Keeping your tack clean and oiled is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe in the saddle. It’s a task that we may avoid but consider what happens if an essential piece of gear breaks while riding or driving your horse. Buying quality equipment is also an important consideration. I’ve seen a few accidents in the arena and on the trail.
Consider the off billets and latigos on your saddle. These leather pieces take quite a bit of wear and tear. Add a little dirt, grime and sweat and you have the perfect recipe for failure. I’ve watched a rider loping a horse in an arena using someone else’s saddle. As he rounded corner at the end of the arena the leather off billet broke loose and the saddle came halfway off the horse, now only held on by the rear cinch. Fortunately, the rider fell off unharmed in the deep dirt, but the horse bucked and kicked around the arena until the saddle came off badly damaged. It was fortunate the horse wasn’t injured.
Watch the nylon straps for the girth as well. These can become frayed and weak due to dirt and sweat. Keeping your tack clean is probably one of the most important things you can do as well as inspecting each time you get on your horse. Leather will wear out eventually. Below is an example of a dangerous leather latigo that should be replaced. Age is certainly a factor with leather as well as good care.
Another item to watch are the Chicago screws on your bridle. They can come loose over time. One trick is to use nail polish to keep the screws tight. Might be a little more difficult to get off but well worth not having your bridle come apart while you’re riding. I’ve experienced this firsthand on a green horse. Riding the trails, walking along and all of a sudden, the bridle is on the ground and the horse is stepping on it. Fortunately, I had a horse in front and in back of me, so it was pretty easy to get her stopped. The bridle didn’t fare so well, and I lost the screw. It’s why I prefer bridles with no hardware. Just leather fasteners.
Something else to keep you safe are safety stirrups. They are made for both English and Western saddles. If enough pressure is put on the right spot on the stirrup they will open, and your foot falls free from the stirrup. Many nasty accidents have happened when riders are dragged by the foot caught in the stirrup.
English saddles have an extra feature under the flap called a stirrup bar safety latch. It’s a metal structure that holds the stirrup leather on the saddle. Most prefer to ride with the latch open. Under normal conditions the stirrup leather won’t come off but in the event of a fall you can be sure the stirrup leather will fall free from the saddle preventing the rider to get a foot caught in the stirrup iron.
Below are some links as an example of safety stirrups. Here are some links to these products online. I have not used these but something to research. Stay safe!
Reference parts of a saddle here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_saddle
Western Safety Stirrups
English Safety Irons