Tack Talk

Tack Talk with Lew Pewterbaugh
with Lew Pewterbaugh

One of the most irritating, and sometimes dangerous, things about getting on a western saddle is having to hunt for your right stirrup, or, I suppose if you happen to mount from the right for some reason, your left one. The answer is to "set" your stirrup leathers and fenders so that your foot falls right into the stirrup when you mount. Setting the leather is easy if you follow these instructions. All you need is a saddle rack, a 2x4 about 3' long and a 5-gallon bucket filled with water.

First, pull your stirrup leather around so the top of the fender is below the saddle skirt. Don't pull it all the way out because they can be a holy booger to get back in. Remove your stirrup hobbles, stirrups, and if so equipped, your quick-change sleeve. Immerse the fender completely in the bucket of water. You will probably have to squish it down in thee some, but be sure to soak the leather all the way to the top of the fender. This will prevent a water line from showing across the fender. Let the leather soak until all bubbles have stopped rising. This is the air being displaced in the pores of the leather. It usually takes about 5 minutes, longer if the pores of the leather are well sealed with oils or, in the case of an older saddle, dirt, sweat, maybe a little saddle lacquer, or some other thing you should never have let build up on there.

After you have repeated the process on the opposite side, reassemble the stirrup and sleeve. I leave the hobbles off until the leather is dry. Pull the leather back over the saddle tree until the fender is where it was when you started, and take your 2x4 and place it through the stirrups as shown in the diagram. On a new saddle, I then use a hydraulic jack between the 2x4 and the saddle rack to take the stretch out of the leathers.

Allow the fenders to almost dry, usually overnight, and spray a light coat of Lexol conditioner on the fenders, and rub some well into the stirrup leathers. This should not appreciably darken the fenders and will replace the oils that were washed out of the leather when soaking. It would not hurt to give the stirrup leather a light coat of pure neatsfoot oil or some other conditioner at this time. When completely dry, I like to apply a coat of "Blackrock" to seal the fender from dirt and give it a little luster unless it's a roughout fender.

I often see saddles with a "Buckaroo Twist" on the stirrup leathers, and usually, this results in a lump right about where your shin hits the fender. I consider it cheating where to set your stirrups if you have quick change buckles, although it does work great if you have an old saddle with laced stirrup leathers.

Using a 2x4 as I have suggested will slightly overcompensate on your stirrup angle, but in a few days, you'll find it has come around to a 90-degree angle. If you use a broomstick or such, it will turn back to a point where you will still have to hunt a little for your stirrup.

This simple procedure will save a lot of aggravation and will help alleviate pressure on your knees and ankles while you ride. You won't be fighting against stirrups trying to straighten back flat against the horse.

Lew Pewterbaugh
Lew has been selling, restoring, and repairing tack for over 48 years. You can visit Lew at Saddler Lew's, 13611 Hwy. 16, in Medina, Texas. You can visit Saddler Lew's on Facebook or call (830) 328-0321.