Long straps that connect the stirrups to the saddle tree are known as stirrup leathers. These straps should be made of high-quality, thick leather. The two leathers must be made from the same hide in order for them to stretch uniformly.
Stirrup leathers on western saddles are typically 3 inches wide, however some competitive saddles have 2 to 2 1/2 inch broad leathers to save weight and size. To save money, some lower-quality factory saddles employ thinner leathers.
On most modern saddles, “fast change” buckles are used to modify the length of the stirrup leathers. The old timers had to deal with leather laces that were difficult to adjust for varying riders’ lengths. The Blevins buckle is the most popular quick-change buckle. A leather-covered sleeve with one or two metal pegs (horizontal or vertical) that slide into corresponding holes on the leathers makes up the Blevins buckle.
To guarantee balance between the two leathers, the holes must be positioned exactly the same on each. The buckle should be placed between the rider’s ankle and knee for maximum comfort and mobility.
The leathers should be turned so that the stirrups are pointing forward and at a 90 degree angle to the fenders for maximum comfort. The stirrup is in the proper position for the rider to slip his foot in at this point. Most custom saddle makers twist the stirrups to this forward position when they build their saddles.
You will have to “train” your stirrups with most manufactured saddles by soaking the fenders and placing a broomstick or 2×4 through the stirrups while not in use. The stirrups will eventually turn. Riding in unturned stirrups accelerates the aging of your knees.
Learn how the stirrup leathers are fastened to the fenders on the fenders page.