JAM

Centerfire saddle rigging

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Hi, all,

I'm about to try building an old-timey all-day vaquero-style saddle similar to this one (drawn by Ernie Morris in his book El Vaquero - pg 23). Like most saddles in those days (I think), it has a centerfire rig.

This saddle won't do any roping, just training, general riding and some trail riding. The cinch will be a mane-hair cinch which will stay where I put it, around the horse's middle.

My question is: What disadvantages can you see to using the centerfire rig?

Thanks,

Julia

vaquero_saddle___small.jpg

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Julia,

the disadvantage is the different body shape of today's horses. The horses then were "more flap sided", at least this was the term I heard.

"The average width for the center-fire -rig is (well, was) 6 inches". I have a pic showing a "split cinch", which looks like two cinches connected to one buckle (on each side) with some space in between, its strength is described as " it is strong enough to hold an elephant if the rider should happen to rope one". But with the different shape of today's horses I am not so sure this would be a good idea.

Tosch

Edited by Tosch

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I had a client bring his uncles mexican center fire saddle to the ranch for a 5 day pack trip this summer. It was a neat saddle and was very well constructed. We put one of our nice neoprene cinches on it. It was constantly moving around and those cinches usually stay pretty much where you put them. But after a long downhill stretch the cinch and saddle would move forward. Don't know if the saddle was moving pulling the cinch with it or the other way around. But the cinch would always wind up back in its normal position and the saddle would be way up over the shoulders and on the horses neck. It just would not stay where you put it.

Like Tosch said, horse shapes have changed over the years and a center fire just doesn't work on most horses. Plus it is a lot of rigging right under your leg that I didn't much care for either.

Just thought I'd throw my own story with this rigging into the mix.

Tim

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According to the Rojas books, they didn't stay in place all that well back then either. I would kind of doubt Ernie rides one.

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IMG_0242.JPG

I build a few single rigged saddles every year.3/4 or 5/8s,the main concern is to make sure your tree fits.proper spread and the right rock to the bars.Have not had any real problems with saddle movement.The fellow that runs the BLM wild horse unit in Litchfield,CA,rides a 5/8s single rig and say it stays put even ropinrg large horses.

Steve

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Wow, I'm glad I asked! All good advice.

Cool saddle, Steve - that's what I'm aiming for. That looks like a flat-plate rig, correct? ]

And for my broad-backed, big-barreled horse, I guess I'd be wise to stick with a 7/8 or full double rig, since I know that works on her (and most horses).

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JAM,

Who did the drawing on your post? Looks real good!

A saddle made from a Visalia 3B or maybe even a Weatherly tree would be real nice.

I don't have anything to really add. Bruce is right by what he told you, the centerfire saddle rig has a reputation for not keeping the saddle in place very well. If you'e ever ridden one I think you would be disapointed. Some guys swear by them but I tend to believe it to be a "romanicized notion."

I bought one at a yard sale once and slapped it on my horse after testing the fit. (The saddle was older, seen abuse and very narrow but it fit my horse very well who had high and narrow withers. The seat was about fourteen inches in length, too short for me.) That ride wore me out trying to stay on the dang horse. At the end I felt like I'd been beat up. (The movement of the saddle was much rougher than a full rigged roping saddle on the same horse.) I used a standard mohair cincha, breast collar but no crupper, the saddle slid forward when riding down hill and then back into place when going up hill. I had no real problem with side to side due to the good fit on the withers. I could only imagine what it would have been like on a round barreled quarter horse with low, rounder withers such is common today. I never used it again as it turned out to be very uncomfortable for me. Soon after I got rid of the saddle.

Now that being said, the Old Califino (By that I mean prior to California becoming a United States possesion.) way was with the single cinch and in what we'd call a three quarter or five eighths rig. Some were also Centerfire rigs. Those fellas were real horsmen as they did not have cars and worked on horse back everyday. They developed a finely tuned balance and the muscles to do it all day. They covered the Southern California coastlands which are steep and are deeply carved with creekbeds, not to mention heavy thickets of brush, searching for cattle. So I'll concede they were much better horsemen than most of us! Well maybe just better than me, I really can't say about everyone else.

Edited by grumpyguy

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Julia:

Regardless of which rigging you chose, I hope you'll post a picture of your saddle when it's done. I love those old time saddles.

As for center fire rigs, probably the most used center fire saddles in history were the army's McClellan saddles. I had a Model 1928 McClellan for a long time, and I loved it. Although many folks will tell you they are terribly uncomfortable, I found mine to be the most comfortable saddle I've ever ridden. No exceptions. I must be built different from other people, because that saddle was AWESOME!

One of the things I learned with that saddle was that I needed a thin saddle pad. A thick pad would cause that saddle to slide all over the place, but a thin one kept it in place. Of course, as others have already mentioned, the saddle only worked on horses with a narrow build. I eventually sold that saddle because of that. I didn't want to damage my horses' backs and I believe my horse's comfort is more important than mine.

Some day I'm going to build myself a McClellan saddle with a tree that will fit modern horses. But, first, I'm making a half-seat Santa Fe style saddle and I'm really looking forward to riding it.

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I will chime in about the McClellan being an awesome ride. I love mine, I've had it for almost 30 years now and it was older than me when I bought it... I think it's now officially over 100 years old.

However... my horses are all small and narrow. I'm not a big person, I can ride the little guys and actually prefer it. Also, on the McClellan, it is possible to shift the rig and that is what I did, shifted it from dead center to maybe 3/4. It's out of the way of my leg there. Here's a pic of me riding it:

Tito_Lesson1.jpg

I've never had it shift on me, ever, but then... I don't ride a QH either.

ETA: Oh yeah, and notice I'm not using a big thick saddle pad. This saddle fits my horse well, so I use a thin blanket.

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Edited by HorsehairBraider

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Grumpyguy, the drawing is by Ernie Morris in his not-inexpensive book El Vaquero (http://www.elvaquero.com). He is an old Californio and a long-time artist and writer about the old ways.

TrooperChuck and HorsehairBraider, I've often wanted to try a thin pad in place of the SMX AirRide pads I've always used, especially since both my mares have saddles that are built on trees made for them. But the blankets I have are too big, and I don't know if I'm supposed to fold them in half or just find a better blanket.

This saddle is a 3B (being built as I write by Rod Nikkel) with a 4" cantle and a tall, narrow metal post. It will be fun to build and see how rideable I can make that seat! I'll post pics and a report when it's finished.

Julia

Edited by JAM

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Bruces, post reminds me of something I once read, it's said the old trail bosses had a saying, "five minutes for centerfire riders and smokers" supposedly it meant take five to get your saddle back in the middle of your horse or roll a smoke. I guess if you had a centerfire rig and smoked you'd have to trade saddles or give up the smokes.

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That's a great line! Made me laugh. Thanks.

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I ride a few centerfire saddles, both ring rig's and some cable rigs, I really like the cable rigs because I remove the stops and let the cinch go where it wants, my leaner, flanked, faster horses fall between a center and 5/8's and my fat hancocks run 3/4 to 7/8, but on my ceterfire saddles I use a 8 to 9 inch wide cinch, never have to tighten up and really like it, more and more I look for flat flanked horses, that I can run ceterfires on, i like the ride better, I also ride a 5/8's single in ranch bronc, on a slick fork without buck'n rolls, and wouldn't have it any other way, dunno how to add pics or I would

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Edited by Davidbane

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Davidbane, it's been many years since I started this thread. I just now came across it while randomly cruising around the forums. Since I posted this in 2008, I've built probably 25 custom saddles for customers, and 95% of them are 3B, single-rig, 3/4 or 5/8, on custom trees built for the horse. All are very happy. One thing I've never given much thought to is cinch width, which you bring up. Wider makes sense. I recommend mane hair if it can be found, and angora or mohair if not. But wider - there's a good idea!

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The wider cinches make all the difference, but I find they need to be much shorter than we are used to, 26" for most horses, 24" for lighter bodied ones, look me up on Facebook, David Holderfield, Vinita Oklahoma or poco a poco vaquero gear

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