Drury is on the comeback trail this year -- at the age of But it's not broken bones and concussions that he is trying to overcome; Drury is a recovering cancer patient who had four ribs removed under his left shoulder blade two years ago, followed by a year of chemotherapy. When one of his surgeons suggested he quit riding bulls, he changed surgeons. Terry Don West, the reigning bull-riding champ of the PRCA, has had his face smashed twice , his left lung punctured twice , and his jaw and ankle broken once each. He has suffered 20 or more concussions, a separated elbow and a separated shoulder, and has undergone three operations on his knee.
Rodeo people murmur that West, who speaks slowly, has been knocked dizzy once too often, but on the main points of bull riding he is perfectly lucid. The bull rider's goal is to stay atop the bull for eight seconds, then dismount without incurring serious injury. It's amazing how few riders manage to go the distance. One night last month in Houston, West drew a bull named Stitch, a fearsome creature with a glint in his eye that suggested malice. Stitch, his ears twitching, stood all but motionless in the chute as West climbed aboard, lowering himself onto the bull's back like a man trying to get comfortable atop the cab of a Mack truck.
West is an open-faced, drawling man who, at 38, is practically a senior statesman in a young man's sport.
He's seen it all in bull riding, including the worst: Three of his friends have been killed riding bulls. When West removes his black Stetson, it's startling to see how little hair he has left. Most bull riders are buff as gymnasts, but West's workouts have been cut to a minimum by his injuries, and he is slightly soft under the chin. He realizes that, at best, he has one or two seasons left in him, but right now he insists his taste for riding, and competition, is undiminished -- even if he tends to speak of his career in the past tense.
That's what makes a great bull rider: West fastened himself snugly onto Stitch, winding a braided rope tightly around his gloved fist and gripping a strap that girdled the bull's midsection. The other hand he kept free; according to the rules, it cannot touch the bull or the rider's body.
He was introduced to a capacity crowd at Houston's Reliant Arena, then waited for the signal, head down. When it came, Stitch burst sideways from the chute and immediately began a convulsive, clockwise, bucking spin, whirling like a helicopter before a crash.
West clung to him, his blue-fringed chaps flying. The seconds ticked by: He'd stayed on, the only bull rider of 10 competing that night to do so, but now West couldn't get off. The bull kept spinning, and West spun with him, and the crowd began to roar. More seconds ticked by, and more, until suddenly West threw himself free of the bull.
As West flew through the air, Stitch kicked him violently in the arm. Landing with a thud and then staggering to his feet, West took cover behind a clown crouched in a barrel. Stitch, furious now, plowed into the barrel, sending the clown and West flying. As the clown waved and stomped to distract the bull, West stumbled off to safety.
For his eight-second workweek, West scored 86 out of a possible , one of the event's top performances. They call it "bronco-busting," but from the look of this cowpoke, it might be more appropriate to call it "bronco-busted. The saddle breaks into that horse. Yes, you still need at least a woven blanket type padding with it! The blanket will absorb much of the moisture and keep your skirts from early rotting out, or stinking.
Synthetic fleece comes in many varieties. The lower the price of the saddle, the lower the quality of that fleece. Fleece is judged more on density and the material used to produce it. Better fleece can be of Kodel type materials, or of Marino wool, and will have more density. This density allows better fit and function of your saddle. Fleece works by trapping air, like a good coat will do. Kind of like riding on a cushion of air, the sponginess of it works like a shock absorber for your horse's back.
Good fleece is not "slick-as-glass" when you ride it. Wools even have a "holding" property to them. This gives another layer of leather for stability in the skirting, too. Popular placement of the rigging can be either in-skirt, or ring connected to the tree by a yoke around the pommel. In-Skirt can be a single or double type piece of hardware. This 3-way rigging is handy when you are riding several differently built horses. It allows you to better position your saddle to the build of the horse at hand.
Or, if on a long ride and you want to change the girth position on your horse. Ring rigging is arguably stronger in the long term. Much easier to repair, if needed. And barrel saddles may have front and rear rings, or may have a front ring with a slot on the rear skirt for a flank set. Barrel saddles do not typically come with a flank set, but they are a nice addition, as your riding becomes more fine tuned.
The rear flank does not take the pressures that the front cinch must take, so a slot is usually fine. Cultured Cowboy has been placing a drop Bork rigging, like on the ranch saddles, or Wade saddles, on some of the Pro- Racers we build. This gives a close contact in-skirt plate type of rigging, hanging lower around the side of the horse for security. And can be done with a Bork plate, or a double position, 3-way hardware rig. This saves your skirts and stays out of the way of your leg movement too.
Breast collar attachments on a barrel saddle are much advised.
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And dees under the conchos allow you to add or remove saddle strings as you prefer, according to the ride at hand. Taking them off for racing and putting them on for trails is often done. WE covered a lot of ground on the barrel saddle category. If you have all that memorized, you can breath a sigh of relief. Much of that discussion applies to all other saddles too.
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Saddles are like people we all have muscles, and bones, and tempers, but what we do with them varies with the surroundings. There is a category of saddle now referred as trail saddles. It is because with so many people enjoying the wilderness areas of our land, and using horses more for relaxation, than for sport, that these saddles have developed as a class.
Within that class, are the racing type endurance saddles, the pleasure riding endurance saddles, And often these two crossover. Perhaps others that have evolved, such as the Sil-Cush by BigHorn and others should be in their own category, but I'll put 'em inside one of the others.
Endurance racing saddles have been designed for long races of 50 to miles. These events take years of conditioning for both horse and rider. The "starters" are 25 miles. The saddles are built lightweight. There is no horn because it adds weight and bother. There will be a hole at the pommel that is easy to grip while mounting and dismounting. This is done a lot on the endurance course. The most competitive endurance saddles are designed much like the old McClellan military saddles.
Lots of function, and not necessarily rider comfort. Endurance racers are built to sit on top of the horse for the least possible interference. All materials are carefully selected to cut weight, and still be strong. But endurance type pleasure trail saddles can come with all the creature comforts of other saddles if you like.
A center-fire rigging allows the girth to be positioned in many ways. This allows it to be moved to prevent soreness. Girths that began as braided horse tails for the 's army, waste not-want not , are now blends of mohair, or neoprene. Although many riders use a straight girth, a roper type wide center girth will distribute pressures better. This wider girth does weigh ounces more. And, some of the newer models allow either standard or center-fire strapping. The rear rings are angled. You can find a YouTube video with a couple ways to tie Center fire rigging.
Closest contact is to place the tie onto the rear ring, out of your leg's way. I have a mountain biking friend. He went with me to get a new bike. The frame weighs just a mere few pounds. And he taught me more than the shop guys. Then he asked how many times I would be racing this bike. I told him that I'd probably go out 2 to 4 times a year with him. Maybe a couple times with my dentist, Tommy.
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Then mostly just a short trip around town, in good weather, to save some gas, and get exercise. He looked me dead in the eyes. He said, "You picked the perfect bike for you, just like it is. I told him I just didn't want him getting to the top of a hill and having to wait on me to catch up all day. He told me that I'd be doing that no matter what I picked out, and laughed! Moral of the story - Pick your pony, and ride, according to the needs you deem important at this time. You can always trade up, down, or sideways. And, you cannot keep up with somebody who is conditioning all the time, nor do you necessarily need to, to have a great time.
I did get the mountain bike I chose. I bought a gas powered tire inflation kit for flats. I got a water bottle holder and rear frame for saddlebags. In 10 minutes I can go from street bike to trail bike. So, I got a pair of saddle bags from Cultured Cowboy for the rack on the rear, and a motorcycle tool pouch for the front. Then I bought extra lights and flashers all over the place, for riding on the road. I ride this "motorcycle looking mountain bike" with my Troxel equestrian protective helmet. Have not been on a competitive mountain trail yet, but I sure use it to advertise the store!
It garners a lot of attention. Can keep up with 35 MPH traffic easily. Wooded trails feel like I'm flying with the wind. It weighs way too much, but sure is nice to have my bags full of First Aid, snacks, emergency tool kit, extra tube, swim trunks, insect repellant, or whatever else I might want. Can you tell I'm used to riding horses with large Cashel Bags? So, buy your saddles like I did my bike. Get all the help and info that you can, and all the things you need to ride like you want to ride for your time off from work. The little extras can make a lot of creature comforts that keep you on those trails.
Pro endurance riders know what they want. But, for the rest of us, the newer endurance saddles made for some human comforts, are some of the best experiences in our woodlands. On these, the seats are made deeper. The cantles and pommels are higher. And some weight is added in the form of more cushion in the seat, and next to the back of your horse. You can fit your horses. As more of us, that ride, age, seat cushioning and stirrup adjustment becomes more important. I have always liked a hard seat saddle.
But now, I realize the need for a bicycle seat on that hardseat. I can get the advantage of grip and contact, without breaking the buttocks. Cushions can be "glued piece" carpet padding type foam in those "bargain saddles". Most saddlers use a good quality foam made for seats. If you have ever had a lower back injury, or some such other broken coccyx bone, the newer NASA type, often called Double Cushion Comfort seats are excellent. They really do not just double the pad. That's only done in the cheap stuff.
These NASA foam seats are slightly thicker than a regular seat, tapered and fitted for your thighs to have a nice transition. The saddler will take care to make the seam feel seamless in jeans. Deeper seats, from higher cantles and close contact fitting, are almost a given in most newer trail saddles. Deeper reach on the skirts are typical too. The skirts and rigging drop down to allow your leg to lie closer to the horse.
This keeps riders that ride occasionally from getting so sore, after those rides. How much they drop depends on your preferences. Most trail saddles are rounded in the rear for more weight reduction. Stirrup leathers are made to adjust. If your true inseam is less than 30 or more than 36, be sure you let your supplier know.
On many models, jockeys and fenders can be pre-punched to adjusted for more comfort to you. The fender is the wider part attached to the stirrup leather, to protect your leg. English saddles and most Australian saddles do not have a fender. The stirrup leather hangs freely. Western type saddles will have a fender. The fenders of trail saddles are sometimes "teardrop".
This means the bottom has a higher rise toward the stirrup leather side and dips at the other side. I saw a lot of this in the 60's for style, and now it seems to be coming back for practicality. Maybe it was practical then too. This construction, combined with good leather conditioning, makes the stirrup leather turn easily around your leg; puts less bulk under your thigh on shorter inseams, allows more swinging movement, and reduces some ounces.
Stirrup leather position should be such that you can comfortably stand in your stirrups to let some air around your butt. I should have said, "to stand in the stirrups to better see the terrain ahead. How long your legs ride is a lot of rider preference. I usually like about 4 fingers standing sideways between crotch and the saddle seat. Depends some on the type terrain, and weather, and the stirrups on that saddle. On long rides, I can easily adjust the stirrups up or down a notch to change-up my riding position.
My lower body gets a little stiff now. Cutters often like more of a sitting position. Stirrups may be metal, or wood, or metal bound wood, or Ralide. Many trail riders like a wider bottom in the stirrups for security, and to rest. The newest "endurance" stirrups have a wide bottom with a piece of slip resistant, cushioning material for a footpad.
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Popularized by EZ Care, now there are a few suppliers. Bell bottom stirrups are wider at the bottom and slope in at the top. Usually a leather tread, but rubber, or non-slip materials can easily be added. Some riders like aluminum contest stirrups. They are lightweight, sturdy, and look cool.
Extra rings and dees are available to tie on anything you might need.
Extra EZ boots, lightweight raingear If you don't care to drill and attach all these, you have a trail saddle made for speed , Cashel makes a strapping system called "Tie-One-On" that allows you to hang stuff when you want, and take it off for more serious competition. Kind of like my 2 sets of wheels on that bike. When trail riding, I like a lot of rings and strings to secure my stuff. I'll use saddle strings, add shoe strings, add rings in my saddle string ties, tie the bottoms of my saddle bags to my flank set so they don't flop much. Ditto bottoms of front bags. Breast collars and sometimes cruppers are handy attachments.
Trail saddles may have in-skirt rigging, or ring rigging. I like breast collar rings added, either way. Never hurts to "double tug", use two BC straps on each side, like when I'm roping. I live in an area with lots of rocks that like to hang in horseshoes, or in soles of hooves, So a hoofpick holder on the flank set is a good idea.
Though, most riders might put a knife in that holder, rather than a hoofpick. Roping saddles are a favorite of Cultured Cowboy customers. The seat is usually narrowed a little, especially toward the front of the seat, so that standing is easy. This lets you ride without having your legs feel so wide apart too. Stirrup leathers and fenders are usually thicker, to help stabilize the rider while standing. The tree is strong. That horn is called a post horn, because it must hold a lot of jerk from whatever may become attached by both ends of a rope.
It stands more straight to ease dally maneuvers. Horns are not as tall as they were twenty years ago. Riders have more skill. The rigging must be as strong as the horn. No fun to have a saddle jerked off the horse while you ride! First, the seat can be a one-piece "hardseat". This means one chunk of leather from jockey to jockey. Yes, I have ridden saddles so much that I wore out the seat edge seam. I'd blame it on starched Wrangler jeans, except, I mostly prefer softer finish, light starch, riding jeans, and often rode in cut offs.
Must be these "thighs like iron"! They match my washtub tummy. Well, it used to be a washboard stomach. The hardseat can be offered in rough-out or smooth side out finish. Roughout is the same leather, flipped upside down, so the flesh side is up. This side gives some more grip. When you oil it and ride it, it will wear smooth. A light sanding with fine grit sandpaper will raise the knap again. This is not suede. Smooth side out is as favored as the rough side out. Smooth leather has less grip when not tooled, and can grip more when hand tooled in an oak leaf or floral pattern.
Today, there are also sanded seats. Grain side is up, and it is buffed for just a touch of grip. Circle Y made this popular. Or, the seat can be padded. A bicycle seat, or partial padded seat, is often placed on the top of a hardseat, just for the seat bones. Padded seats are usually two pieces of leather sewn down the center of the seat, then covered with padding and either a suede or top grain upholstery leather.
So, each jockey runs halfway under the seat. On the better saddles, hand-popping, or hand stitching with glued edges, is preferred, but labor intensive. Machine stitching is more common. A couple rows, or single row stitching, depending on the maker's liking. Fancy saddles may have a scalloped or custom cut seat edge.
Better saddles will be cut close at the cantle, so there is no need to oversize a leather rosette to hide a hole. Better saddles will have the seat leather and foam skived for a nice transition into the jockey. The Roping saddle tree is understood to be strong. Even our BigHorn nylon series roper saddles will catch a medium sized cow, drag a limb, and hold. The horn is attached, often bolted through the pommel. Put a huge horn on it and it's called a Wade tree. There's more structure than just the big horn added too. In fact, with more tree, and tighter fitting build, whether it has a Wade horn or not, it is called a Ranch Roper, or Rancher saddle.
The thicker wood allows sturdier attachments of all the hanging parts that rig the girths, holds the breast collar, supports the skirts, and the rider. The pommel of better roper saddles will be laminated layers of opposing grain directions. This plywood construction is stronger than a single piece of wood. The bars of the better wooden saddle tree will have some flex in them. The cantle attaches favorably into the back end of those bars, to stabilize.
The whole thing is wrapped to hold in the moisture content of the wood. Rawhide leather is used, fiberglass is used, and can even be double wrapped.
They call that double wrap, a "lifetime" tree. The fiberglass is more rigid and less money than the rawhide. I can argue both sides of which is best. Rawhide restricts the flex less. But fiberglass will hold the moisture better over time. Most of the less expensive saddles will now use full QH bars with a 7 inch gullet width. This is a current standard. Most of the better saddles will also use the 7 inch width, but can have special trees made in a variety of widths if needed.
Rigging is almost always double rings. Exception is the hanging, drop plate rig. Rigging rings are attached by a yoke that goes on both sides of the pommel. Conventional ring rigging has a smaller yoke. Drop rigging has a longer yoke. The Bork Rigging has a large drop yoke. Rider preference determines which is best. All are well liked. Closer contact plate in-skirt rigging is usually not used on ropers. Exception being breakaway ropers, calf ropers, or youth ropers, where larger animals are not roped.
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Most saddles have the rigging sewn. Some of the old timers prefer hand laced attachment. If you are gone fencing, for a month, you can repair the hand laced rig by campfire, with needle nose pliers. Hard to have that harness stitching machine at the next stop along your way. Sewn rigging can sometimes be re-enforced with a wide piece of nylon to stop tearing and stretch as much as possible. Double ring rigging has a strip of leather connecting the two rings to be used like a washer, to keep the stirrup leathers from rubbing your skirts, and allowing your stirrup leathers to glide as you move, not catch on the rings.
Beware imported "ropers" with weak attachments, lots of staples, thin tree bars, and lots of thin leather layers glued together for a skirt. Ropers will ride with a tighter rear flank strap than other sports. Reinsman began, and others are following, with a left side tie strap that can be tightened like the front. TexTan was the first saddle company I found, that made a "Ramrod" rear flank attachment. This is extra leather that covers the rear housing and has reinforcement for best possible hold power. Often, there is a y shaped extra brace from under that rear housing to the flank billets, so the flank will not swing so freely.
The flank bottom is almost standard at 3 inches. Ropers often use a wider, 6 to 10 inch bottom flank center to ease pressures when tightened. Skirts are sometimes rounded, mostly square, sometimes pointed corner square for looks. You will have enough skirt to help keep the saddle from twisting easily. The skirts are usually thicker and stiffer than pleasure saddles.
A rear housing covers the rear ring rig attachments, and the top of the rear of the skirts. Skirts should be lined with a durable, thick pile fleece. This will make fitting easier, cushion your horse properly, and allow your saddle skirts to last a lot longer than a thin or sparse fleece. Breast collar dees are nice.
Stainless steel or solid brass are preferred. Double tug to the rings and the front rigging ring when possible.
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Dees with clips attaching under conchos allow you to add or remove saddle strings when and where you want them. Saddle strings strung through the tree attach the skirt all the way through the tree and top leather for holding it all together with some flexibility for horse comfort. Some argue that the screws used on the conchos for saddle strings pull out too easy for the work they do in their saddles. Some argue that strung through saddle strings need to be taken off in the arena competitions.
A rope holder strap, a dee clip on the pommel, right, left or both sides, with a strap of leather slotted to go over the horn. Do Not Panic if your saddle does not have all the Ranch Roper features. These saddles are made for the most strenuous of working cowboy details. Most saddles do not need this much "umph". Most riders do not need this much weight in their saddle.
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Heavy ranch ropers can weigh well over 45lbs, even 60 lbs when outfitted. But, without double covered bullhide trees, Wade horns, and so much leather, they can weigh as little as 38lbs, still rope, and make great trail, or pleasure saddles too. Cutting saddles are real saddles too. Kind of a nice opposing complement to the roper style saddle. You sit in a flatter plain, some more forward in the leg position. The horn is made to hold onto, so you don't get left behind your cutting horse. More freedom in the stirrup leathers and fenders, yet rigged very strong and full skirted too.
The horn and front end are made to hold your weight during the ride. The horn is upright and often braided for extra grip. Better saddles have this horn well attached to take the pressures necessary for cutting. This horn is NOT made for dragging trees, roping calves, or other of this type pulling work. The tall horn is made for your hand. The extra height will give leverage to break out of the pommel if used for heavy work. Seats, fenders and jockeys are almost always rough side out.
If your cutter has a padded seat, it's almost always suede covered. This rougher texture holds better against your chaps. It can help keep you centered while your horse is trying to dart out from under you. Better seats are ground seats that keep you closer to your horse. You sit in more of a "chair" position in the cutter saddles than as sitting on the ropers. Cutter stirrup leathers come 2. Usually, they are made of strong, thinner leathers. The key is to build a stirrup system that will travel with your legs as you move, and signal, your horse. Skirts are full and rigging is usually a dropped front dee on a double ring rigging.
Skirts run the gamut of all roughout, to all smooth. Basket stamping and border tooling are most popular. The cutting saddles are almost always heavy oiled. Penning saddles began with a bunch of cutting saddles. Then, the point men figured it was easier to stand in a roping saddle, to see the numbers , so you had a point guy in a roper and turnback men in cutters.
As the sport evolved, two riders would pull cows from herd and one would turn them in a pen. Then some teams would all three get a cow and do whatever was needed to get them all in the pen So the saddle had to evolve. Penning saddles are still divided between cutting and roping saddle enthusiasts. You can pen in either type. But, I will tell you some of the properties that some of our best penners have in common: Most do use a tree that is either roper, rancher without a Wade horn, or one of the "combo" trees labeled as Penning saddles.
Although top grain padded seats are popular, we probably sell more of the one-piece hardseat, rough side out. There is some grip, easy to keep balance while standing in the ride. Bicycle seats on top of the hardseat will alleviate any tired buttock pain. Swept back forks are common because they give a little something to throw your thigh into for balance while standing. The more balanced you become, the less this swept back fork is used. Higher cantles seem to be favored over 3. Rigging is usually double ring because people are doing more than one thing in their saddles, but a drop plate, or an in-skirt rig will keep you in closer contact with your horse.
Cutaway skirts are another close contact option. Sometimes, a rider will want their stirrups tied, or locked for more standing firmness. Dakota will do this at the factory. The saddle is made with almost a Y type stirrup leather, so the fenders and stirrups have very little movement.