The short answer is “a cinch that fits!”. There are pros and cons to each type of cinch, and your horse’s size, shape, and saddle rigging are generally what determine which is best for your horse. On our personal saddles, we use both roper cinches AND straight cinches; it just depends on the horse.
In general, the further forward your rigging is (the closer it is to the pommel/swells), the smaller the area is where the cinch can sit, so the more considerations there are for which type might work best for YOU.
Single Layer Straight Cinch Pros:
- Easy to keep centered, since it is all one uniform width
- On slab-sided horses, the extra surface area up by the buckles can increase the stability of the saddle
- The straight shape/direction of the cords can be beneficial for chunky horses, who might not be as comfortable with the angle of flared cords behind the elbow
- More design options on detail work
Straight Cinch Cons:
- Less pressure distribution over the sternum
- Not always a good option for saddles with full/close to full-rigging, as the width of a straight cinch (with certain horse shapes, etc) can sometimes get bulky if positioned too close to the elbow
Roper Cinch Pros:
- Pressure distributed over a wider area on the sternum
- Can change where it flares to account for unique horse shapes, to maximize comfort and even contact
- Can add a leather off-billet keeper
Roper Cinch Cons:
- MUST BE CENTERED to make sure the center bar does not create rubbing issues. Even a well made cinch can cause soring if not adjusted correctly
- Not all horses have enough room in their elbow to account for the cords to flare without impeding movement. Sometimes it is necessary to use a fewer number of cords than is standard to account for this.
We put nylon sewn/reinforced centers on all of our roper cinches and most of our straight cinches – so strength-wise, you can tie down off of either and be confident that they are STRONG!
If you ever need help choosing which type would be best for your horse, feel free to send us a side photo, tacked up if possible with the stirrup pulled back, and we would be happy to help!