Well tis the season, it may still be snowing outside but folks can feel spring coming. Every year about this time everyone starts dragging out their saddles, to start the process of cleaning and oiling, getting already for the first possible day to hit the trail. I start getting pictures emailed to me or folks stopping by Trailhead Supply asking me to give my thoughts if a given strap has yet another year of life. Lets stop right there…If you have any doubts on if a strap or a piece of tack will make it or not, buy a new one. There is no need to be running in and out of the back country or up and down some trail on hopes and a prayer. Remember, you want an uneventful trip. Uneventful trips are my favorite type, spend your time making memories not patching tack back together to get home. Lets get back to oiling up all that leather.
The four most overlooked places while oiling and inspecting a saddle have to be: the bend on an off billet, the latigo, saddle strings, and your cinch. The off billet…is that U-shaped piece of leather that your cinch attaches to. Also known as “That Thing” I have more people tell me they need "that thing!" It has a name…Off Billet. The off billet will dry out and crack where it is folded over. Last year I know of two people who broke their off billet while riding and their saddle rolled off their horse. One of these folks ended up in the hospital with a broken leg. I was walking through our local emergency room (long story) and here sits a friend of mine her leg is all splinted up.
"What happened," I asked.
"I was out riding and that thing broke."
What's next? Your latigo. This is the leather strap that you secure your saddle with. Its on the opposite side of your saddle from your off billet. These straps get old and tired the holes get tore out. Another problem that can develop with a latigo is some people won’t oil their latigos, they feel it will make the leather stretch and therefor won’t hold the saddle on tight.
Your strings, these small long strips of leather hold all your belongings onto the saddle during your adventures, check them out, over time they will break and get cut shorter trying to cut that world famous not slipping knot out when you get to your destination. It doesn’t hurt to replace those old brittle and probably shorter than they should be saddle strings with some new, long, soft pliable ones, you won’t believe the difference!!!
Finally your cinch, this piece of tack is so greatly over looked. They get packed full of mud, burs, hair and sweat. They get hard and crusty. If you are running neoprene the rolled edges can crack and pinch your animal going down the trail. Look your cinch over as to how its constructed, I had one attached to a used saddle I bought, every time I tighten the cinch my horse got all pissy. Turns out that cinch had a piece of metal woven inside of it and that metal would bite into the chest of that mare as I pulled it tight…That cinch is gone!!! Cinch materials are a personal choice, I’m a mohair fan, but if it holds your saddle in place while not soaring your mount then you have the right one. If you have any questions feel free to contact us at Trailhead Supply even if its just to show me an old cracked strap.
See you on the trail!