The Long Riders' Guild

Saddles page 2

Long Rider Comments
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Steve Nott

I started out with a James Brisbane-style Australian stock saddle - the only style I had ever ridden in.  It gave good service in the first twelve months of my 16,000 kilometer journey around Australia.  But I was persuaded by my friend Steve Granger to change to a western-style saddle.  Steve and I designed a western-style saddle for an extended ride - we chose the narrowest western tree available as we felt this would spread the weight best on the horse's back to reduce the risk of back problems.  This was lined with 1" felt with a layer of foam between the felt and tree.  Under it I used a thick pad and serge blanket. The latter absorbs most of the sweat and dirt and can easily be rinsed and dried.  My horses have had no back problems from this saddle. My saddle was originally fitted with a breast-plate and breeching.  I have found these items are unnecessary except for use in the most mountainous country, and so dispensed with them.  My pack-horse sometimes carries instead a neck water-bag in place of the breast-plate.

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I use a Pakistani-made saddle.  It is made of buffalo leather so it was quite cheap.  Together with an old saddle-maker of Rawalpindi we designed the saddle, it is between a sport and cross country.  I have been comfortably able, and at ease at all times, to play polo with it and ride for days on almost any terrain.  Being of buffalo leather, it needs a lot of attention, especially in Northern Pakistan, kingdom of dust, heat and dry cold.  Weekly I wipe it with English saddle soap, or even better, Yak ghee (clarified butter).

Simone Carmigniani

Late in 1970 I departed on a horse trip that was to take me from Lesotho to Europe and spread to nearly two years. Up to this time I had little experience of horsemastership, which I must distinguish from horsemanship. I could ride for I competed in the Modern Pentathlon championships and, as far as the riding event went did quite well. However I had to think long and hard about this trip for it was a long way and nobody had ever done it. What would be the best type of saddle to take? Out I went to talk to the old Boers who had great experience of riding in Africa. With one exception they said that the British other ranks' saddle was the best for the horse but not so good for the rider. I went their way but added a fleece to the top of the saddle to give more comfort. Under the saddle was a woollen blanket folded into four and was, at the start about two inches thick. They were crushed down in a few days and I am certain were the reason there were no sore backs of any great moment on the trip.

Gordon Naysmith

Saddles. I used a secondhand Keith Bryan Pathfinder, which was excellent. It has fitted a variety of horses of the broadly "cavalry" and "light draught" type. I think now that I was lucky in Romania as the saddle that I used here in 1994 is too wide for many of the smaller horses (i.e. Hutzuls) and thinner horses (some Lipizzaners). The solution for these will be a narrower fit, as the basic Pathfinder is an idea saddle for these trips. I fitted a raised plate at the rear to carry saddlebags (to Jeremy James's design, which works).
Numnahs/blankets. I used a Metropolitan Police pattern numnah back in 1994, but now I prefer an army-pattern saddle blanket. It is easier to wash, and is also good for covering the horse, sleeping under, etc.
Saddle bags. I have been using a pair of large rear bags when needed. These are joined by a strap that goes over the rear plate. I have used both leather and synthetic bags. I prefer leather - more waterproof, stronger, and easier to repair. I have also used Metropolitan Police wallets on the front and find them useful for small things. I've tried a pair of front bags - they clip onto the girth leathers and join around the breast by an adjustable strap. They are useful, but slip if imbalanced and when the horse puts its head down to graze the the straps are somewhat strained.
Girths/Cinches. I use tubular synthetic girths almost all the time. I use removable washable girth sleeves always. Fleece ones are my favourites.

Julian Ross

Mongolians change their riding horses every two weeks, so it doesn't matter if the "one-saddle-fits-all" saddles didn't fit the horse perfectly.

We had to experiment a lot, however.  After a while we developed a different way of putting the saddle blankets on the back of the horse.  We took two for each side of the horse and folded them in half, then we hound them together with a rope.  So now the wooden parts of the saddle sat on the blankets, but the spine of the horse was free, without saddle blankets, and the saddles didn't touch the spine any more.  From then on we never had any more problems with saddle sores.

Evelyn Landerer

I started out with regular canvas saddlebags. Those lasted about a week and a half! Then I went to leather. They were heavier and lasted just about as long. At last I tried army/navy backpacks. So far, nothing can beat the quality and durability of these things, not to mention the low price and all the cool pockets! Because they are meant to be used as backpacks, some modifications have to be made. The straps should be cut off. A special harness made out of nylon seatbelt material is then sewn onto each backpack using a leather-sewing awl. Seatbelt material wonít wear out, and it is extremely strong. It is advisable to cover the horse side of the backpacks with nylon material to minimize wear. The following diagram shows where to sew the seatbelt strapping onto the backpack.

Next the saddle must be outfitted to accept the modified backpacks. All that is needed is more seatbelt strapping and some snap hooks. The following diagram shows how to make this simple saddle harness.

The unique feature of this packing method, as opposed to conventional saddle bags, is that most of the weight of the saddlebags is shifted forward under the rider, and off the horseís lower back and kidneys. Another great feature is that it takes less than 30 seconds to put the packs on after the horse is saddled. The packs have two ĎDí rings on the back which hang on two small hooks that are attached to the saddle harness. So the daily routine of packing the horse is only a matter of picking up the packs and slipping the ĎDí rings into the hooks! I kept my sleeping bag behind the saddle in an army/navy canvas duffle bag. This was attached using the saddle strings. I sewed buckles into the strings to make it easier to attach the duffle bag nice and tight so it didnít wobble. I used to walk several miles per day with my horse. When I walked, all my packs (the two army/navy backpacks and the duffle bag) could be easily shifted forward on the saddle where the rider would sit.

The saddle

There are many different varieties of saddles out there. I used just a plain old western saddle on my horseback trip; however, this packing method should work with just about any kind of saddle that is big enough and strong enough to hold packs. Most conventional, store-bought saddles are made cheap. The flimsy saddle strings are usually stapled on! They do not hold up when traveling on an extended horseback journey. One of the first things I did to strengthen my saddle was to get new saddle strings. Itís best to have long and tough strings. I used 7í long strings made of thick latigo leather. The strings are only as strong as their attachment to the saddle. The best way to attach them is to drill holes clear through the saddle and pull them through. Then hammer them flat on the inside (horse side) of the saddle while pulling on them from the other side.

Tracy Paine

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