Fitting the Rider

General Saddle Facts - Fitting the Rider

Every one who has been riding for a length of time has a favorite way we prefer our saddles to fit. Many times this is determined by the use of the saddle and horse. 

Although there are many types of riding in this world of horses, there are some basic premises in fitting a rider to a saddle. There must be an allowance for comfort that is balanced with the performance expected. For instance, when roping, enough room must exist between the belly and the horn to dally. A tall thin rider with a very long forearm may need a 17” roping saddle seat to have enough room to work. This same rider may fit in a pleasure saddle with a 15.5” seat. Assuming the same rider decides to jump his horse over fences, his fitting may require another seat size to enable sitting properly while ensuring enough flap under his leg. And, English saddles are measured from the front pommel pin to the center of the cantle, on a diagonal line, whereas Western saddles are measured from the base of the horn to the front of the cantle on a straight line.

There is little wonder why there is confusion in our marketplace. Can this rider fit comfortably in a 15.5 “ pleasure seat and a 17” roper seat? If in the roper, there is some rise in the front of the 17” seat, or perhaps a “bucking roll” installed at the base of the pommel, along with a hollow ground or close fitting area for the bottom of the seat bones, and a relatively high, at least 4”, cantle, yes it is possible.

Of course, if you have the funding, we can custom make your saddle to fit all parts of you without being sloppy anywhere! But if you are on a budget, you may have to weigh the options and live with a pretty good fit in a production saddle. There is production, such that any deviation from the norm will cost you tremendously. These saddles are definitely assembly line with several workers doing their specialty to all saddles. To deviate, means interrupting that assembly line. It not only costs the costs of your saddle, but slows production of what could be done. This is why some of these guys will do a little change for $50.00, but anything more than a little can easily double the price of your saddle. 

There is also the smaller production company that will affordably make small changes that do not require rebuilding the basics of the design. These are usually the smaller saddle companies. The Mom & Pop business that is still the backbone of American economy. Only a few workers will make your saddle. (Sometimes one person from start to finish.) One of the things we like is the availability of working with saddlers to make adjustments for extra short, or extra long legs. Or flipping leather rough side out, as well as smooth side out. Or getting a re-enforced flank. When ordering your saddles, be sure to ask about any option you feel needed.

To change the length for a leg, or shorten a skirt length, or go to a slight rise in the front of a seat may be viable with very little additional costs. However, if you need a drastic change that may cause the seat to be hand crafted rather than die cut, expect to pay the difference in price. For the smaller maker, changes are not so complicated. There seems top be a correlation between a company getting larger, and having to pull a product into a custom line to make any change, as that company gets larger. Larger companies often must add 35% to 100% to make changes, just to cover their costs, where a smaller company can do it for much less trouble. 

Just because a company is relatively small, does not affect the quality of the product that they produce. When dealing with the smaller company, we can often talk with the guy who will be personally making the changes. It seems like a better understanding is achieved when we can speak to the person who is building your product. Perhaps, we just feel as if it is so. Even the larger guys have some pretty tight procedures for getting things right the first time! Nobody likes mistakes. (Another argumentative issue!)

We can chase our tails with options and opinions forever, but, assuming we have to start somewhere, let’s begin to discuss fitting. When riding Western, there are some basics for which I like to look. Those saddles defined as a pleasure saddles usually place the rider in a comfortable sitting position. They are more forward in the position of the stirrup leathers, so that you have your legs in a more angled sitting position, somewhat similar to sitting on a tall barstool. This is a good choice for most riders. Adjust your stirrup leathers till you can stand in the stirrups and have about 4" to 6" of clearance when standing in the stirrups. This allows enough room to stretch comfortably, and to place enough pressure on the balls of your feet so that you can keep the stirrups from becoming lost. There must be allowance to let your heels relax downward when riding. This allows you to use the calves of your legs for directing the horse. I like to see about two fingers (width sideways, not length of fingers end to end) of spacing between the front side of the cantle corner and the small of your lower back. I also like to have two or three fingers of width between the front of the thigh and the bottom of the pommel or swells. This allows room for properly shifting my weight to direct my steed. Most times, I want the stirrups to swing forward and rearward comfortably. With relatively free moving stirrup leathers, if my horse travels up or down hills, I can remain in more of a position that is perpendicular to level ground, while my horse changes planes. (However, some sports require a stiff feel. Dakota will even tie the stirrup leathers in a position that holds them in place - good maybe for beginning ropers, older riders, and whoever else likes the security.)

This perpendicular achievement of my body becomes more important when I am breaking horses to the saddle. I like to be able to move my head aside and lean forward, as a horse tries to rear upward. This places more of my weight forward on him for more difficulty in his lifting action. And it places me in a more controlled position. If "Dobbin" were to fall over backward, I can easily step out of my stirrup. If I am falling backward, head first, lower than his hips, I am in for the wreck he anticipated! Same goes for when "Dobbin" Bucks. Staying perpendicular to the ground means I lean back as he kicks upward. This again makes his efforts more difficult, and my balance better suited for the experience. (Now I understand that John Lyons never has these difficulties. But most horses that used to come my way for training, had already been almost ruined. I would rather not beat the horse with baseball bats. I would rather out-think him, and have proper equipment for the task.)

Western saddles designed for more rigorous activities are usually designed for you to ride deeper in your seat. Roper saddles are made to allow standing in the stirrups, to ease the effort of throwing ropes at cows. The body is built somewhat narrower than a typical pleasure saddle, so that you can stand in those stirrups more comfortably. Most people adjust the stirrup leathers so that there is 3" to 5" of clearance between your seat and the saddle seat when standing. This saddle type also works well for people that simply do not like to ride with their legs so far apart. Riders with hip problems usually like this narrow build. Keep in mind that just because a saddle is labeled for a particular use, usually means more of how it is designed, rather than to limit its use to certain activities. Team roping saddles usually come with a 4" high cantle. Barrel racers come with 4" to 5" cantles. These higher cantles, when combined with a ground seat, can provide lower back support for the pleasure rider. This higher cantle usually works well for riders with lower back pains. However, the calf ropers usually come with a lower 3.5" cantle that makes mounting and dismounting faster. The lower cantle has less support, but does make getting on and off the horse a little easier for some people. Many saddlers offer a NASA foam, Double Comfort seat. This seat cushion is great for anyone who has experienced lower back pain or injury. If the saddler does not offer this type seat cushion yet, there are several "seat saver" options from which you can choose, to get more relief. Oddly, you can discuss with your doctor, but hard seat narrower twist trees sometimes do better than heavily cushioned seats. (Told you, some of this is should see what your Dr. has to choose from, when you get sick.) 

Endurance saddles are trail saddles that have specialized in lighter weight and speed. The lack of a horn makes it easier to lean forward on your horse. Leaning forward is important in keeping a center of balance while jogging up steep hills. There is just enough front on the swells to keep you from falling. The cantle is supportive, but not too high. This time the lower height is to allow you freedom to lean backward while coming down steep inclines. A high cantle will jab into your lower back, or prevent you from keeping a proper center of balance while descending. (Many endurance riders run beside their horses almost as much as riding, while in competition. This creates a need for an easy to mount and dismount saddle.) The pommel is designed with a hole and grip area to make a place to grab & pull yourself into your seat. Endurance and trail saddles allow flexibility and mobility with your horse. 

Reining is sort of like fast dressage in a Western saddle. You need to keep your balanced centered in all movements. There is usually a rise in the front area of the seat for helping to hold your seat into the rear of the saddle seat. This rise can help an inexperienced rider to control movement of the lower back and hips by slightly forcing your seat into the cantle. The rise should be comfortable, not restrictive. Larger skirts accompany this style, due to they do help some with keeping your saddle in place during all the spins and such.

An even higher rise in the front was sometimes called an equitation seat in years past. This high rise forces you back in your saddle. It is good for riders who have weakness in the spine, or are just beginning to ride, and need all the help staying balanced, that they can get. (With competition in the show arenas being as good as it is today, it is best to ride in an equitation show class, in a saddle that does not obviously help you to ride.) When judging two equally qualified riders on horses that are as good as they can get, the judge will get picky to find a winner. The rider using fewer "restrictive measures", (aids to hold you in proper position such as a high front rise with a deep ground seat and high cantle combinations, like the characteristics of the 1970’s equitation seats), will be selected as the winner.

Cutters have a high horn to help when you need to hold tight. Rounded bottoms of oxbow stirrups allow you to hold fast to the stirrup at which ever position you need. The first cutting horse that I rode tucked, ducked and rolled all the way from under me! I was left in the air while he did his business. Here, a more securely seated position with roughout leather might have held me in place. I was trying to ride a style that at the time, I knew nothing about! Riding saddles which I need to hold onto a horn and brace against, I like to make sure the saddle matches the length of my forearm as well as my seat. I must be able to stabilize my wrist in a position that helps brace my body, rather than being bent in an awkward state, or extending so far that I can’t support my elbow with my trunk. Legs need to allow supple ability, without flopping. Squeezing too hard with the thighs will effectively pinch you out of your saddle. (I cannot believe how easy the pro’s make this event appear.)

In barrel racers, I like the cantle to come around into the jockey a little less than other saddles. If my horse is close to a barrel, I can more comfortably move back with that inside leg as the horse rounds that barrel. That cantle needs to be a bit high to prevent being left behind on a powerful take off. I like a horn that is a bit forward to allow my body to get low on the straights. Most ladies like the freedom of leg movement combined with the lower back support of the barrel racer cantle. This combination is comfortable to them for all but the most steep of terrains while riding trails. I like to be able to swing my leg back easily when "Dobbin" wanders close to a tree trunk on a narrow trail. Most better saddlers will design just the right connection between tree, jockey, stirrup leather, and rigging, to allow lots of freedom. You cannot get this freedom in economy saddles. 

Hard-seated ranch saddles are made for riding long in the saddle and in any type of weather. The smooth one-piece seat will not readily absorb water from crossing creeks or from rains. Even though you may doubt the comfort of this design, don’t. The saddle carries your weight on your entire saddle block rather than just your seat bones. Spreading your weight over more area allows less pressure on a small, (or large, or just plain tender) bottom. You ride in a great posture, but if you only ride once every two weeks, this saddle type will make your inner thighs sore. There are few other exercises that work this group of inner thigh muscles. (Sort of like archery and your upper back muscles.) Bicycle seats are available to add onto the one-piece hard seats. This can be NASA foam, or better grades of saddle seat foam. The bicycle seat gives protection on the butt bones, without restrictions. Use a top grain seat cover and the weather still stays out, probably because your sitting and your duster is covering the smaller cushion area. The front of the seat is uncovered, and weather just rolls off that front end. 

I prefer enough room in the seat to allow my body to move where it needs to perform the task at hand, without so much room that I am rocking unnecessarily back and forth. Saddles that fit too large often create a sore back on the rider from a tendency to slouch more than you would with a tighter fit. Conversely, saddles that pinch are no fun at all.

We touched on an advantage of oxbow stirrups. Somewhat conversely, wide roper stirrups are best for standing in the stirrups, or for long periods in the saddle, because they give greater surface to rest against. I love leather bottom boots. But, the slickness of leather soled boots on leather covered stirrups in a wet arena has created a demand for tire rubber bottoms on work boots to be used for riding horses. Try attaching a piece of rubber tread onto the roper stirrup. CC can provide you with a synthetic "grippy" tread to velcro onto any Western stirrup. Now, we can stay in the stirrup better with a leather bottom boot. Before Cashel, and Supreme, came out with these, I used to nail a flat English stirrup pad onto the Western stirrup for grip. True, the leathers that are used in saddles today, and the nylons, turn easier. This eliminates much of the need for a pointed toe boot. After all, that toe was developed to better catch the lost stirrup, not for impressing females at the local watering hole. This easier catch is one reason you see broader toed boots in style today. 

Visalia stirrups or contest stirrups are tapered. They are narrower at the tops to lighten weight, and have a flat tread that gives comfortable fitting at the bottoms. These stirrups should allow you to place your feet, and remove your feet easily. This is to prevent hanging if you should fall from the horse, and to prevent slipping when trying to mount. If your foot is wide, you should search for a stirrup that will accommodate your width. If you have a narrow foot, choose one that allows you to be able to stay in that stirrup. Too loose situations often cause the stirrups to twist under your feet. Remember never to shove your feet fully into the stirrup. These instruments were designed to ride using the ball of your feet to apply pressure, not your arch. Tapederos are used today for fancy parades. They were initially designed to help keep vines and briars from hanging into your stirrups. They have also been used on saddles for children to help prevent them from holding their feet too far into the stirrups. When your stirrups are covered in the front, but not so flashy in style, they are simply called hooded.

Rigging a saddle to fit is another area of combining suitability with comfort. Ranch saddles, ropers and other saddles that require heavy work are usually built with sets of rings that are set in full, 7/8 or ¾ position. These rings are secured to the tree of the saddle by direct attachment of leather, sometimes reinforced with nylon, to the tree. This is the most secure method of rigging for the girth. This is also sometimes somewhat bulky. The leather tie straps are tied at a point that holds your leg a bit away from the horse.

One solution is to use nylon tie straps. When using any nylon ties, it is important that you take two wraps across the front of the loops made from girth to saddle rigging ring. Then pass around the ring and dive through both wraps. As you tighten, the nylon will bind itself from several directions and not slip like it does when you only take one wrap. Another solution is to have a dropped heavy leather plate hold the rigging as if attached to the skirting, but tied into the tree itself. The "Bork" rigging is one often used in this situation. Normally "Bork" rigging is slotted brass. Stainless steel or three-way plates may be used on this drop rigging. (I have heard this rigging called "Montana" rigging too.) This places the knot lower, below your thigh, and out of the way. When the rigging loosens in the leather plate, you replace that leather plate much easier than your skirts.

In-skirt plate rigging is great for lighter duty. It allows you to be close to your horse for greater control. A sort of half ring is attached to the skirts’ bottom edge by heavy rivets. Three-way rigging is sometimes used in-skirt. When you have occasion to ride several different horses, this three way allows you to tie in 7/8, ¾ or half way between these settings. For most riders, this is getting sort of picky, but for those finely tuned horses, a little adjustment can go a long way. Tying half-way is performed like the tie used on centerfire rigging. In-skirt rigging gives a clean appearance and allows your stirrup leathers to swing more freely.

The shape of the swells can help when fitting a rider to saddles. Swept-back swells are made to give something to throw your thigh into, in case of emergency. For some beginners, this gives a psychological feeling of security as well as the physical. People who break horses to ride, often like this feature. These swept-back swells also give more of a resting place for those riders who like pommel, or horn bags. They sweep rearward above the attachment to the skirts so there is usually room for the thigh to be comfortable even if it looks tight. Roper saddles use large swells that stand more straight. These can help keep a rope from cutting across your leg when pulled tight. Pleasure saddles normally have some swell on the pommel, without becoming excessive. A-fork saddles are known for a high pommel with minimal spread on the swells. This is a great design for people with larger diameter thighs, or those who like very little restriction in the front of their saddles.

Stirrup straps come in leather, reinforced leather, nylon, and nylon with leather reinforcement. Your stirrup straps are almost always called stirrup leathers, even when nylon or biothane, not leather, is used to build them. The heavier you will place force against these straps, the more you need the security of width. Ranchers and ropers use heavy weight 3" leather and the stronger have Blevins type buckles that are set vertically. I always recommend using stainless steel Blevins type buckles. Stainless will not corrode with the sweat of riding and the conditioning of leather, as will other metals. Cutters often use the 3" leathers, but use a more supple weight of leather for more flexibility. Barrel saddles may use 2.5" or 2" straps for quicker mobility, but should use a stronger material when going down to the 2" levels. Nylon is often lined with a piece of leather to prevent the nylon from fraying. Leather is sometimes lined with nylon to prevent stretching. If a rider has knee issues, that rider should use straps that mold and move easily. When roping, heavily stiff straps are appropriate because flimsy straps will tend to trip the roper back into the seat. Be sure to set the stirrups to your most comfortable riding height before you tie them to turn. This will make riding much more comfortable. If we know your true inseam, we can have custom or semi-custom built saddles, set and turned for you. On these saddles, we can also shave the width of the fender, or adjust the length of the stirrup strap to assure better fit for you, (not too short or not too long). When fitting saddles to husky children, I find it useful to order a saddle with an extra set of stirrup leathers so they can be interchanged as the child grows and the shape of their body matures. Often you need a set of shorter straps for now, and longer for later, while remaining the same size in the seat. Excessive punching of holes in your stirrup leathers will depreciate the value of your saddle.

Fit your saddle to yourself and your needs now. Don’t worry about what will happen if you lose weight, gain height, change riding habits, etc. Most people will change a lot during their lives, including saddles. I own several specialized saddles so that I have the right tool for the right job. I look silly trying to jump 4’ fences in a Garroutte roping saddle, and I sure don’t want to catch a wild cow while riding my close-contact County jumper! I know that is far fetched, but remember how that cutting horse left me in the air? The air wasn’t what hurt.

The cost of permanent injury, or even being banged for a season is much more than the price of a saddle designed to fit you, the rider, for the type of riding you desire.

Safety in the Saddle: A Beginning Thought to help Prevent an Unusual End.

So one of the first things is to have the right saddle for the right job. As you have been reading, riding and studying, you know many saddles can be used for several purposes. If you must use your saddle for several styles of riding, here are a few things to remember.

1) Your saddle needs to be tough enough to take the hardest riding sport you will be performing. For instance, if you trail ride a lot, and every now and again rope some cows, you need a saddle rigged and ready for roping. Using a pleasure saddle for roping might not show damage immediately, but who knows what might be jerked loose inside the saddle! And who knows on what narrow mountain craggy trail, will come a covey of birds, bobcat, or deer to scare your ride. You do not want to be riding faulty tack in these sometimes rare, but dangerous situations.

2) No matter what - inspect your saddle before and after you ride. And saddle blankets/pads. And bridles.

Every airplane pilot who likes living will perform a pre-flight checklist. Anybody who can ride a horse is at least as smart as an airplane pilot, right? So make your own checklist and follow it.

When I get ready to ride, I brush my horse, clean his hooves, tail, mane too. This does at least 2 things. It gets the relationship between us going properly again. It allows me to feel for any foreign thorns, thistles, briars, sores of any sort, before I put on the tack.

I then brush and feel the bottom of my pad or blankets. I'm looking for more trash that could give Dobbin a reason to buck. 

Next, I run my hands over the bottom fleece of my saddle to feel for any nail or brad heads popping loose, to make sure my saddle strings are not broken, to be sure there are no thorns, bugs, or worn spots from visiting rodents. 

Once the saddle is resting on my horse, I'll pull up the jockey, and pull back the stirrup leathers to look at the rigging. Want to make sure rivets are tight, or lacing is tight, if laced. Looking to be sure no excessive wear is showing where the leather hits the ring, whether in skirt, or drop rig. Is the tie strap tied? Is it supple and not worn out.

I check stirrup leathers to be sure nobody punched a bunch of stupid holes while I was gone last week. I check rivets, adjusting the fastening (usually Blevins buckles) to my preferred length. I make sure my slides fit firmly. I fasten my stirrup leather keepers so it will stay put. I walk around to the off side and check that tie strap/front billet. I make sure nothings twisted. I'll spin (untwist) loose a couple of the mohair girth cords. If the girth is dirty outside, I'll brush it off and be sure nothing will aggravate ole Dobbin. If it looks dirty/cruddy on the inside fibers of my girth, I need to take it off, clean it good, and think about replacing it soon. If I see broken fibers, I get another girth before I ride. (Boys, the wire brush is OK on bull ropes and such, if we must. But never on a good girth. Use at most, a medium bristle nylon horse brush.) Girth rings should not be corroded. The rusting of a girth ring can cut a girth right off in just a buck. Seen it happen, first hand. 

If neoprene, look for excessive cracking, ring corrosion, etc. If the nylon reinforcement of the girth is not supple, (hard and getting brittle) replace it. If wearing a girth cover, ring covers, or using a fuzzy warm girth, check it all for those little plant lifes, stall shavings, or gnarls of caked dirt, that spring up at the worst of times. 

Now I do the first tightening of my saddle. I'm usually in cross ties at this point, or still on a trail picket line. I'll fasten the breast collar and look for wear at buckles, keepers, or tug straps, loose stitching, rusty rings or bottom snap that might need replacing. Ditto the flank strap. 

I'll inspect the bit mouth to make sure no rough edges have come up, (nobody ran over it with a lawnmower or anything while I was answering e-mails). I'll always check the tongue to make sure the bit is over it. I'll adjust to pull one and only one (High School Math, anybody?) wrinkle in the corners of the mouth. My throat latch will be a little loose and my curb will allow 4 fingers flat between curb and curb strap/chain. I'll inspect everything for wear, suppleness, lack of rodent aid, as I go.

I like to try a second tightening at this time. Then fasten any other connector straps I might have. No need to bust your knee into Dobbin's chest. This gesture will only make him swell with pride, and ire. DO this instead. Walk him about ten steps. Let him turn around you to the right. Walk him a few more steps. Turn him around left ways. Stop and finish tightening his girth. He'll be more relaxed this way. And the girth will be able to be tightened enough. 

REMEBRE: a horse can loose a lot of water weight fast. If you are riding, re-check the tightness of your girth often. If your kids are riding, do this for them pretty often. This has saved many a broken arm Dr visitation. If that saddle is tight for a long period, give ole Dobbin a break. Stop, rest, loosen his girth some. Then remembre to tighten it again before you mount up. 

This tack checklist will keep you riding much longer.

Other things.  Ride with some sense. A good horse will let you do the thinking for him. Be at least as smart as he would be. Don't run wild when you don't know what's around the curve, over the hilltop, or around other horses, dogs, or humans that might not be paying attention to more than the pretty clouds. 

Learn to balance. Use your legs to take the anticipation away from your horse's mouth. Get instruction if you don't know how. Don't ride the reins. Ride the horse. And NEVER tie your horse by it's reins, with a bit in the mouth. Use a halter and lead.

Have enough room to stand in the stirrups when needed. I like 4 fingers upright between my crotch and the saddle seat when I'm stretching upward. You will find where you prefer too. Weight should be focused on the ball of your feet. Heels down some. There's a reason you hear an instructor chiming Heels Down...Heels Down...Heels Down.  Sit up as perpendicular to the ground surface as you can on flat ground. 

If you go up hills, lean forward enough that you still feel perpendicular to what the flat ground would have been. down...lean back till it feels like you would be perpendicular to flat ground.  You kinda pivot your body forward and back to keep your balance and take more stress off your horse. If you must lean forward, close to the head of your horse, move your head slightly to right or left of his. You will loose a head butt match. His skull is thicker. 

When taking sharp turns, lean your upper body gently to the inside of the turn. Think bicycle, or skis, or skates, (or I shall not pull my horse over on top of me).

Never tie yourself onto a horse you cannot stay on. Bad Idea. Go get a competent trainer, or two. I have seen or heard of people loosing consciousness and still tied to the saddle being whiplashed, or even hanging out of the saddle, strapped by a belt, on a scared horse that cannot get loose, and will not stop. A horse can rear up fall over backwards and fall on you, if your tied on. Horse therapy programs use quick releases, and have "helpers" around the rider. 

Wear protective gear. The riding helmets today do not make you look like a sissy English boy anymore. And they are much more comfortable to wear. Even a good Western straw hat will afford some protection. 

We get at least one call a month for somebody who needs a protective vest because they fell off on that last ride and broke bones. Now, they want one! I'll be honest. I don't always wear a helmet and vest. But the older we mature, the more sense it makes. The more green the steeds, the more sense it makes. The more dangerous the terrain, or the skill level, the more it makes sense. These vests & helmets have sometimes made a bad fall into a good laugh, where otherwise that fall could have never been a laughing matter. 

Footwear can lace or pull on. It needs a proper heel. It needs a foot surface that is not so tready that it will hang you in the stirrups. The older I get, the more I am careful about riding in thin leather soles. There are several performance boots and shoes made for riding. Get some. 

Safety toe shoes. All I can say is get the ratings. I have a good friend who, shoeing horses, wanted a pair of steel toe shoes. Worked great, until...a horse jumped back and came hard on the toe of the boot, so that the steel toe bent into his foot, and he had to go to the Emergency Room to have it cut off. 1200lbs of horse, stomping at a fly, can be a problem. Watch your feet. The safety is in paying attention and moving quickly when needed. 

I like to have a beer or two, spaced properly apart. So does my horse. I do not like to ride drunk. No matter your poison, impaired thinking will get you hurt. Use discretion. Party after your horse is secured for the night. And if you must have a six-pack, be sure and share half of them with Dobbin. He weighs more and will appreciate those barley, hops, etc. better than we can. 

Falling. Nobody wants to fall off. But you can be somewhat prepared. Something is going to hurt. You want to try to land on the broader parts of your body. Almost everybody who has taken a fall with an arm sticking out to try to catch themselves, has a broken arm. There is probably a better way than what I'm fixing to say, but this is what I try to do.

I try to roll as I'm falling off. There comes a time when you know it's time to bail. Kick your feet out of those stirrups and roll. Remember tumbling class in school. Try to ball up and let the momentum hurl you out of the way of the horse hooves, and rolling will allow more body parts to absorb the fall. When I first figured this out, it was because I was breaking a lot of colts. I took a huge pile of shavings and started doing tumbling rolls from a standing, then a running position. Pretty soon, I put a pile of shavings under some tree limbs and tumbled from those limbs, rolling again, until it was easy for me. Pretty soon, as ole Mean Streak tossed me, I could tumble away and be on my feet pretty fast. Pretty soon, I was doing it as a trick to impress girls. I wasn't scared to fall off anymore. As a result, I quit falling off so much. Huh...figure that! (I was 17 at this time of discovery. Now, I'm over 50 and not so bold, but I do stretch, wear protective gear, and still tumble off when I have to.

Stretching is vital. Especially for those of us that do not want to be very sore when we finish our ride. 

More to come.



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