Below I will attempt to share some of my research supporting how I came to building a Hope 1840′s (approximate timeline) saddle for Paisano. Some questions have been posed by a couple of my blog post commenter’s that could be discussed further so thought I’d re-post my comment answers along with some photos from my research here for further discussion purposes.
Here in Paisano’s Tree Shipped Kim asks: Can you explain how the tree and the saddle are independent of one another?
In the original western saddle as we know it, the tree “was” the saddle. The leather originally was used to strap the tree onto the back of the horse and hang stirrup leathers from.
The excerpt from this out of print book on the history of saddles may be sketchy, but it definately paints a clear picture of what saddles really were in the early days of this country.
Later because most early western saddles spent the majority of their time out in the elements a large piece of leather was draped over the tree to protect it from rain. This brought more comfort to the rider as well and thus became fashionable. From a utilitarian point of view the addition of excess leather was multi purposed.
The following photos are from Old West Saddle Shop
Look close… it’s the same saddle
The leather not only protected the tree and brought a certain amount of comfort to the rider it also protected the horse. When a cowboy or pioneer was traveling long days horseback he would be carrying his needs with him usually on the loins of the horse or sides of the horse. A horse could get pretty loaded down, with bedroll, canteen, rifle, food, rope and other necessities, let alone a rider. The skirting helped to keep the horse from chafing.
Later as fashion set in as well as specific jobs a saddle was expected to do, more leather was added which eventually evolved into the many different kinds of western tree’d saddles we see today. In today’s work many of the original purposes of the parts of a saddle have evolved into fashion, still maybe providing a job done, but maybe not the duo purpose that the early lifestyle required.
These photos are from Out West Saddlery
These fabulous saddles are the mark of a true Master Craftsman and Artisan. All of the saddles are superior quality and will last a lifetime or more. However they are designed for today’s horse lifestyle.
And here is a J.J. Maxwell masterpiece. Just Gorgeous! Check out his Hope saddles for another twist on style and perceptions of the past.
I kid you not folks you can find yourself spending as much as $6,000.00 or more for saddles like you just witnessed above. My saddle with highend tree and highend leather will run me about $1200.00. Because I am using top quality matierals and because I want this saddle to be a success, I am taking the suggestions from master tree and saddle makers to heart.
Bottom line to the question above is that the Tree is the saddle. The leather is the adornment, protection, rider comfort, and diversifying element for the saddle. Even though trees are subject to fashion themselves, the original styles with their tree and saddle maker variations still dictate the use of the final equipment.
Here in Another Prototype Saddle Michaela asks: The fenders should be wider though. Those are needed to protect the leg from the horses sweat, don’t they?
Originally I had planned on putting fenders on and still could at an additional cost. Yes the fenders do protect the leg from sweat. However, in early saddles fenders were more of an option or preference as the original saddles had only leathers as seen in my prototype. Remember that the Western Saddle is an offspring of European saddles, the Spanish version more than English, however the English saddle played its role in early Spanish saddles.
Fenders… Well I actually prefer fenders on my Western saddle, but am pretty picky about how they are shaped as I hate having my boots hang up on the durn things. I prefer a very supple fender too that provides good solid contact with my horse. I’d rather that the fenders on my saddle feel more like a second skin so-to-speak. I spent about 50% of my life riding English style saddles. Dressage, jump, hunt and all purpose, flat seat and variations there of. My favorite is the close contact dressage saddle. Although when I was riding those close contact flat seat saddles on hot Hot HOT Park horses I really could stick a horse. When I get around to putting fenders on my saddle whether that being as part of the early prototype or added later they will be similar to these that you see below in the early Texas Hope. If you noticed, I used the stirrup covers from this saddle in my prototype.
Early Texas Hope
The prototype I posted yesterday is correct for an early 1800’s model, although I was informed today by a master saddle maker and early saddle historian that I should go back to my black or nearly black leather, that would be more authentic to the period and the dies available to the saddle makers of the times. I will keep my rawhide strings and may exchange out my dark laces for rawhide laces to add that Mexican feel back. I have combined Civil War, New Mexican/Santa Fe and old style Texican styles to end up with this saddle. Adding or omitting here or there to do in like manner of the early cowboy, soldier, or pioneer and build my saddle to suit me, my horse and the job he will be asked to do. All perfectly authentic right down to lacing parts together rather than riveting them and tying rather buckles.
This Hope saddle is similar to the one that Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was riding at Seven Pines. Go to 19th Century Military Saddles to see more versions of Hope military saddles. While you are there check out this bare bones version of an early Hope saddle.
If I were a saddle builder I would insist that the owner/rider spend a great deal of time studying and developing a saddle to suit what they are going to be doing with their horse. Paisano will be trail (long) ridden distances (lighter and less leather easier to fix), plus performing in 1800’s period exhibitions.
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