The Western Saddle: Rigging

Full rigging is the most forward position. It places the cinch under the fork or swells of the saddle. It does not stabilize the rear of the saddle and would require a back cinch if you are doing any type of riding other than easy arena work.

Modern saddles usually use 7/8 or 3/4 rigging, placing the cinch a little forward of the center of the saddle but further back than full. Horses such as barrel horses require more agility and speed and usually use 3/4 rigging. However, most pleasure riding is done with 7/8 rigging (7/8 of the way from the cantle in back to the fork in front), which gives the rider a secure seat but closer to a horse’s center of balance.

See a new perspective on saddle trees and rigging here. With some alteration to the tree, Garry Acuncius and Megan Cooke contend that 3/4 rigging (which moves the saddle and rider forward) keeps the horse’s center of motion balanced and enhances performance.

Some saddle have a 3-way rigging plate allowing a cinch to be placed in any of the needed positions depending on the type of riding being done. (see Saddle Anatomy)

saddle rigging positions

All good saddles have the rigging hardware screwed well into the wooden tree of the saddle for strength and security. (see Cinch)

The strongest rigging for the front cinch is rings attached directly to the saddle tree close to the fork. It is the strongest type of attachment and usually seen on Roping Saddles . However, this type of attachment creates bulk under the legs and inhibits the free swing of the stirrups, moving the rider’s legs away from the horse. It is usually seen on saddles with rigging in the Full position, which can cause cinch sores and also makes the back of the saddle unstable.

In-skirt rings or plates have the least bulk and are strong enough for pleasure riding, but are not strong enough for roping.

Metal plate rigging is the best rigging. It is comprised of a layered panel of leather with a metal plate riveted securely to the point where the cinches attach and then solidly attached to the tree. It is less bulky so stirrups swing more freely and closer contact is made with the horse. It is also very strong and can take light roping activity.

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