How to Measure your Horse for a Custom Tree

This is a short tutorial on how to measure your horse with my new equine Template.
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How to Measure your Horse for a Custom Saddle Tree

The saddle buying and fitting process can be a daunting task. No two saddles or trees will fit exactly the same. There is no standardized system and it is a huge problem for the consumer. Without a way to measure the horse and the saddle tree or saddle it can get very discouraging with the trial and fit method. Do not despair, there is a way to go about getting the right fit for your horse's back.

Years ago before I started building my own trees I ordered custom saddle trees from Rod & Denise Nikkel in Alberta, CA. Rod built over 2500 hand made saddle trees in his career and I was always willing to learn anything I could from them about how to fit saddle trees. They were and are an encyclopedia of saddle tree construction and fit. They introduced me to the Equine Back Profiling System. I used the system for my customers to get the proper measurements and then relay that information to the tree maker and have the tree made. When I started building my own trees for my customers it was only fitting that I use the Profile cards. I have used the cards to build trees and saddles for horses all over the country and even the world. It’s a very simple way to what I call mapping of your horses back profile and it is a easy system for my customers to use. This is an instructional blog on how and what I like to have my customers accomplish when using the cards on their horses. If they are not close enough to me to bring their horses to my saddle shop this system will eliminate the need. You will be able to take the measurements along with pictures and send them to me. I have a gallery of photos showing how the cards are used at different locations on the horse, they are at the bottom of the page.

Equine Back Profiling System “EBPS”:

EBPS system of rigid profile cards to either have the customer come and have the horse measured or as now days we can send the cards to the customer with a few instructions to measure the horse. The cards have a series of numbers on them that represent the profile on each card with either 3 or 4 profiles and numbers. There is also a set of 2 cards that we use to measure the rock in the back of the horse.

The Measurements:


     The cards have Letters and numbers on them and there are 3 sets, each set marked A, B, and C. and then the cards have numbers on the profile.

In this picture the horse measures A-S7 at the A location just behind the scapula.

I will discuss the different profiles and there locations and how to mark and measure them. The S numbers on A,B, and C cards are the narrowest and the D cards 2 of them on the A, B, and C are the wider. This should start making more sense in the next paragraph. It seems that tape works the best to mark the locations on the horse and the first one is marked A and is located just behind the edge of the scapula some folks call it the shoulder. Take the edge of your hand and press and push up against the scapula to find its location. On some horses “muttony” you may have to push a little harder to find that location and tape it from one side of the horse about 8-10″ down from the spine to the off side of the horse the same distance. Mark that tape A. Then move back about 2″ from A and place another piece of tape mark this A1, and again about 4″ back from A and mark this A2 and the last for A about 6″ behind and mark this A3. So you will have four pieces of tape marked A, A1, A2 and A3. Then go about 6-8″ back from A to the low point of the back. 8″ is approximate but it should be close and tape that and mark B then go 2″ behind that and place another tape and mark B1. Then go about 8″ behind B and place a tape and mark that C. This will be all the tape you should need. Now on each piece of tape your going to place a line across the tape with a magic marker. You can do this as your measuring each profile, you can see a red or black line in the picture and at the point that line contacts the horse make a mark on that line. It will represent another measurement we call the Rock cards and we will discuss that in a little while. You can print out the pdf profile form and start filling out the letters and numbers.

This is really important!!! I cannot stress enough that you need the horse standing square on all fours and looking straight ahead. Also the more level the ground the better, concrete being the best. It would be good to have someone else to help you hold the horse. I like to have lots of pictures that you can send. We need one from the front shoulder looking back at the hip, we need one from the side, one from the hip looking to the front shoulder and one from the top. You may need to stand on a chair or use a stepladder. Also take pictures from both sides. It is also helpful to take pictures when you are measuring with the cards. Make sure the profile numbers are facing the camera. Use the closest card that fits. Start with the respective card letters but if one from B fits at A better, use it. Just make a note of that or take a picture. This is also another way not to make a mistake as I can see the letters and numbers on the horse. On the profile cards you are looking for the closest fit. I will make the adjustments on the tree if I think it needs to be a little wider or narrower. I do tend to want to make a tree a little wider for the horse to either get in condition or to grow.

     The picture below is the Rock measurement. There are 2 cards R3, R6, R9, and R12 less rock to more rock respectively. R3 is straighter than R12. I find that R3 would fit straighter backed horses and probably a lot of colts. As the horse grows and matures they develop more muscle and they tend to get more rock in their back. I find that R6 is somewhat average. Take the card and hold it perpendicular to the horses back. The marks that you placed earlier about 4″ down from the topline will be where you place the cards. Remember we are trying to mock the tree bar on the horse. Do the best you can to hold it perpendicular to the horses back and still get a good picture. Locate the tape marked B, on the rock card you will see a notch cut out of the profile card place that notch on the tape at B. Find the card that fits the best. The numbers at the front of the card S represent the distance from B to A (just behind the scapula) in this case about 8 1/2″ for this horse. Take pictures of the card best suited. We will need a few more measurements:

It is not really necessary to measure the topline because the profile Card at A should tell me how much wither clearance is needed. Good photos of the A card and also photos from the side will usually tell how much handhold height and gullet height we need in the fork of the tree to have good clearance.

Scapula to Hip:
     This measurement is taken for the A card or just behind the scapula to the point of the hip. I call this measurement AH. You wont find it on D Lane video, but it is important, especially for short backed horses. It will give us a little more information on tree length but also skirt length. In the picture below you can see that it is about 25″

Profile Card Locations:

Dennis Lane Web Site:
Dennis Lane video link on how to use the cards, there are 3 videos in total: 

We also rent the cards to our customers who are purchasing a saddle from us.

Print out PDF page of our Profile Card measurements form to write down the numbers as you progress.

  • Model: SaddleFittingProfileMeasurement
  • Brand: Tom Lamprey Saddlery

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