The revival of the mustang indicates a revival of genuine American horsemanship, too. The "a jinete" vertical balance Charles Russell showed his riders using 100 years ago when compared to the "motorcycle crouch " used in the roping arena, and such saddles and percheron-like "quarter horses" that force such a seat, show how far American horsemanship has strayed.
The mustang's conformation allows the rider to sit forward on the horse at the proper balance point. In the Pacific Slope saddle, such as the Connell we make, his legs are forward of the rigging dee, not behind it, and a narrow seat at the front is permitted by mustang conformation. The long-legged, sitting-standing position of Russell's rider allowed long rides without crippling the rider. It also put the rider "on a balance', deep in his saddle with the legs at a natural position as when riding bareback. The mustang's conformation permits this practical seat.
As America's riders mature they are adopting equipment and choosing horses according to principles the Moorish horsemen brought to Spain and the Spanish brought to the Far West and the American cowboy adapted to the exigencies of the western range, not the artificial demands of show arena or rodeo show business.
After the war, Americans went western with a vengeance. Trouble was, their impression of what a horse should be was formed by Hollywood's use of the big hunter types that photographed well. The mustang, the universal horse in the section of Arizona and Southern California desert country I grew up in, was ignored by Hollywood.
The single-cincha A-fork saddle whose narrow tree and high gullet was made to fit the Western mustang back and wither was phased out as tree companies made trees with low gullets and thick, long flat bars to fit the "quarter horse back" of the 40's. The draft blood of the quarter horse made a big horse. It also gave it the square shoulder of the plow horse, lack of wither and flat back you could shoot a game of pool on. To hold the saddle on, a back cincha and breast collar were employed and still are. As such a rigging forces the rider to hold his legs between the back and front dees, this accounts for the strained positions seen in "equitation" classes. Add fake spade bits, chaps whose wings trail a foot behind the rider in such spectacles, 15 foot "reatas," to meet rule requirements, and we see that American horsemanship has strayed even further.
The growth of interest in the Mustang and the equipment designed for him, as illustrated by Russell, is evidence of the maturation in American horsemanship and return to the basics.
(from the 1976 SMR annual)