Bar Pitch

Centerfire, 5/8th single rig saddle?

I was just wondering what people think about single rigged saddles (centerfire, 5/8). Not many people ride them anymore but a lot of the old timers swore by them, saying they stayed on with less tension than a double rig and didn't usually need a breast collar. I've heard people say that our horses are built different now and that's why the single rig doesn't work any more, but if the tree fits well it shouldn't matter, should it? I mean the gauchos ride centerfires and they do some intense work without their saddles slipping.

I prefer to think of myself as "mature" enough to have been mentored by some "real" old-timers :) Goucho saddles are constructed of layers of material without a tree and conform to the horse's body more closely than saddles built on trees. That fact, combined with the very well-balanced riding of the gouchos, is likely to impact the side to side stability of their saddles. Also, because there is no rigid tree, there is nothing to rocker forward that would require a rear cinch for stability. They've never become popular in North America for working cattle horses as far as I know. Most of the old timers I've known rode double rigged stock saddles, usually with on-tree fittings back in the day.

Centerfiring is beneficial on a treeless saddle that can "give" into the spine in order to keep pressure away from the withers, and shoulders. A properly fitted saddle tree goes far to prevent this kind of pressure concentration by keeping all pressure off of the bony spinal column and evenly distributing the rider's weight over a wide span surface area overlying layers of fat, fascia, muscle, and supportive ligaments of the horse's back.
I feel confident in assuming that a flank cinch on a double rigged saddle built on a well fitted tree would not be able to produce any more tension anywhere on the horse than a single centerfired rigging on either a treeless saddle or on one with a tree would be capable of producing.

Horses needing lots of elbow and shoulder room are good candidates for centerfire rigging.. Single centerfire rigging (5/8 inch) places the cinch directly under the midpoint of the saddle to relieve pressure at the front of the saddle and allow for more shoulder and elbow room ( no flank cinch is needed to prevent forward tilt).. Every rigging position from that center point forward is advanced in fractions of an inch (5/8, 3/4, 7/8, or full inch). Full and 7/8 rigging will require a flank cinch to prevent lift at the rear of the saddle for any kind of real work in order to keep the saddle from tilting forward into the shoulders and withers.
The rigging of the saddle doesn't affect how it fits on the horse's back, which is determined by gullet width, pitch, and rocker of the bars of the saddle tree. Rigging position is about keeping the saddle placed and stable while assuring that nothing interferes with range of motion of your horse's shoulders and elbows during performance, and that the rigging doesn't allow pressure on the withers from saddle tilt during activities like cutting and roping or steep hill work on trails.

I did use centerfire rigged saddle on a big, sturdy-built 15.3h Polish Arab all around performance horse with prominent high withers in front of his very wide sprung, round barrel-shaped rib cage who was impossible to keep a saddle stabilized on. He needed the flat pitch of an Arab tree (flatter than a full qh bar pitch) to fit over his broad back and ribs, but the position of his withers and narrower shoulders offered no anchor to secure the saddle in place, and when work got challenging, most saddles would displace around him sideways and/or forward into the withers. Sometimes even with a tail crupper and breast collar in place. a standard 7/8 rigged cinch would displace and loosen because of the way he was built behind his elbows. He also needed lots of shoulder and elbow room, so standard rigged saddles just didn't work for him.

I ended up custom fitting him with a single centerfire rigged (Y rigged) flat pitched wide barrel saddle with a narrower gullet than a full qh saddle would have, and with a 6 inch wide cinch which stayed put for most activities, and for more challenging work, I still added a crupper and breast collar.

3-way double rigging is nice as it allows you to choose full, 7/8, or 3/4 cinch rigging position and will accommodate a flank cinch. You can also centerfire the rigging by feeding the latigo through the cinch ring and tying it off to the flank cinch dee. Most endurance saddles are equipped with center fire rigging to allow for more range of motion through the shoulder.

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