The long, narrow leather straps that hang off the side of a saddle are known as saddle strings. Slickers, lariats, saddlebags, and canteens are all tied to the saddle with them. The strings’ primary function was to hold the parts of the saddle covering – sheepskin, skirts, and jockeys – together and anchor them to the bars. This style of manufacturing considerably extends the life of a saddle and is still used by today’s leading saddle makers.
Saddle strings are typically 3/8″ to 1/2″ wide and 26″ to 36″ long, and are constructed of flexible latigo leather. Washers made of leather or metal are used as washers, and the string is then tied using the slit-braid method, which involves feeding one end of the string through slits in the other end. The end result is a fairly sturdy construction with a polished appearance.
On either side of a western saddle, there are four places where saddle strings can be found:
- Back in the saddle
- On the ear of the rider (the portion that curls up around the base of the cantle)
- Beneath the fork’s base
- The front jockey
An eight-string saddle is one that has strings in each of the four positions. The most prevalent layout on current saddles is the six-string saddle, which does not include strings at the base of the fork.
Many saddles are sold without strings and instead come with Dee rings or screws. These saddles can be embellished with strings. If your saddle is missing Dee rings, the Cashel Company has devised an innovative technique dubbed “Tie-One-On” for attaching saddle strings. This adjustable saddle strap system includes rings behind the cantle, at the back cinch slots (for tying down your saddle bags), and at the pommel. Those Cashel people are quite astute.