Male and Female Saddles? Part 2: “Twist and Shout”

Because I got a huge response to my initial post on male and female saddles I decided to put another blog post together on the subject but from a different angle.

What I want to talk about today is the Q-Flexion and why it is so important to saddle fit and the *twist* in the saddle for the rider.

What is the twist? In the saddle world it can be categorized two different ways.  The “twist” as it refers to the horse is the angle of tree as it lays on the horse’s back.  For an interesting video on that “twist” please click here.  The twist we are talking about today is the twist for the rider.  Otherwise known as the width of the saddle between the user inner thigh of the rider.  This is not to be confused with the width of the seat.


Seat Width VS. Twist


So first we need to look at the difference in the femur angle of the rider.  The female rider has a steeper angle of the femur, otherwise known as the Q-Flexion, than the male rider does.  In this image I want to show you male and female skeletons overlapped showing the difference in the angulation of the leg.  To the right you will see the “Q-Flexion” highlighted.


Highlight Q-Flexion of Male and Female Rider


Because of this different angle the way the rider sits on the saddle can be very different from men to women.  Now this is a generalization as all humans have some differentiation from person to person.  But as a cross section this can be seen as the norm.  So when we rotate the femur out to span the saddle you can see the woman’s femur has to rotate 5° further in order to span the saddle.  This can cause a lot of hip pain and impingement on the hip joint.


Rotation of Male and Female Femur on Saddle


When we make the twist narrower on this same saddle we can account for that 5° difference and give the woman more comfort in the saddle.  But this is not so easily done as just making a narrower saddle.  What about the horse?  In the diagram here I have narrowed the twist be bringing the saddle slightly higher away from the horse in the seat area.  In this way we have not sacrificed and fit to horse in the tree we have merely moved the rider up slightly.  This is often why saddles aimed towards women sit slightly further from the horse than a saddle designed for men.  The argument is that the rider is then further from the horse.  But in fact by moving the female rider up slightly we can actually get much closer contact of the entire leg down the side of the horse with better hip flexibility and therefore better feel and relaxation of the lower back and thigh.


Twist Adjusted to *Narrow* for Female Rider


In conclusion: There are many accomplished professional female riders who ride comfortably in a man’s saddle.  A lot of them have been in a saddle from a very young age and have accommodated for the difference.  But for the adult amateur rider learning to ride or for whom riding is a leisure activity this can make a hug difference to your comfort and lower back/hip health!  Please stay tuned for a post on Seat Width and the Female Rider!


[ninja_form id=21]

Comments Closed

4 Responses

  1. Teresa

    I ride in a foundation saddle and have discovered that the more I ride, the less my sciatica pain flares up. I tried to ride in a roper style saddle and suffered for days afterwards. So back to the foundation saddle I went and sold the other one as it didn’t fit either myself not my horse. We’re both very happy with the results.

    • Kristen Vlietstra - Saddlery Solutions


      Thank-you for reading and responding! So glad you were able to find something that works for you and your horse!!

  2. Alice

    How would you go about fitting a saddle to a round backed, well sprung rib caged, mutton withered horse and a female rider? If you sit the saddle up higher its going to lose the side to side stability because of the shape of the back and no withers to hold the saddle. If the width of the saddle fits the horse then you have a twist that can’t be very narrow. And if there is a saddle out there that can fit both, where is it!

    • Kristen Vlietstra - Saddlery Solutions


      Thank-you so much for reading and responding. Are you asking a hypothetical or is this a situation you find yourself in? I ask because depending on the type of saddle you are looking for I could probably make some recommendations! Please feel free to email me at