Hi Martin,

What rigging do you recommend for all around ranch saddle/wade tree, high-desert country [riding]? I mostly ride single rigged, unless I am roping something.

sent via email, Louis

Answer from Martin:

The 3/4 rigging is the middle of the road in my world.  For the majority of ranch riding the back cinch isn’t necessary.

A 5/8 gets along on a horse with more withers and shoulders.  A back cinch isn’t so critical, since the saddle slides forward going down hill, or when roping, the back of the saddle doesn’t rise up much. The withers and shoulders help to keep the saddle in place.

A 7/8 helps keep the saddle back on horses that don’t have withers or some shoulder to keep it in place.  A back cinch is necessary to keep the back of the saddle down.

The Quarter Horse has moved us toward the full double crossing on the draft and developing horses with backs like a beef steer.  The Thoroughbred’s Morgan’s and other riding horses, had backs that held a saddle in place, so they got along with the center fire riggings.  Here is a very good illustration and article by Chuck Storms you can read it here.

While I don’t disagree with any of it, I’d like to share my slant in some areas:

1. Flat plate rigging, as he mentioned less leather allowing closer better feel of your horse. I’ve had all types of riggings and I had as good of luck as far as durability with in-skirt rigging as any. But, I keep them well oiled and all my saddle are made by reputable makers. My observation is that the rigging, inside rosidero, stirrup leathers, and other internal leather is out of sight out of mind for many people. The skirts, saddle strings, outer rosideros, the external leather is more obvious and in wet climates they may be a priority. But long hot miles in a desert environment equates to more moisture from sweat to the internal and with less than 10 inches of annual perception means little moisture to the external leather.

2. Rigging position, the saddle needs to fit the horse, but todays horses don’t fit a saddle like the ones I’m use to. Chuck talked about the saddle being secured to the horse with two tight cinches. And a lot of them couldn’t get along without breast collars and in some applications a crupper or britchen. Short term arena work might be fine, but longer days on the ranch could mean sore backed horses. Personally, I put a priority on having horses that fit a saddle. I like to ride with as loose of cinch as possible and still be safe. A single cinch with a 5/8 or 3/4 allows the saddle to rock and move. The more the saddle can move the more the pressure points get relief and the less sore, dry spot, saddle scared backs we see.

3. No saddle maker or horse breeder can insure good saddle fit for an over weight rider with a dead seat and an overweight horse especially with a bargain priced saddle. That’s pretty much a recipe for failure. Skinny cowboys long trotting with a light seat on fit horses with a loose cinch makes a huge difference. Saddle makers can easily get a bad reputation that they don’t deserve. They can make a perfect fitting saddle and circumstances change. The skinny cowboy gets some age, takes a job in town, him and his horses dimensions change and the horse gets soft standing around and loses his conditioning. Even now, in the best of circumstances, it’s hard to have a good fit and prevent sore backs.

-this bull was roped and handled for 20 minutes to relocate him, before laying him down and removing the rope, the front cinch was loose enough to put a fist through.

Martin Black