Saddle Woes: The Offside Cinch Strap
- September 9, 2014
One late July or early August day years ago, my brother and I were sent an hour south of our place to get the bulls out of our yearling heifers. As in years previous, we were prepared with our geldings, enough semi-heavy duty panels to convert the two-pen corral into something you could load a bull out of, and the necessary trailer to haul the whole works home.
We arrived, set up, cinched up and headed to the spring-fed creek in the middle of the 600-acre pasture of rolling hills, bad cross fences and exceptional grass we rented. As we eased into a slow, ground-covering trot, visiting away about which water hole the bunch was most likely at, I looked over and noticed something odd. My brother and his saddle were beginning to slip.
I began to say, “Kyle, your saddle is slipping…,” when halfway through the thought and a fraction of the way through the words everything gave way and he unceremoniously slammed into the ground. We would later learn his off-side cinch strap had rotted through, quite suddenly from my vantage point. This caused an immediate reaction from his horse, Otis, who had no idea what the heck was going, but who has a strong flight versus fight mentality – if you can hang on he will take you to safety with him, if you cannot, that is a personal problem for you.
I also knew that of our two horses, his was hands-down the faster, and my heart leaped into my throat at the thought of him being drug and me not being able to do a thing about it, as, simultaneously, the situation gained momentum with impressive speed.
His horse burst into a run in a nano-second, and thankfully a dazed and mad Kyle stayed behind on the ground to watch as his gelding did a beautiful arcing circle back toward the barn, which we were only a couple hundred yards away from. It was an impressive site considering he was nearly breaking a land speed record, with a saddle hanging from the back cinch between his back legs. Pieces of tack reined behind him, and as each landed in the grass my brother’s color went up another notch.
I wisely left my ticked off brother and went to remove what I only expected to be a back cinch from his horse – you learn when to offer assistance to the human or the animal after a few of these experiences.
After gathering up his horse and completing the unplanned unsaddling process, I began to wonder how long it would take me to get three bulls sorted out and into the less than ideal corral by myself. I turned with the two horses to see much of the problem solved for me. There was my brother, walking in the arcing circle his horse had made, picking up pieces of his tack. In a curious, bellering, slobbering and dust-infused circle around him were our yearling heifers, acting as yearlings do. While this did nothing for his mood, I immediately saw the humor in the situation, and the three bulls graciously delivered right to the corral for us.
It only took a few minutes to corral and pull bulls that year, causing much teasing regarding my brother’s unique way of improving our average time for the task. The saddle required quite a bit more time to repair, only to be sent back to the saddle maker 364 days later for a complete rebuild following another bull incident…
A 5th generation ranch girl born in eastern Wyoming, I married a western South Dakota farmer and rancher in 2013 and moved three hours from where I was raised. My family has used horses for cattle work my entire life, and as with any other...