by Capt. Joe Vaclavik, Chicago, Illinois
The rear cinch, also known as the rear flank strap, rear girth, or back cinch is found on all western saddles. It's there for specific purposes! The use of a front and rear cinch is known as a "double rig."
The western saddle has either reinforced leather slits on the rear section of the saddle skirt or "D" rings. Attached to these are billets. Billets are short leather or nylon straps that have punched holes. The leather cinch has buckles on both ends that fasten to the billets.
The rear cinch needs to be snug against the mule and fastened to the front cinch with a short strap or hobble to prevent the rear cinch from shifting backward. If the cinch happened to slide to the back flank of the mule it could cause your mule to go "western," i.e. buck!
The rear cinch should only be snugged up after the front one is tightened.
This important strap is especially critical when roping livestock. It prevents the saddle from tipping forward and keeping the saddle flat on the mules back as forward pressure is applied on a saddle horn by a dallied rope.
The rear cinch also provides a secure saddle for the trail rider as it prevents the saddle from rocking back and forth as the rider covers rough terrain, it also helps prevent lateral movement of the saddle. A secure saddle gives the rider a firm seat and the mule better balance because the rider is sitting square.
During a ride, the wrangler needs to re-examine both the front and rear cinch. As the day progresses the cinches loosen as the mule sweats and loses body bloat.
I've seen many people riding with loose rear cinches hanging several inches or more. This is an invitation for disaster. A mule could easily hook a rear hoof in the cinch and by "brush hopping" off a groomed trail, the probability of a branch slipping between the underside of your mule and the cinch is high.
Whenever around your mount, always use "good old" common sense. Both on the ground and in the saddle. Don't become complacent, don't treat your mule as you would treat your dog. Be vigilant, you’re around an incredible powerful animal with flight instincts! You'll inevitable get hurt if you treat your mule as your baby!
- From the October 2016 Issue of Mules and More