; this is where the saddle tree fits over your horse’s withers.
Next, mold the flexible curve across the withers and along the line you just drew. Make sure it’s snug on both sides. Once you’re sure it’s accurate, gently lift the curve up and lay it on the paper or manila folder. Trace along the inside edge of the flexible curve and label the tracing to indicate which side is your horse’s left and right. If your saddle fitter has requested a tracing, this is typically all you’ll need to do.
Your fitter may also ask you for a back tracing- for that, simply straighten out the curve starting at the withers, then lift it off and trace the underside on the same piece of paper. Make sure the back tracing is parallel to the bottom edge of the paper and not angled up or down; this tracing will help your fitter determine if your saddle needs adjustment to sit appropriately on your horse’s back.
If you’re shopping for a saddle, it’s useful to transfer the wither tracing on to a piece of cardboard. Cut out the tracing from the folder or piece of paper, lay it on a piece of cardboard, and trace the shape of the tracing on to the cardboard. Cut it out using a sharp pair of scissors or utility knife. You can take this cardboard cutout with you when shopping and hold it up to saddles you’re interested in to get an idea of how they might fit your horse. You’ll want to make sure the saddle clears the top of the tracing (your horse’s withers) by about 3 fingers’ width as well as make sure the saddle isn’t too narrow to fit around your tracing or so wide that your tracing isn’t touching the saddle at all.
That’s all there is to it! Wither tracings are a really good tool to have when saddle shopping, especially if you don’t have a saddle fitter you like in your area- they can save you a lot of angst and effort before you even take any saddles home!