Your horse saddle is more than just a comfortable seat for you to ride in: it’s also a major piece of safety equipment. While you probably know that accidents can happen no matter how careful you are, it definitely pays to protect yourself by keeping tabs on your equipment. An investment of just a few minutes is all it really takes to make sure that your horse’s saddle and tack are in good condition before each ride. Here are some important tips for staying safer on horseback.
Watch for Problems Caused by Wear and Tear
Check your equipment carefully on a regular basis, making it an important part of your pre- or post-ride checklist. Just as a pilot checks his or her aircraft before taking off, checking for parts that might be prone to failure, you can do the same for your horse saddle, bridle and other tack. Look at the following:
- Look for signs that the leather is cracking, drying, or wearing. Cracked leather is compromised and is likely to break if sudden pressure is placed on it. Pay special attention to stress points such as adjustment holes on bridles and girths or cinches; if they are worn, replace those components immediately to prevent a serious accident from happening. If your tack is in good condition, keep it that way by keeping it clean and applying a leather conditioner after each application of saddle soap.
- Look at the stitching on the saddle. Be sure that it is tight and that none of the stitches look as though they are fraying or getting ready to break. If you see anything that looks suspicious, either get your saddle to a repair shop or treat yourself to a new, safe saddle.
- Check any screws that might be present, such as the Chicago screws that hold some bridles together. Be sure they’re completely fastened, and help to keep them secure by applying clear nail polish to the joints. The nail polish will break away easily if you want to undo the screws, but will help to prevent accidental loosening.
- Check your cinch or girth to be sure that it does not show any signs of strain. These heavy straps are engineered for sturdiness, but they are subject to quite a bit of stress and do have a lifespan. Replace them when they show signs of excess wear. A broken cinch, girth or latigo tie strap can cause real trouble.
- Double check the back cinch or bucking strap, if you use one. Be sure that it is in good condition. This horse saddle component isn’t normally stressed and will often last a lifetime if it is properly cared for.
- Inspect your breast collar as well as the rings that it connects to. All the stitching should be tight, and there should be no signs of fraying, cracking or excessive wear. While your breast collar is subject to much less strain than your girth or cinch, it may wear out over time.
- Check your stirrup leathers, paying particular attention to the area where they come into contact with the bars, as well as the buckle holes. Stirrup leathers are subject to a lot of stress and it’s a good idea to replace them as soon as they begin showing signs of wear.
By regularly inspecting your horse saddle and the rest of your tack, you’ll stay much safer and continue to enjoy riding. Getting into the habit does take an effort but with time, you’ll notice yourself conducting these safety checks automatically.