Whether you are new to the equestrian world or an experienced veteran that has practically lived your life in a saddle, there are some things that must be remembered. Saddles are not something that can be skimped on and knowing what kind of saddle you need is one of the keys to success. But what is the safest way to proceed?
Saddles, Tack, and Safety are tied together and cannot be separated. If your saddle and tack are not properly made, cared for, and handled then you will not be safe when you go riding. The materials that are used to make your saddle are important and contribute to how safe you will be.
Besides safety when you are riding, the origin of the saddle and what types of saddles there are, contribute to your overall knowledge of equestrian matters. Having a solid base of information can only help you, especially when you are just starting out. Becoming a good student of this craft is advisable.
Where the saddle first originated is very interesting for those that enjoy history. People that enjoy combining their love of riding with their love of historical topics will really like this section. Even if you find history and details like this tedious, keep reading you won’t regret it.
The origins of the modern-day saddles are not widely agreed upon and there are several different ideas about where they came from and who did what.
For hundreds of years, people rode on horses bareback, even when going on long journeys or fighting in battles. Some say that the saddle can from Asia, which is where it is generally believed other parts of saddle tack originated. However, others say that the primitive saddle was created by the Samaritans in the Middle East.
No matter who created the first saddle, it is generally agreed upon that people from Mongolia took them to Europe where they were eventually adopted and perfected.
The modern-day western saddle is most closely related to the Spanish Vaquero. While the Spaniards were making the ancestor of the western saddle, the French and English were using the primitive saddle brought from Asia and the Middle East to make the English Saddle that we know today.
Of course, with many modern advancements over the years, the saddle has been improved upon repeatedly.
Even though there are some variations in the story of who created the modern saddle and where it came from, there is a general consensus when it comes to who made the stirrups and first horse collars.
These tack items are said to have come from China and other parts of Asia. They eventually made their way to Europe and then to North America. What we know as a saddle has origins in different parts of the world.
There are two main categories of saddles that are recognizable to even the novice equestrian and those are the English saddle and the Western saddle. But what some beginners don’t know is that within those very broad categories there are more specialized types of saddles.
Choosing the right saddle for your needs is extremely important and if you choose the wrong one, your safety could be in jeopardy. This is just as important as the materials used to create the saddles. It all works together to give you a safe riding experience.
When the term English saddle is used it doesn’t mean just one type of saddle. This is a broad, overarching term for any saddle used for an English riding discipline. There is however an all-purpose saddle that can be used across many of the disciplines for beginners but once you get serious about one or two sports then you should get a specialized saddle.
Western saddles are what are most often used by ranchers, cowboys, and those that participate in rodeos. There are people that simply love to ride on trails and for pleasure. Most of the time they will use a Western-type saddle for that as well. All though they could choose another type if they wanted to.
The Western saddle was introduced to the United States by the Spanish Vaqueros or cowboys and has changed some since that first meeting. Just like the English saddle, the term Western saddle is a broad term which encompasses a wide variety of specific saddle.
It may seem like this is a matter for the manufacturer of the saddle to be concerned with but that is not true. If you are a serious equestrian then you likely spend a lot of time in a saddle. You rely on the saddle to be made appropriately with good materials because if the saddle fails then you and your horse could be seriously injured.
Saddles also tend to cost a lot of money and if you are knowledgeable about the materials and process of making what you are investing in, it is unlikely that you will be taken advantage of or make a poor purchase. Knowing how anything you buy is made is always a wise decision.
Saddles can be made from a variety of natural and synthetic materials but the most common material is leather. The bodies of the saddles that we see are generally made from leathers that could come from different parts of the world. But that is not the only materials you will find on a saddle.
When we are making a purchase of any kind, not just saddles, it is important to know where the materials the items are made of come from. Ethical sourcing, especially of materials that come from animals, really does matter on a global scale. Whether the leather is Indian leather or US leather could make a difference for some buyers.
If you want a saddle that is made from US leather then you may have to do your research to find out which saddle manufacturers use US materials. For a long time, you would be hard-pressed to find leather saddles or tack that were not made in India with Indian leather, so make sure you are reading labels if you don’t want that.
If you ride often, you may notice that parts of the saddle start to wear out and may need to be replaced. Wear and tear on a saddle that is used regularly is to be expected and does not in any way mean that you need to go buy a whole new saddle. Unless of course, you want to.
There are some parts that are more likely to wear out on your saddle just because of the way they are used and the location of the part.
While horseback riding is a great sport that gets even the most novice rider outside and active, if safety measures are not taken, injuries can happen. A fall from a horse can have a devastating effect on the life of the person that fell, at worst, or frighten them enough to keep them from riding again, at best.
But all of this can be prevented with proactive steps and training as well as the proper equipment and safety gear. Taking a backpack or saddlebag with extra items in them would be wise. When you are out of the trail you may be miles away from anyone that can help you so don’t be caught unprepared.
There is also safety gear that you should wear even if you are practicing in an arena or round pen to make sure unnecessary injuries do not happen.
When you are out for a ride emergencies can happen and you may be in an area with no cellphone reception and no way to yell for anyone. That is why emergency equipment is important.
Because riding can be dangerous without the proper equipment, it is important to have safety gear that you wear anytime you are on a horse. There are four safety items that should be worn or used when riding.
One of the best ways to keep your saddle functioning properly for years to come is by maintaining it properly. Cleaning your saddle with the proper products for the material it is made from is just one way to care for it.
Storing the saddle when it is not being used is important as well. If you clean it with the best products and use a preserving agent but leave it out in the elements or leave it sitting out uncovered in a dusty barn then all of your work has been for nothing.
These two aspects of care, along with preserving the leather, work together to make sure you have your saddle for years to come.
Making sure you have quality cleaning products is the first step to properly caring for your saddle. But how do you choose from all of the products on the market? The best way to make a choice is to ask around. If you have friends that ride or a great local tack shop, they will definitely have a recommendation.
The best way to clean a saddle is to use quality saddle soap, water, and a sponge or soft rag. Don’t apply a ton of pressure, you don’t want to scrub too hard. The goal is to work the soap to a good lather.
Once one section of the saddle has been lathered, use a sponge and water to lightly wipe away the soap and flush out the crevices. You don’t want to soak the leather with water, use just enough to remove the soap.
Once the leather is completely dry you will want to apply a leather conditioner. You can choose this in the same way you chose the soap, ask for recommendations from your experienced friends.
Preserving the leather is what the conditioner does. Applying a conditioner will keep the leather in great condition and prevent it from drying out and cracking. It will also keep it pliable and easy to work with.
The best way to store a saddle is on a saddle rack or saddle stand. The reason this is the best way to store it is that it will prevent the saddle from being misshapen and damaged from lying on the ground. It is also best practice to cover the saddle especially when it is not going to be used daily.
If it is at all possible to keep your saddle from extreme temperatures and humidity that would be best, however that may not be possible for all riders.
Before you take off on your ride it is advised that you do a pre-ride inspection to make sure that everything is as it should be and there are no obvious dangers. This inspection will also ensure that your tack is in good working order and nothing is broken or malfunctioning.
Check your saddle pad before putting it on the horse. Have you ever heard the phrase “burr in your saddle?” Well, it isn’t a good phrase and if the horse has a burr or anything else in the saddle pad you will be in for a rough ride. Also, check the saddle for wear and cracking that could cause problems with your ride.
One of the best ways to make sure that the saddle is on properly and is tight enough is to lunge your horse for five minutes or so after the horse is saddled. Horses tend to bloat themselves because they don’t want the tight girth strap on. Lunging them will relax them so you will see if anything needs to be tightened.
Once you know that the saddle is on correctly and tight, go ahead and get your bridle ready. Go over the whole bridle looking for weaknesses and cracks. Make sure the keepers are in good working order, the bit is free of debris and there is nothing that will poke the horse. Check the curb straps and the reins.
Making sure there is no excessive wear or cracking in your equipment will set you up for a safe ride.
When it comes to horseback riding one can never be too safe. This is a great sport that is wonderful for people of many different ages and abilities but the fun can be ruined if safety is overlooked. Here are some final takeaways.
Whether a novice equestrian or a rider with years of experience being safe while riding is the top priority.