Saddles wear out more from neglect than use.

The days will soon begin to get longer and the riding bug will start to bite–it’s almost time to dust off your saddle and deep clean your furry beast of a horse. But will your tack be ready to use after sitting in storage through the winter?

Whether you ride Western, hunt seat, saddle seat, or sidesaddle, simple acts such as checking potential stress points in the leather, the soundness of your saddle’s tree, and hinges of bits are often left out of the routine. It’s often assumed that just because your tack got you through your previous ride without any problems, then it’s in good shape for the next ride. That assumption can get you in trouble if your horse jumps to the side quickly or you must pull him up at the last minute; one small crack in the leather could turn into a big tear at the wrong moment, and it could leave you and your horse separated, and maybe injured.

Check, Check 1-2-3

Dennis Moreland of Weatherford, Texas, who’s been a tack maker for more than 30 years, says the one place most people tend to forget to look when checking Western saddles is the off-side of the girth. “They don’t see it every day,” says Moreland.

He advises riders to check the leather everywhere it folds, especially in the latigo, where the straight part might look and feel great, but where it folds around the cinch buckle it could be dry and cracking. Chicago screws in headstalls should be tightened and replaced where needed.

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