Tom and Tad Knowles, who own and operate Wildflower Saddles & Tack in Elizabeth, Colorado, have proven valuable resources for how-to tack-repair features. Here, Tad uses a saddle string to replace a broken connector strap between the front and back cinches.
“That connector strap might be one of the smallest pieces of equipment, but one of the most important pieces of leather on your saddle,” Tad comments. “I never use a back cinch without a connector strap to keep the cinch from getting into a horse’s flank. Manufacturers now don’t always include connector straps on their saddles because they’re watching costs and cutting everything down to the bottom line. But it’s easy enough to put one on a new saddle or repair a broken one.”
Steps 1, 2 and 3 are the same as those included in the other tack-repair features. Tad generally follows the same procedure when preparing any leather string for saddle-repair use. Here’s how he replaces a connector strap.
Step 1: Have the saddle shop where you purchase a standard string edge it for you, or buy an edging bevel for about $10 from a leathercraft store and round the edges yourself.
Step 2: Use a sharp knife or shears to “tip” the string ends, cutting one on an angle for ease of use. Tad admits he’s “too cheap to buy a tipper” (from a leathercraft store), then adds, “I’m Scottish, so I can say that.”
Step 3: Use a piece of canvas dipped in saddle soap to rub down the string. Otherwise, the leather’s top grain will crack, which weakens it.
Step 4: The connector strap Tad uses has a Conway buckle on one end and holes punched in the other end, which fasten the strap to a standard buckle on the rear cinch. However, sometimes both cinches have D-rings and, in that case, Conway buckles are used on both strap ends. Tad describes the Conway as “one of the most complicated, yet useful buckles in the world.”
Step 5: Connector strap length varies among saddles, and a too-short strap compromises the rear cinch’s usefulness. To measure the appropriate length, position front and back cinches as they would naturally fall from the saddle dees. Tad allows 2 1/2 inches additional length at one end for fastening the Conway buckle to the front cinch, and a hand’s-width additional length for the tail, which fastens through the tongued buckle on the rear cinch.
Step 6: Run the strap through the front-cinch D-ring, with the smooth leather side to the horse. Then double the strap over itself and punch one hole through both strap layers to accommodate the Conway buckle.
Step 7: Insert the connector strap end through the Conway buckle and around the front cinch D-ring, and then reinsert the tail back into Conway buckle. Align the two holes punched in Step 6 with the point centered in the buckle and snug both strap layers tightly. Tad stresses that the Conway buckle point should “head away from your horse. Then if he lies down or whatever, the point won’t poke him in the belly.”
Step 8: Punch several holes in the other end of strap, which can be used for making later adjustments. Tad punches his holes “a thumb-width apart, which is roughly an inch.”
Step 9: Fasten the connector strap to the rear cinch buckle, and you’re ready to saddle up and ride.
Contact Wildflower Saddles & Tack, at (303) 646-3363.