Your saddle rigging affects how you sit, how well your saddle fits your horse, and how well you’re able to perform the equine event of your choice. Variations in rigging styles give you options you may not even know you have—options that go beyond rigging’s primary function of keeping the saddle on your horse. By learning to evaluate variations with an educated eye, you can determine whether your existing rigging is right for you, and select the best rigging the next time you buy a saddle.
What are the choices? Saddle rigging—the metal and leather fittings that allow you to attach your cinch to the saddle—offers options in three important categories: tree versus in-skirt, single versus double, and the position of the front cinch ring.
Tree Rigging Vs. In-Skirt
You get the most strength and greatest durability with the tree rigging (also called D-type rigging), because its fittings are attached directly to the tree—the strongest, most durable part of the saddle. The system works this way: For each side of the saddle, a section of leather is doubled around a D-shaped cinch ring, then nailed or screwed to the tree just under the swell. Tree rigging’s biggest drawback, bulk under your thighs (which can impede contact with your horse), comes from this heavy-duty construction.
With in-skirt rigging, the left and right front cinch rings are screwed or riveted to the bottom of the less-sturdy skirt, not to the tree; the setup is reinforced with a jigsaw-shaped section of leather that is layered over the skirt fronts (from the swells to the cinch ring), then screwed onto the tree. This system’s advantage is that with cinch rings placed at the bottom of the skirt, not below the swells, and with just one layer of reinforcement leather, you’re left with less bulk under your thighs for closer contact with your horse.
Single Rigging Vs. Double Rigging
A single-rigged saddle provides only for attachment of a front cinch; a double-rigged saddle adds a place for attachment of an optional back cinch. A back cinch helps anchor a saddle during rigorous riding; ropers need one to keep the cantle down, and trail riders often find it helps keep the saddle from sliding forward while going downhill. The double-rigged option is especially called for when the front cinch is in the full (farthest-forward) position, because without it, the back of the saddle is likely to rise.