There are a few leather tools and hardware that every horseman should have to do minor saddle repair. These leather tools will help you do your own minor fixes on broken straps and parts, do your own adjustments to tack and saddle parts and, with more serious problems, help you make emergency repairs to get you by until you can take your saddle to a saddle repair shop. The most basic leather tools and hardware that every horseman should own include leather hole punches, rivets and rivet setters, hoof nippers to cut rivets and Chicago screws.
Many horsemen already own a revolving leather hole punch. This is fine for most holes that you need punched in tack and if you only need to punch a half dozen holes per year. However, the revolving leather hole punch will only go up to a number 7 hole. Anyone who needs to make repairs to saddles will probably need a number 8, 9 or 10 leather punch at some point. Below I have outlined the most common uses for each number leather hole punch:
Number 2: Curb straps and chains; throat latchesRivets are a very useful for repairing broken and torn tack and saddle parts. For those of you not familiar with a rivet, you can see them in action if you look at the connection point of your fender and stirrup leather. Rivets can be used to hold together broken straps on headstalls, reins, pack saddles, cruppers, breechings, etc. You can use them on your saddle and pack saddle accessories if you need to. To use a rivet, you need a punch, a rivet setter, a maul or some type of hammer and a set of hoof nippers. For instructions on using rivets, see How to Set a Rivet.
Number 3: Curb straps and chains; throat latches
Number 4: Headstall cheeks, crowns and nosebands; rivet holes, breastcollar tugs and straps
Number 5: Most pack saddle straps; crupper straps; breeching straps
Number 6: Chicago screw holes on reins and bit ends of headstalls; holes for tie ends of reins and headstalls
Number 7: Chicago screw holes on reins and bit ends of headstalls; holes for tie ends of reins and headstalls
Number 8: Latigo tie straps; off billets, flank/rear cinches
Number 9: Latigo tie straps; off billets; holes for Blevins buckles on stirrup leathers
Number 10: Holes for Blevins buckles on stirrup leathers
Many horsemen already have a set of hoof nippers in their tack room, barn or trailer. Hoof nippers can also be used to clip off the excess end of a copper rivet.
Chicago screws are also useful hardware for connecting tack and saddle parts. They are perfect for connections where you may need to take the connection apart later on, such as the bit end of headstalls and reins. Chicago screws also commonly “go missing” if you haven’t hit them with Lock-Tite or nail polish to make sure they do not work loose. Once again, you can use the number 4 leather hole punch to make the hole for the Chicago screw.
If you have basic leather tools and hardware that include leather hole punches, rivets and rivet setters, nippers and Chicago screws, you should be able to perform emergency saddle repair and tack repair yourself. If you are in the backcountry, this may mean the difference of riding out versus walking out or making a second trip to go back and get your gear.