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 Basic Saddle Safety---what to look for
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mtn rider

634 Posts

Posted - 09/30/2006 :  2:27:49 PM  Show Profile Send mtn rider a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Here are a few things a person should regularly check thier saddle for. These simple instructions, can save you from serious injury, or even death.

3 things hold your saddle to your horse.
cinch, latigos, and rigging rings.

Lets start at the bottom and work to the top.

No matter what kind, your cinch holds your saddle to your horse. Are the rings solidly held on the ends. Look for signs of wear and tear all along the strings, where the rings connect, and on both sides of cinch.
If the rings are rusty, this will eat at the strings and weaken them. Get a new one.
Remove your cinch are you ride. The latigos that hold your cinch to your saddle will last years longer if you follow this habit.

Latigos, or billets.
You have 2. One on each side of the cinch.
Check for tears and cracks in the leather. Look for holes that are stretched or torn. Same goes for the nylon type. Any fraying, or stretched holes? Time for replacement.

This is the system that holds the latigos, or billets. The rings or cees, mounted to the saddle. There are different kinds of rigging. Some are "in skirt",
and some mounted directly to the tree, with heavy leather straps.
(you can click side view pics to enlarge)
Look carefully at the rivets holding the in skirt cees, and the leather surrounding them. Make sure they are in there solid, and the leather is in good healthy shape.
If your rigging is held by leather straps mounted directly to the tree, examine these straps for wear and tear, as well as connection to the tree. They should not move, when you try to pull them side to side, but rather be mounted solid to the tree. Any cracking, or tearing, should be fixed by a proffesional.

Ok, so your saddle passed the above tests. If tests were done properly it will stay on your horse. But we are not done yet, we need to keep you on your horse as well!

Stirrup leathers and fenders.

There are a few different styles of these as well. All have one common piece though. Its the strap that goes over the bars of your tree, and holds the fender & stirrup onto your saddle. On some saddles this strap is independant of the fender, on others it simply joins the fender.On the first style, the strap holds your wieght. On the second style, your fender supports your wieght.
On both styles, this piece of leather, must be in good solid shape.

This piece of leather is the most commonly neglected area of a saddle. Its up there inside, drying out and cracking, and because its hidden, people tend to forget about it.
It is also the piece you put the most stress on, when turning a barrel, or cutting a cow. Or, a horse spooks suddenly, and spins, and all of your body wieght, plus more, is suddenly hanging on that one, 2 or 3 inch piece of leather. Will it hold you? Or let go, causing you to have a wreck?

So, how do we check it?
First, we need to back up a step.
Undo your leathers, and take your stirrups off. Check the area where the stirrup leather buckles up. Look for wear and tear in the holes, and metal fatigue in the hardware. Look for stretching as well.
It is not a hard fix, to replace these leathers for a professional.

Next, run you fenders down, so you can see the top part of the leather, where it goes over your tree.
This will be easy, if the saddle has had the stirrup hieght adjusted regularly. It will be very hard to do, if no one else ever uses your saddle, and it has been in that position for a long time.

Some saddles I have worked on, have had to be placed on the floor, upside down, on thier side, and stood on, while 2 of us worked on moving that piece. The harder it is to move, the more necessary it was to get it moved.

Again, you are looking for wear and tear, stretching cracking etc.
Hey, why not give it some moisture, while you have it exposed? condition it. Should be done at least twice a year minimum.
If its really dry, leave it pulled, and condition it for a few days in a row.
You can get to the whole piece, without removing it completly. Just work on the top area, above the fender, and then slide it back in, and you can see where you ended with the conditioner, and carry on down the leather.

Look where your fender attaches. Does the leather end there? Or is it an independant piece, that goes all the way around?
If the leather ends, under the fender, near the top, then your fender is actually supporting your wieght, and needs to be strong as well.
If it is an independant piece, completing a circle, from buckle, over the tree, and comming back to the buckle, with the fender attached to it, then your fender is not supporting your wieght, and is not a crucial.

Huge safety item!
Stirrup hobbles are the little straps, that go around the bottom of your fenders/leathers, and keep everything together, nice and neat, just above your stirrups. Most people think this is thier purpose.

They also have another use, they keep your stirrup from turning in a wreck. If your stirrup turns, YOU ARE LOCKED IN! (and probably being dragged)
Describe turning: the stirrup is now hanging on the leather, on its side, rather than from the top.

NEVER EVER ride without stirrup hobbles. If you dont have any, tie some binder twine around, untill you get a set.

check cinch, latigos & riggin.
stirrup leathers, buckles & hobbles.
These are the basics of a safety check, and should be done regularily.

Ride safe, return safe.

Trail Boss (Moderator)

6115 Posts

Posted - 10/01/2006 :  06:04:36 AM  Show Profile  Visit Hook's Homepage Send Hook a Private Message  Reply with Quote
mtn rider. Thanks for such a detailed informative post. Another post we all should refer to regularly and a must for new riders.

Another sticky for you.

Hook(ed)......on Horses

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. " Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Edited by - Hook on 10/01/2006 06:21:28 AM
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Beginning Rider

140 Posts

Posted - 10/01/2006 :  07:45:18 AM  Show Profile Send gaitingal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Another reason to never ride without the stirrup hobbles:
When I bought my new trail saddle a few years ago, I left the stirrup hobbles off long enough to have someone help me adjust my stirrup length. It's too inconvenient to keep doing and undoing them with each adjustment. We would adjust them, ride a little bit and re-adjust them, ride some more until we got the length right. (To this day I can't figure out what the problem is with my left stirrup. The blevin buckle seems tight enough and everything lines up, but sometimes I have a problem with that left stirrup.) After we had made an adjustment to the stirrup length w/o the hobbles, I set off for a length check. All of a sudden, without notice, my left stirrup just completely slipped! Everything came undone, in a split second the stirrup was on the ground! Thank goodness we were just at a walk! I still have that problem today. I NEVER ride without the stirrup hobbles!! They are the ONLY thing between me and a wreck. They hold everything in place long enough for me to dismount and fiddle with the dang stirrup. So I have to keep checking my stirrups on a regular basis. It can take the fun out of riding sometimes when you have to spend a lot of time in the saddle worrying if your stirrup is going to end up being a projectile.


If you think I'm quiet, it's only because we aren't talking about horses!
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