Thursday, June 6, 2013

Back in the Saddle(s) Again!

Here's a professional tip for you: if you ever decide you want an old saddle to work on as a hobby, don't say so. Because the universe will clap its hands delightedly and send a tidal wave of them. Case in point:

After selling The Polished Turd for the princely sum of $25, I was full of confidence and ready for my next saddle project. I found a vintage TexTan saddle from 1968 that had no fleece and got it with the money I'd made from the first saddle. Here's a pic of it when I got it.

I know -- cute, right? Like a little bit of the Old West that you can sit on! It was in really good shape with new stirrup leathers recently put on; all it needed was new fleece, and I thought I could do that with little or no trouble. So I did.

Before (obviously)

After -- but before I trimmed and shaped the edges a bit.
That all turned out very nicely, and I took it out to the stable to try it on Imp and he agreed with me that it was just as comfortable as it looked.

He's so much more attractive than this picture makes him appear. =)
I've made a few introductory sales pitches out at the barn, but its big premier will be at the local tack swap in two weeks, where I hope to get $300 for it. Good luck, me!

I had a sign up at the barn to advertise my tack cleaning services, and a woman approached me with a dusty, banged-up little saddle and said she had gotten free from someone and wanted to give to her granddaughter. Could I clean it first? I went over it with her, pointing out all its flaws interesting characteristics: the tatty fleece, the make-do repair to the cinch rigging, the worn areas -- I didn't want to be blamed for anything she hadn't noticed when I returned it, see? Instead, she took a step back. "I've changed my mind," she said. "I'll get my granddaughter a better saddle. You can have that one."

"But I don't want it," I protested. "I don't need another --"

"You touched it last!" she laughed, and started walking away. "You can use it for parts or something."

And so I brought home the Simco, which if my estimates are correct, was made in the 50s or early 60s when checkerboard patterns were very popular.


It cleaned up really well. Still needs fleece and that repair to the rigging, but I'm waiting for my Weaver Leather catalog to show up so I can order parts and fleece wholesale.

After. I just love the red color! And yes, the design on the back is crooked -- that's what happens when a rider  spends a lot  of time slumped on one hip in the saddle. Posture, children! 
Then came the Bona Allen. BAs were once the saddle to have -- all the TV cowboys had them, including Roy Rogers, William F. ("Buffalo Bill") Cody, Gene Autry, and the cast of the popular TV show "Bonanza". I'd read about them and figured someday with a little luck I'd get my hands on one and give it a try. But all the ones I saw for sale were wicked expensive -- into the thousands! -- so I didn't think it would be any time soon.

Then one day on Craigslist: "Bona Allen roping saddle. $100. Email for pics."

Well, I certainly didn't need another saddle, but I just had to see what kind of beat up BA was going for that cheap. And looking isn't buying, right? So I asked to see a picture of it.

It looked pretty good! But I figured Dave would skin me if I brought another saddle home, so I thanked the guy for his time. He asked when I'd like to come get it, and when I declined, he dropped the price to $75.

It's so hard being good, you guys.

So hard.

I said I just couldn't -- that I had plenty of saddles and I'd get in trouble if I brought in another stray. And he dropped the price to $50.

Well, I gotta at least look at it in person for that price. And Dave surprisingly agreed that it was a crazy good price and if I felt I could make money reselling it, I should go ahead.  The next morning I had my Bona Allen. Here's the pic I took after bringing it home and conditioning it. It'll get new fleece soon and be good to go. It's a beautiful little rig and signs point to it being from the 1940s. I just love it, and it's a shame it doesn't fit Imp at all, or I'd be keeping it.

But now all my saddle stands and my wall rack were F U L L.  No more saddles! I promised. Not until I sell a few of these!

And the universe laughed.

One of my clients came home from settling the family estate down south and said he had a surprise gift for me to thank me for taking care of the dog. And that's how I got this:

The stirrups are off for cleaning, but what you see there is a "Mother Hubbard" style saddle that was made somewhere between 1860-1880. They were an extremely popular style of saddle for working cowboys in that time period, but fell out of fashion rather quickly. This one has wide fenders -- the piece that lays between the rider's leg and the horse and holds the stirrup -- which earlier models didn't have, so I'd guess this one was made towards the end of that range of years. The advent of the fender made the wide skirting unnecessary so it was trimmed down to the more modern look we have today.

I sent pictures to a saddle historian up near Seattle, hoping he'd squeal with delight and offer me oodles of cash for it, but no. In this condition, it's pretty much worthless. Which is a shame because I have a real problem with throwing such a thing in the trash. I stripped the big square piece (the mochila) off last night to get a look underneath, and I think it might be a fun project to remake the saddle using the current leather as pattern pieces. The hardest part will be re-covering the wooden frame (tree) with new rawhide. It gets stitched on wet, and shrinks and tightens as it dries, making it very tough and strong.

That will be a big project; one that will get its own series on this blog -- or maybe even its own blog! -- if I decide to go ahead.

Maybe instead of selling, I should just start a museum.

Please don't send me any more saddles! 


  1. I recently bought an older Tex Tan saddle that needs new sheepskin. I want to try it myself but can't find sheepskin on line. Any suggestions what to get and where? I am located in Florida,

  2. Weaver Leather sells natural and synthetic fleece for saddles, and so does Tandy Leather. Or you might try going to your local saddle shop and ask if they can order you some. Good luck!