If you sit down and think about it, what we do with our horses is somewhat dangerous and wild to begin with. Horses are powerful animals and we saddle them up to train and compete on daily. It sometimes is easy to forget, but it is very important to keep ourselves and our mounts safe by making it a habit to double check equipment and tack before each and every ride. Before you step up into the stirrup and swing your leg over your horse, make sure your saddling routine includes a daily check up on your gear.
The blevins buckles on the fenders of your saddle are designed to be easy to adjust, but they can become loose over time, especially if you change your stirrup length often. Check to make sure the buckles are completely closed and snug. If the sliding component is loose, tighten it by squeezing both hands against it, or use a pair of vice grips to gently smash down and increase the tension on the slider. If you leave the blevins loose, they could slide up or fall off easily. Also, if they are not tight, it will cause unnecessary pressure on the fender holes, causing them to stretch out. A secure blevins buckle protects the integrity of your hole adjustment. Its good practice to glance at your hole adjustments you use most & make sure they are not stretched out, the blevins are snug, and it will ensure a long happy life for your fenders.
If these blevin-babies aren’t in their proper place, you could find yourself in the dirt.
Another thing in the same area of your saddle are the stirrups – they have a rod/bolt and 2 nuts at the top of them. This is where your body weight is supported. Double check that the bolts in both stirrups are straight and the nuts are tight!
The Chicago screws on headstalls are tiny but mighty, and possibly the easiest to overlook. Unless your horse is trained for bridle-less riding, you don’t want to lose a single one of these. Check to make sure loops and Chicago screws on your headstalls are secure before every ride.
Popular Pro-tip: If you can, go buy a small bottle of “Locktite”, it will keep the screws tight and secure, but still changeable. If you do not have Locktite, you can use a drop of clear fingernail polish inside the screw for added security. Be cautious with the nail lacquer if you plan on changing bits very often, it’s not designed to come off without chemical assistance.
Pronounced Latties, Lat-ee-gos, Ladda-gos, or Lat-i-goooo, named for the type of leather it is made from. However you say it, they should be replaced EVERY YEAR. It’s cheaper than medical bills and an increase in premiums due to an accident. The best way to do this would be to purchase a high quality latigo leather 1-3/4″ x 6’6″ latigo, which is for the cinch side, along with 1-3/4″ single or doubled and stitched offside latigo.
Ropers, Cutters, Ranch use: Use a single ply off-side latigo, looped through the cinch first and then doubled up through the saddle rigging and back to through the cinch.
DO NOT USE DOUBLED & STITCHED.
Speed events and performance: You can use a doubled & stitched latigo or single ply off-side latigo, looped through cinch and doubled up through the saddle rigging and back through the cinch.
We recommend both the cinch side and offside latigos be tied by a professional, someone who specializes in leather work or has experience, or be instructed by a professional or try your google. An incorrectly tied latigo is extremely as dangerous and as devastating as having a latigo break. Annual latigo replacement is one of the best insurance policies for you and your horse.
On all latigos, and flank cinches, the center break, over fold, where the leather attaches to your saddle will oxidize against the metal rigging and becomes fatigued, making it prone to breakdown. Along with checking the latigo ties, check the condition of the leather underneath it’s break-over point in all four metal d-rig or c-rig locations of your saddle.
Flank Billets or back billets don’t wear as fast, therefore do not usually need to be replaced as often, but should still be checked at every saddle session.
Make sure your flank hobble (the little, unassuming buckle strap that holds the back cinch to the front cinch) is always in working order. It comes in contact with a lot of heat and sweat which causes them to break down. If this piece of equipment breaks you could find yourself unintentionally entered in the bronc riding. Martin saddlery, Flank Hobbles are made from biothane, as it has no stretch and is most resistant to horse sweat and heat.
Your saddle takes a lot of abuse on a daily basis, so remember to check everything on your saddle every day. Make safety part of your routine by being aware of the condition of all your saddle’s parts.
Of course, these are just a few safety tips to think about as you go about your day at the barn… but they are no little things when it comes to safety on a horse.