From this tutorial you will learn about how the western saddle parts are made and what each part is for.
1. The saddle rigging
The “rigging” refers to the dee rings on both sides of the western saddle that are used to strap the saddle onto the horse.
2. The Saddle Skirt
The skirts have to be attached under the Bars of the Tree. The skirts are 2 big pieces of heavy leather that are lined with real sheep wool (the best) Or some sort of synthetic. The skirt is what will sit directly on the horses back. Reining saddles often have the middle of the skirt leather cut out. This maximizes the contact the rider has with the horse. Skirts can also be heavily decorated. In competition it is important to stand out amongst the other riders, so choose a saddle with nicely decorated leather.
3. The saddle Jockeys
2 pieces of leather are used to make the jockeys that sit on top of the skirt. One big piece goes around the seat and covers both sides of the saddle. The last piece goes around the back of the saddle. The Jockeys purpose is to cover any remaining pieces of the saddle tree and make the saddle look good. The jockeys are often attached using fancy silver or nickel plated conchos. Sometimes leather strings hang from the back jockey so a rider can tie things to it. The saddle jockeys do not effect riding in any way so feel free to choose a saddle with jockeys that appeal to you. If you want to compete, choose a saddle with lots of hand tooled design on the jockey and metal conchos that shine. It’s important in competition to catch the eye of the judge.
4. The Fenders
Once the Jockeys are in place the fenders are sewn on. The fenders purpose is to hold the stirrups and protect the riders legs from dust and dirt. Fenders come in different shapes and styles and choosing one over the other is purely a matter of personal taste. However the fenders should hang straight down, and be turned slightly inward to make it easier for a rider to position his or her legs correctly. It is very annoying for the fender to be hung to far forward. This causes the rider to be off balance or at the very least constantly fighting to maintain good leg position. Soft supple fenders are best.
5. The stirrups
The rider uses stirrups for balance and stability. There are a few different styles to choose from. What kind of stirrups you get is purely personal and won’t effect the way you ride. Always be sure to get a saddle with stirrups large enough to fit your boot or shoe size. Getting a foot stuck in the stirrup at the wrong time can be dangerous.
6. The seat of the saddle
This part obviously holds your butt in place. The center of the seat should be level and when the saddle is on the horses back, the seat should not appear to be lopsided. A good seat is one that is not to0 built up at the front. Or in other words it should not appear as though it is going up hill. Seats that are to built up at the front will put you completely in the wrong riding position. It will look like you are leaning way to far back. This is not good for you or your horse.
Click to see our Western seat calculator to find the right size seat for you.
7. The cantel
The angle and height of the cantel determines whether you will be sitting very straight up or if you will be sitting leaning back or if you will be leaning slightly forward. This is purely a personal preference for riders. If you have an opportunity to sit in a few saddles you can get a good idea what cantel angles and heights are best for you. Most saddle makers give cantel height and angle information when buying saddles off or on line.
8. The Saddle Cinch
Quite simply the cinch is the strap that goes under the horses belly and attaches to the rigging dee on the other side. This strap and the long piece of leather called the Latigo is what attach the saddle to the horse. The latigo is passed down through the cinch and up through the Dee Ring a couple of times before tying or buckling the saddle in place. Today most cinches can be buckled instead of tied. This is great news because lots of people have trouble tying knots let alone trying the cinch knot. 30 years ago it was uncommon to see a western cinch with a buckle.
Picture credit: hayneedle
Today saddle makers make it much easier for people and more comfortable for horses. Cotton and mohair cinches are the choice of most riders because they absorb sweat from the horse and don’t stretch after a couple of uses. Cinches come in various sizes, the average horse needs a 30 to 34 inch cinch. Really big or round backed horses may need a 38 inch cinch. Cinches for draft horses can easily be found at any on line or local tack shops. Keep your cinches clean and don’t let them twist under the horses belly when saddling up.