KBR Quick Tip

The Pieces of Leather Which Will Save Your Neck!

Stirrup Hobbles

1995, Willis & Sharon Lamm

Those pesky leather straps around the stirrups on western saddles... All too often they are discarded as nuisances. They get in the way when we adjust our stirrups. They slow us down. What too many horse people don't realize is that they truly are a necessity... They can literally save someone's life!

Stirrup hobbles do much more than gather together the stirrup leathers to make them appear neater. These little straps are worth their weight in gold because they are usually the only thing which prevents the stirrup from flipping over and trapping a rider's foot as he/she is getting pitched from a horse.

Without being hobbled, the stirrup can, and too often does, flip over in the leathers as a rider is falling off. Once the stirrup turns sideways through the leathers it will act like a vice on the rider's foot, not letting go so long as the horse is moving forward. Most horses can't handle a rider being drug alongside them and thus a simple fall can turn into a rather long, fast and terrifying experience... at least until the rider is beaten to unconsciousness by the ground or the horse's hind feet!

If you have lost your hobbles, replace them before your next ride. You can use small dog collars, velcro straps, even bailing twine to secure your stirrups. Choose something which is strong enough to keep the leathers bunched tight and won't poke either the rider's leg or the horse.

A properly hobbled stirrup has other benefits. We use an old saddle for starting colts. On one mustang's first trail ride we were confronted with every rider's nightmare... we were along a two lane road when a maniac dump truck driver roared up and ignored our motions to slow down. The colt predictably spun and one of the stirrup leathers broke.

A simple piece of bailing twine wrapped around the leathers as a hobble held the stirrup in place and it wasn't until after the colt was back under control that we discovered why one stirrup felt "loose" after the spin. The inside stirrup leather had torn completely in two, but the stirrup was still attached, held solely by the bend in the leather which was kept closed by the bailing twine! Without a hobble, the stirrup would have dropped away during the spin along with the rider.


Regularly inspect your cinches, latigos and billets. Cotton cinches, softened by horse sweat and mildew, can deteriorate and fail. Wear is most apparent where the cinch is tied around the end rings. Latigos and billets can also stretch and lose strength where they bend around rings. When they start to lose their shape, replace them. If they are long enough, you can cut off worn sections and reattach the good portions to the saddle.

Riveted latigos and billets can telegraph impending failure when the rivets become discolored and leave ring-like stains on the leather. These rings are caused when the rivet starts moving around in the rivet hole. We prefer leather laces to rivets as they can be removed when cleaning saddles, and the holes can be inspected for wear.

Failing to replace that worn or cracked cinch, latigo or billet could result in a fall from the horse and an irreparably damaged saddle.

Finally, as we recently discovered, stirrup leathers need closer inspection. In our case, what appeared to be rather minor distortions in one set of adjustment holes was symptomatic of a general weakness in the leather at that spot. Once holes start to tear, or cracks appear anywhere along the leathers, it's time to visit the saddle repair shop and get a new piece of leather sewn on.

As we get older, the ground gets harder.
So we need to prepare and ride a lot smarter!

Ride safely and enjoy yourself!

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KBR Quick Tips, 1995 Lamm's Kickin' Back Ranch and Willis & Sharon Lamm. All rights reserved. Duplication of any of this material for commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached.
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