How does one go about choosing a ranch saddle that will be used on a variety of horses? What makes a saddle a ranch saddle as opposed to a roping, reining or trail saddle? And to make this post more complicated, what kind of tack generally goes along with a ranch saddle?
The reason for all of this is that I have a chance to work a ranch next spring but I will be required to bring everything but the horse with me.
As a general rule, I would go with a heavy duty roping saddle for ranch work. A "ranch" saddle is just a durable, all around, heavy duty cutting or roping saddle - probably limited embellishments. It's a work saddle.
As far as tree size, I'd go with full quarter horse bars. If you get a chance to speak with the saddler, they can discuss with you a midrange gullet width - not super wide, but not crazy narrow either.
A working ranch horse will usually be quite stocky and broad. Of course, there are exceptions, but these are horses who must be able to brace against the force of a running cow. Ropers are big and broad. Cutters are shorter, but probably just as broad.
You will likely encounter horses with a gullet width of anywhere from 6 - 7 inches. I'd go with perhaps something along the lines of 6.75, or 7. However, saddle fit is a key factor in how a horse performs - so try the saddle on the horse(s) you'll be riding before you start working, and if it doesn't fit, ask to use a saddle that fits that particular horse better than yours.
You will also need a heavy duty working pad. But please, don't skimp in this area. A low quality pad can be just as bad as an ill-fitting saddle in many cases.
You will probably need a leather flank girth, leather breast collar, and leather headstall, and a high quality cinch. You might consider getting a set of SMBs in medium if you think the work will be strenuous on the horses' legs.
Best of luck. :]
^^ Ditto. I just wanted to add that many of the ranch saddles around here are more designed for rider comfort because a rider is generally in them all day. The seat is more narrow and angled and usually has a deeper seat with a fairly tall cantle. I have noticed that on many of them, the stirrup leathers are set a tiny bit farther back just to keep your feet under you instead of out in front like many roping saddles do. I would avoid reining or trail saddles or anything other than a ranch or roping saddle. You need to have a very strong tree reinforced by either fiberglass or rawhide to withstand roping and pulling. I agree with the Full QH bars. That is what my saddle is and I use it on all of my horses. The only ones that it doesn't fit at all is my TB and my Perch. As for a pad, I personally prefer the 1" thick felt with fleece lining and wear leathers. Most ranch and roping saddles come pre-equiped with a back cinch designed for roping so you probably won't have to worry about that. As for breast collars, you will definitely need one if roping is even a slight possibility. I personally prefer the "pulling collars" that attach to the swells of the saddle because they are positioned on the horse to be more comfortable and less binding while pulling. However, there are many people who like the "steer tripping" collar. Whatever you get will need to be wide and heavy duty. On to the front cinch. The only suggestion that I will make is that it should be a roping cinch that is wider in the middle to spread the pressure of a tight cinch over a bigger surface area. I ride in a roping saddle for all my ranch work and get along great, however my brother rides a custom ranch saddle and cannot stand my roper. :D It is really all a matter of what you prefer in that respect, just get something that fits you and is comfortable.
I won't get into the different trees available, that is something you can get into with the saddler but he may end up asking if you would prefer a Wade or a Modified Association, or any number of other tree types. Just pick the one that you like the best. :D
Are you also required to bring the bit/bridle with you too?
Good advise. I'll just add that the minimum gullet with for a stocky or even a "normal" withered horse should be 7". Anything less and you will be limiting the horses you can put it on. Be sure it is a "real" working saddle - it should weigh in at ~40 pounds and have a bullhide, rawhide, or at least a fiberglass covered wood tree.
One very important warning: Get the saddle as soon as possible and ride the dickens out of it. Get it broken in way before you need it. At least that way you will know how comfortable it is and how well it fits you. The leather will be broken in and, not the least of things, you won't look like a tenderfoot :wink:. You don't want to have to break in a saddle by riding it for a full day on the first day of work - you will be sore enough without having to find out that your saddle is so stiff that it's working against you.
As for bridle - get one that is made as a "working bridle" and make sure it has a throat latch. You don't want to be in a situation where, if you rub against a tree or he shakes his head, off goes the bridle. As for the bit - I would ask the ranch you are going to what they are using. That is the one item that can be brand new. Everything else needs to be well broken in.
Next, what about reins? Should I just get split reins? And I have read that it is not a good idea to use reins to tie up a horse even temporarily, how does this work on a ranch? I cannot see constantly swapping bridles with halters all day long.
The bit should be appropriate for the horse that you are riding. It is not uncommon for each horse to have its own headstall/bit already that is adjusted properly and has the correct bit for that horse.
As far as tying a horse by its reins - it's not something I practice. It stands to reason that ranch horses will ground tie, but you can't be certain of that. A lot of ranches use hackamores with mecate reins, so they have a built in lead rope. Some will also leave rope halters on underneath headstalls or on over them, but I don't like doing that.
But if none of those things are options, or this ranch doesn't practice them, you can always slip a halter on over a headstall when you need to tie.
As for type of headstall, just look for good quality supple leather with limited embellishments. Slipear/one ear headstalls don't usually have throat latches, so get a browband headstall.
I don't like split reins - too much hassle. I like a nice set of long-ish roping reins. But that's just me.
Ian, how much time have you had around horses? I'm getting the impression that it is not a lot of time, and that's fine, but it does make a difference in the advise you will get.
As for some of your other questions, I would get a bridle with a brow band, not a single or even a double ear. Definitely split reins for a working range horse. To tie one up, use a halter under your bridle (I prefer a rope halter with a 9' lead). On the range, most ranch horses will ground tie or hobble.
So I am trying to educate myself before I start looking to purchase my first horses, and before I start doing some of the ranch work that I have an opportunity to do.
I apologize for all of the questions, I am simply eager to learn. But thank you to everyone for the replies.
^^ This is good that you are eager to learn! We love people like that :)
^^Absolutely, those of us who have a little bit of knowledge are always happy to help. Heck, even brand new horse owners teach us old boots a thing or two. LOL. There is nothing wrong with how you grew up at all. You are still more fortunate than many simply because you did get to be around horses. I hope you have the opportunity to go work on that ranch, that type of work will teach you alot about a horse in a very short time. I wish you luck in getting a horse or 2 next year and you can always come here with questions and get really good answers. :D
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