Saddling Up

This saddle is quite complicated to clean, and was really a mess before! Behind it is a glimpse of the Australian style saddle. We still need to polish up those old silver conchos!

One of the things we do here at the Hermits’ Rest (and our “sister” ranches, the Wild Hermits and Wild Type ranches) is hang out with our equine friends. My neighbor, Sara, has had horses most of her life, and is a great rider. I always wanted a horse, but didn’t get the chance to own one until Sara gave me Apache, my Quarter Horse/Arabian cross, since she needed a more spirited horse to ride. I was in my late 50s, but my childhood dream came true!

Apache not looking thrilled to be saddled up and eady to go. My saddle is a Parelli “hybrid” model. It’s neither English nor Western. It IS comfortable as an easy chair. And lightweight, for my bad shoulder.

We’ve been to clinics together, but recently we have just been riding around the ranch whenever Sara is in town on the weekends. We work on new skills and explore the area. I’ve been working with Apache “at liberty” in the round pen, and we’re making great progress trying new things on trail rides, too.

Sara’s horse has a lot more training, so she works on opening gates, cantering, and doing complex maneuvers at liberty.

We each have the “right” horse for our skills and inclinations. I just love riding around the ranch with a friendly and kind horse, so Apache is great for me.

Spice is a paint quarter horse. She is conserving energy so she can run around and do fancy horse things with Sara. She has a Parelli Western saddle on.

New saddles

Both Sara and I invested in high-quality saddles that met our needs. I needed something lightweight and comfortable that fit Apache (who is a bit,  um, round) correctly. He has a history of very clearly indicating when a saddle doesn’t fit well. The Parelli hybrid saddle (seen in my photo of him) I bought really works for both of us. We tried a lot of different saddles and were helped by an expert, and I have not regretted the investment.

Sara has always ridden Western, so she got a Western saddle similar in quality to mine. She uses an air-filled blanket, because it helps compensate for Spice’s conformation (mine’s a gel that Apache likes a lot). Sara can do a lot of cattle work and ranch activities with her versatile working saddle.

We keep our saddles in our air-conditioned tack room and keep them in good shape.

This was the saddle Sara used before she got the new one. It was very comfortable, due to its construction, but very heavy. It’s looking quite usuable now.

Old saddles

As a consequence of getting nice, new saddles, Sara has ended up with more than she needs. We still have a nice Western saddle that went with our late old man, Pardner, and we’ll hold on to that one, for when another horse shows up, some day.

The one at the top of this post is one she got for her teen son when he started wanting to ride Aladdin, a beautiful gray horse Sara had for a while (now happily in a new home where he is ridden often). Since that son is no longer a rider, the saddle had been sitting in storage for a few years.

The one above had also been sitting in storage in the barn for a long time.

Plus there was a small child’s saddle that hadn’t been used much, and a really cool Australian-style saddle that had seen better days. Sara realized she should sell these saddles so someone else could love and use them.

The lovely tooled saddle was dusty, dry and sad.

Fixing them up

The old saddles were looking awful after being in the barn for so long and not being maintained. The good news is that leather can be brought back to life. The bad news is that it’s not all that easy.

Lucky for us we have a friend who has a lot of experience in working with old saddles, and that friend has a son who wants to earn summer money. So, Sara invited Mandi and her son to clean up the old saddles for a cut in the profit from selling them.

Sara’s old saddle was so dry and dusty you couldn’t tell what color it was. And pieces had fallen off.

Mandi really loves working on saddles, and it shows in how patiently she taught her son to clean, oil, clean, oil, and repeat. All the saddle soap and neats-foot oil have made the tack room smell great! Nothing’s better than the smells of horse and leather mixed together.

Cleaning an old saddle is a real lesson in patience and love, but we are thrilled to see how they have come to life and can be made ready to use again. Sure, there was some rodent damage and some parts that are worn. But the “bones” of each of the saddles are still good. They are worth saving.

We’re grateful to Mandi and her son for putting in the elbow grease. Besides, it has given Mandi a chance to channel her late grandfather and how he taught her when she was a teen. Passing skills on to a new generation is one of the most fulfilling parts of ranch life!




Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

3 thoughts on “Saddling Up”

  1. The deeply tooled saddle (on top) is about 4 times shinier today! The leather is taking more time to dry (soak up the oil) which is a really good thing. Now the process becomes heavy on patience and time more so than elbow grease, but this also means that by Friday they should be finished and be shined up like a brand new penny. I’m sure my Pa could have done it better and/or faster with his “painting” method (I will show you that sometime) but as he would say, “Y’all know more than I do!” so we sort of did it my way with his teachings as the basis. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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