Saddling Up With Haley Wright
As part of Team Weaver™ and Team Synergy®, we have had a first-hand opportunity to try some of the best products on the market today! It’s time to saddle UP and get your horse outfitted in only the best.
When I tack up, I make sure I choose a properly-fitted saddle for the horse I am planning to ride. Not every saddle fits each horse the same way and no saddle pad can completely fix a bad fit. If you question your saddle fit, I recommend taking your horse to a saddle-fit expert. We like to use NRS in Decatur, Texas when issues arise (940-627-3949).
Once you know your saddle fits, it is time to choose a saddle pad! There are so many choices on the market — I’ve selected my favorites and recommend you do the same! Much of what helps me choose the correct pad is assessing the thickness of the pad. I feel as though a 1″ thickness is adequate when placed beneath a well-fitted saddle. Most often, I will go for one of my Weaver Synergy® saddle pads. I find that the Contoured Performance Saddle Pad is my go-to. I love the flashy patterns and have not found a horse that the saddle pad does not fit well on. These pads offer a moisture-wicking wool liner that pulls sweat away from your horse’s back, keeping them cool. The shock absorbing EVA sport foam rebounds quickly while offering impact-absorbing protection, allowing you to do everything from trail riding to barrel racing, to roping.
As the piece that holds the saddle on your horse, the cinch is pretty important! First, know what size cinch your horse requires. To do so, you can run a soft measuring tape from dee ring to dee ring on the saddle (across the underside of the horse where the cinch will lie) and then subtract 16 inches. More info can be found in this Weaver Leather™ blog post. Once you know which size you need, you must choose which cinch will suit your horse best. You can choose from neoprene, fleece, felt, mohair, rayon, and the Airflex. There are also straight and roper styles to choose from.
Personally, I lean towards the Felt Lined Straight Smart Cinch® and the Airflex Straight Cinch®.
I find that both types stay in place without pulling on my horse’s skin while allowing ample shoulder movement.
Don’t forget that for a cinch to work, you will need a good off-billet and latigo!
The breast collar is an accessory that prevents your saddle from moving backwards and can prove to be useful in high endurance disciplines or when you expect to make inclines with your horse. Plus, with so many options, it can prove to change the whole look of your tack set-up!
Depending on what you are doing, the back cinch may also prove to be very helpful. As a tool that keeps your saddle from sliding forward and/or popping up, you must make sure it is not too tight, (unless your horse is accustomed to a tight back cinch) as it can prove to be uncomfortable to your horse as it applies pressure to their flank area. We like to be able to fit two fingers between the back cinch and the horse’s belly. If it hangs too low, it could create a hazard if the horse is able to get their leg hung. Also, always make sure that the cinch hobble is attached at an appropriate length to the cinch. As with the cinch, there are variations in the style of a back cinch that can be evaluated. If you are a roper, you will likely elect for a Heavy-Duty Roper Back Cinch as it provides a greater surface-area contact with your horse’s underside to keep your saddle from tilting up in the back, even against the torque of a jerking steer dallied to the saddle horn. If you are barrel racing, working cows, or trail riding, you may elect for a single ply back cinch.
Equally important, the headstall coupled with the right bit for your horse can make or break your ride. First off, start with a good quality bridle. The last thing you want is for it to come apart during a competition. Choosing a bit will depend on your discipline and your horse. We will do a vlog soon covering types of bits and uses for each so stay tuned!
You will also need a curb chain to hold your bit in place. The curb chain also allows leverage for the bit’s mouthpiece. If fitted properly, the curb chain should be quiet and neutral when there is no rein pressure. As you take up the reins, the backward motion of the shanks of the bit will apply pressure along the chin groove.
You will also need a set of reins. Once again, depending on what you are doing, you may elect to use split reins, (good for training and showing) roper reins, mecate, or barrel reins; just to list a few. These will attach to the rings on the lowest part of the bit shanks; as seen below.