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How to Western Saddle a Horse

With proper care, quality western saddles will last a lifetime. There are, however, a number of saddle parts that will have a shorter lifespan than the base saddle, or that may be replaced for personal preference reasons. The following are the ten most common western saddle replacement parts.

1. Cinches (Front and Flank). In addition to being cleaned regularly, cinches need to be inspected for wear and replaced when necessary. The front cinch, especially, is a crucial part that's failure could cause a serious wreck.

2. Latigos (aka cinch straps). These straps take a lot of wear and can get worn relatively quickly with heavy use. You DO NOT want to be on a ride when your latigo breaks. Inspect and replace these relatively inexpensive straps regularly. A good way to test a leather strap is to try to tear it. If it tears, the leather is spent and should be tossed out.

3. Off billet. The off billet attaches the cinch to the saddle on the off (right) side. Like the latigo, it receives a lot of wear and needs to be inspected and replaced regularly for safety reasons.

4. Cinch Connecting Strap. This strap connects the front and flank cinches, holding the flank cinch in place. While it doesn't receive a lot of wear, failure can cause the flank cinch to slip back and spook the horse. It's a cheap part. Inspect it regularly and replace it when necessary. If you ride with a flank cinch, DO NOT ride without a cinch connecting strap in place.

5. Stirrup Leathers. Leathers receive a lot of wear and can wear out before the base saddle. Look for wear around the holes or where the hardware rubs against the leathers. Also try the "tear test" mentioned earlier.

6. Stirrup Hobbles. These straps hold together the fender extensions and the stirrup leathers so that the rider doesnít catch his foot in between and get hung up. They are much more important than most riders realize. DO NOT ride without hobbles in place. Since hobbles are small and often removed to adjust stirrup length (although this isn't necessary), they tend to "disappear" more than they wear out. Hobbles are another cheap part. Buy extras and have them on hand.

7. Saddle Strings. Additional saddle strings can be added to any saddle dees or rings. You can never have too many saddle strings to tie your gear on with.

8. Horn Wrap. If you're a regular roper, you'll need to replace your horn wrap often. Non-ropers will find that one will last the life of their saddle. Horn wraps come in a variety of leather and rubber materials and choice depends on personal preference.

9. Rope Strap. Like Horn Wraps, replacement of the rope strap will depend on use.

10. Stirrups. Stirrups don't tend to wear out. Most will last as long as the saddle. However, most riders have very specific preferences about their stirrups, so they are a very common replacement part. There are a wide variety of stirrups available in prices ranging from cheap to very pricey.

Whether due to wear or personal preference, there are a number of parts on a western saddle that you'll probably replace at some point during its life. Most of these parts are relatively cheap and easy to replace. Make sure the key parts are inspected and replaced when necessary.

How to determine gullet size for a western saddle with a wither tracing?

My horse's english saddle is an extra wide and still a little tight. How can I determine exactly which gullet size (in inches) for a western saddle she will need? Is there a place I can measure on my wither tracing?
I know I will need a FQHB, but I need to know in inches. I have found 7in, 7.25in and even 8in.

I am presuming that you have an accurate wither tracing. Be sure that your bendable wire is not simply pyramid in shape but actually has the withers outlined in it. Some of the sites will show you simply a cone shape with a wide bottom in a tracing. But you need to have the withers defined before you can do an accurate tracing. With that, it is easy to see the widest point of the withers and get your measurement.

I will find a good site to show you.

Here is one that shows you and you can easily see the widest point of the withers.

http://www.fourwinds.net/wither.htm

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