Tack Talk

What you should know about sad­dle horns.

Horse & Rider - - Contents - BY AL DUN­NING, WITH JEN­NIFER PAULSON PHO­TOS BY CHARLES BROOKS

Sad­dle horns have evolved over the many years I’ve been rid­ing, train­ing, and show­ing horses. Once thought of as fairly generic, they’ve de­vel­oped to be func­tional for dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines. This means they play a role in your sad­dle selec­tion, ac­cord­ing to how you plan to use it. There is some cross­over—you might see any of these sad­dle horns in a ranch rid­ing class, for ex­am­ple. But they’re largely dis­ci­pline-spe­cific.

Here I’ll cover the three most com­mon styles of sad­dle horns. Use this in­for­ma­tion to se­lect your next sad­dle and to eval­u­ate how you’re us­ing your cur­rent sad­dle. Re­mem­ber that ev­ery part of the sad­dle—fork, gul­let, seat, can­tle, fend­ers—has likely been tweaked for a spe­cific pur­pose. Choos­ing the right sad­dle for your event will keep you and your horse com­fort­able and make you more suc­cess­ful and cor­rect in your horse­man­ship.

One

Horn type: No. 1. De­tails: The low pro­file of this horn means it doesn’t in­ter­fere with your rein hand. It’s there to as­sist you when you need it, but it mostly just stays out of your way. The fork tilts slightly for­ward, which also keeps the horn from be­ing a hin­drance. If you need to grab the horn with your free hand for safety when your horse spooks, for ex­am­ple, your hand sits on the side of the horn, with the edge in your palm. It’s less se­cure than the cut­ting horn, dis­cussed on the next page, but it fits the bill for less-in­tense rid­ing.

Fun fact: This is aptly named the No. 1 horn, be­cause it’s the most pop­u­lar horn type you’ll see. It’s used by every­one from rein­ers to rail rid­ers.

Two

Horn type: Dally or post. De­tails: This horn, made for a rop­ing sad­dle, sits a

lit­tle higher, has a larger cap, and sit­u­ates it­self more straight up and down than the No. 1. The gul­let on a rop­ing sad­dle is wider and sits closer to the horse’s with­ers so when you dally your rope around the horn, the horn doesn’t get jerked left or right. The horn is wrapped with rub­ber to keep your rope from slipping around the horn; in­stead it can hold tight un­til you undo your dally. If you hold the horn be­fore you leave the rop­ing box, it’s most likely that you’ll hold the front por­tion of the horn to steady your­self when your horse bursts out of the box.

Fun fact: Most dally horns are thicker and stur­dier than a nor­mal rid­ing horn to han­dle the pull of a steer or calf when rop­ing or doc­tor­ing cat­tle.

Three

Horn type: Cut­ting or cow horse.

De­tails: This is a horn you can hold onto for safety in highly ath­letic events, like cut­ting and work­ing cow horse. The taller horn sits on swells that are be­tween the for­ward-po­si­tioned No. 1 and the up­right dally horn. This op­ti­mal tilt keeps your el­bow in front of your hip when you hold the horn. In most cases, you’ll hold the horn with three fin­gers be­low the cap of the horn, your in­dex fin­ger in front of the cap, and your thumb around the horn. This al­lows you to push the heel of your hand against the horn so you can keep your bal­ance as your horse moves quickly to cut a cow or turn on the fence.

Fun fact: The smaller di­am­e­ter of this horn makes it eas­ier for any-size hand to se­curely grip.

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Al izona, Dun­ning, has pro­duced Scotts­dale, world Ar­cham­pion horses and rid­ers in mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines. He’s been a pro­fes­sional trainer for more than 40 years, and has pro­duced books, DVDs, and an on­line men­tor­ing pro­gram, Team AD In­ter­na­tional ( al­dun­ning.com).

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