You saddle originally used lacing for the stirrup length. A working cowboy never changed his stirrup length and they were always laced. When I built my saddle that is how the leathers are done. It allows the leather and fender to be more pliable. The buckles stiffen them up. The blevins buckles came in to being mainly for livery stables where stirrup length was frequently changed. A good latigo strap will secure them, that's why there are four holes instead of two. Nice job on the saddle. It looks exactly how I envisioned it would look. Let me know how your saddle friend deals with the "frozen" leathers.