The Cheyenne Saddle,
as a contemporary trail saddle

The half seat saddle built by E.L. Gallatin, Frank Meanea and the Collins Brothers in Cheyenne in
the mid 1860s has become an icon of the cattle drives and of the western expansion. In time it came to
be known as the Cheyenne Saddle. Having a, newer is not always better attitude, I believe that the
the Cheyenne saddle has features that make it a superior saddle for the modern trail rider.

A glance at the photo, below, of a re-creation shows the saddle to have a flat seat. It is flat. There
is no great ramping up of the seat from behind the stirrup leathers to the base of the horn. This flat seat
makes several contributions, one being the ability to sit in the center of the seat. Sitting in the center of
the seat, and not forced onto the cantle by the ramping of the seat, the rider is not rolled off the pelvis and
onto the buttocks.

The pelvis is beneath the rider, the legs and feet are beneath the rider. the weight of upper bodis then
supported on the pelvis, the legs and the feet in stirrups, not the buttocks. Again the pelvis, legs and feet
are beneath the rider supporting the upper body. The legs and feet are not splayed out forward of the upper
body with the buttocks carrying all the weight of the upper body.

With the legs and feet forward of the upper body with the weight of the upper body being supported on the
buttocks it is very difficult to maintain position over the center of balance of the horse. The rider who is not
over the center of balance is working at cross purposes with the horse, causing undo fatigue and most certainly
causing irritation, both mental and physical, to the horse.

In the photo, the stirrup leathers are visible as they go up and over the top of the bar of the saddle tree. The
leathers then come out from under the bar and attach to the bottom of the fender. This open arrangement
makes for maximum freedom of stirrup leather movement. This can be an advantage when traveling steep terrain.

Although difficult to see in the photo, The stirrup leathers are twisted and wrapped after they pass through
the stirrup and are then laced to the bitter end of the stirrup leather that extends down from under the tree bar.
This twist and wrap has the effect of holding the stirrups perpendicular to the body of the horse. This relieves
pressure and undo torsion on hips, knees and ankles. It can also be an aid during mounting and dismounting,
in that the offside stirrup may be much easier to locate and/or disengage.

While this saddle can be rigged in any configuration, the example in the photo has a 3/4 single rig. The 3/4 rigging,
in my opinion, the best choice for the trail rider. The 3/4 rig built with the required quarter strap to hold the ring in
position and front rigging ring set low, as in the photo, will do the best job of keeping your saddle where it needs to be.
Seldom will a 3/4 rig cause blankets to work from under the saddle.

A 3/4 rigging on a saddle may either be single or double. A 3/4 single rig, of course, does not provide attachment of a
rear cincha. A 3/4 double rigged saddle will have attachment (rear billets) for a rear cinch, but does not require use of
a rear cinch, it is optional, as the 3/4 rigging in itself is sufficient. The rear billets are quite handy for attaching gear
should a person choose not use the rear cinch.

The Cheyenne saddle is built on what is called an A fork saddle tree in that, when viewed from the front, the fork
resembles the letter A. sloping sides of this fork allow the attachment of pommel pockets over the horn for the storage of
additional gear.

And finally, this saddle gives the rider the flat seat of an english saddle in a light weight western trail riding configuration.

You might give it some thought.

.....Dave Matteson 2010








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