Friday, August 8, 2014

Back In the Saddle Again

Part 1: A-O

Here’s a crash course in saddle terminology for those who don’t know a cantle from a cinch ring. Bruce Grant, in How to Make Cowboy Horse Gear, lists the parts of the Western saddle as a tree (frame), the seat, the cantle, the horn, the swell and gullet, the front jockey and back jockey, skirt, fender (rosadero), stirrups, stirrup-leathers, cinch rings, latigo, conchas and tie-strings.

Anquera: a piece of leather at the back of the cantle of a stock saddle, often used for riding double, sometimes just for looks

Apishamore: a saddle blanket of the Mountain Men and later Westerners, preferably made from soft buffalo-calf skin and often used as the rider’s bed at night

Apple, biscuit, pig: the saddle horn; it was considered a real disgrace to grab the apple or pull leather

Apple-horn: a type of saddle, the horn of which suggests an apple; in the 1860’s to 1880’s, it replaced the broader horns. Common on Texas drives in the post-Civil War period.

Apron, Basto: the skirt of a saddle

Apron-strings: straps on the apron of a saddle for securing a bedroll, slicker, and all manner of things

Acciones: stirrup-leathers

Billet: a strap on the off-side (the right side, or side opposite that on which you mount the horse) for the cinch-buckle

Cantle: the raised rear part of a saddle

Center-fire rig, Center rig, California rig, Single-fire rig, Single-fire saddle: a saddle with a single cinch-ring in a central position directly below and on either side of the saddle-tree. Also single-barreled or single-rigged.

Cheyenne roll: a saddle with a leather flange extending over, to the rear, of the cantle-board; this was originated by Frank Aleara, a saddlemaker from that town

Cinch, sinch, cincha, cirincho: a saddle girth. The Mexican type was made of separate strands of braided hair, the American of cotton, mohair, hair, canvas or leather. Used as a verb, the term means to girth tightly, and can be used as cinch up.

Conjinillo: a pocket of a saddle or a small case attached to a saddle for carrying small objects like bottles

Corona: a saddle-pad, usually shaped to the lines of the saddle and open at the top to permit ventilation between saddle and horse

D-Ring: a metal ring on a saddle, used to attach the cinch or martingale; it may be round or flat on one side like the letter D

Dinner plate: what Anglo cowboys called the broad flat horn of the old Spanish saddle

Dish: the seat on a saddle, either deep-dished or shallow-dished, depending on the depth of the seat below the fork and cantle

Double-rig: a saddle with two cinch rings on either side – one below the front skirt of the saddle, the other below the cantle – thus enabling the rider to have two saddle girths. One such was the Texas rig

Estribo: stirrup-iron

Fenders, rosaderos: wide leather shields over or under (and almost as long as) the stirrup-leathers; they hang below the middle-skirts, between the rider’s legs and the horse

Five-eighths rig: an uncommon saddle-rig with the cinch between the center-fire and three-quarters position

Flank girth: the rear girth of a Texas rig

Full-rigged: a saddle completely covered by leather; not always the case in early days

Fuste: a Mexican saddle; sometimes only referred to the Mexican wooden saddle-tree, over which a cloth was thrown. The horn was usually flattish and broad at the base.

Gerga, Xerga, Zerga: a coarse cloth worn by Mexican poor and used at times for saddle-cloths; hence, the word was used as a term for such saddle-cloths

Gullet: the hole on a saddle just below the horn, often used for carrying the saddle by hand

Hen skin: a poor saddle

Horn: the protuberance of a saddle, above the fork, on which a rope could be dallied; a development by Mexicans and Californios which Texans adopted and refashioned to their own taste.

Horn-string: the thong at the side of the saddle horn for securing a lariat

Hull, Leather: a saddle

Indian saddle: used by Plains Indians; a crude copy of the old Spanish saddle, often galling to a horse’s back. Many early ones were merely pads filled with buffalo hair or grass, with a surcingle as a cinch

Latigo, Larigo, Latigo-strap: a strap that attaches the rigging of the saddle to the cinch

Legaderos: stirrup-straps, possibly also used for a leg guard

Manzana: a saddle horn

Mexican saddle: a heavy saddle with a high cantle and bow, and a flat wide-based saddle horn which was adopted by the Texan in the early days

Mochila, machilla: a loose skin or cloth cover for a saddle; common in the early days, when various parts of the saddle, particularly the wooden tree, were covered only with rawhide. In the case of Pony Express riders, this cover could contain pockets or cantinas
Montana rig: a three-fourths single saddle rig with the cinch just forward of the center-fire position

Morral: a fiber bag usually carried hanging from the saddle-horn (also called a feed- or nose-bag)

Mother Hubbard: old-style saddle with a removable cloth cover; the cloth had slits through which the horn and cantle appeared. So named because of the long skirting

Muley saddle: a hornless saddle; from the nickname for a hornless or one-horned cow-critter

Nubbing, nubbin: the saddle horn

A Dictionary of the Old West, Peter Watts, 1977
Dictionary of the American West, Win Blevins, 1993
J.E.S Hays


  1. Good stuff there. Thanks.

  2. What a fun post. Very useful, thanks! Doris

  3. I aim to please! I figure all of us Western writers can use some terminology once in awhile

  4. Excellent! Really useful post. Thank you.