Saddling a Horse: How to Tie a Latigo Knot

Saddling a Horse: How to Tie a Latigo Knot

Step-by-step instructions for saddling your western horse correctly.

Cheryl West tightens the latigo on a saddle.

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By Holly Clanahan 

Cheryl West teaches students of all ages, and she sometimes gets a groan from her younger students when they find out math is involved. But it’s an easy way to remember how to tie the “Texas T” knot used to secure the latigo: 7+4=11.

First, a little terminology: A latigo is the long piece of leather or nylon that allows you to tighten the cinch on a western saddle. To have a safe ride, you need to know how to use it correctly. We’ve got some tips from Cheryl, who is from Sand Springs, Oklahoma, and is certified in both western and English instruction by the Certified Horsemanship Association, an AQHA alliance partner.

Step by Step: Tying a Latigo or Texas Knot

Step 1: First, Cheryl threads her latigo through the cinch ring, back to front, and then through the saddle’s dee ring where the latigo is attached. Typically, this needs to be wrapped twice, which leaves four pieces showing in between the saddle and the cinch.

Step 2: Slowly snug up the cinch and check to make sure the small ring in the middle of the cinch is in the middle of the horse’s body, right between the front legs. If it’s not, you will need to either lengthen or shorten your off-billet (where the cinch attaches to the saddle on the off side of the horse).

Step 3: With the tail of the latigo coming out of the cinch ring, take the buckle’s tongue and put it through a hole in the latigo. You’ll need to “seat” it by pulling down on the second piece of your wrapped latigo.

Step 4: Now take the tail of the latigo and go through the saddle’s dee ring one more time. If you run the tail to the left, it forms a “7.” Fold it to the right to make the “4.”

First, make a figure 7.

Then a figure 4.

Step 5: Next, take the tail and go behind the dee ring on the right side. Pull it down through the loop that you’ve just created and tighten the knot. Your latigo tail should now hang straight down by your wrapped latigo loops, forming two legs of the “11.”

Finally, pull the tail down, forming an "11."

Checking the Cinch for Comfort and Fit

As your horse relaxes, and as your tack warms up if it was cold, you may need to tighten the cinch another time or two before you get on. It’s best to do this in increments so you don’t cause your horse any discomfort, which could cause him to resist the saddling process.

Before you get on, check your cinch toward the bottom of the horse’s barrel. It should be snug enough that you cannot slide a finger between the cinch and the horse.

Once the cinch is tight, take the horse’s forelegs and gently stretch them forward, to make sure that his skin isn’t pinched by the cinch. First and foremost, the horse needs to be comfortable before asking him to work.

Untacking the Horse

When we’re done with our ride, the same 7+4=11 can be used to secure the latigo, so it doesn’t drag on the ground as you put the saddle away.

After unfastening the cinch, grab the latigo about a quarter of the way down and push that through the dee ring, back to front. Pull that loop down, ending with two loops, plus the tail of the latigo hanging down.

Pull the loop down through the dee ring, creating two loops plus the tail.

From here, take the tail and tie the same “Texas T” knot.

Don’t forget to go to the off side and put the cinch up. Most saddles have a keeper you can thread the buckle through. You may like putting yours on backwards, so that the cinch lays flat.

Your saddle is now ready to go for the next ride.