Saddle Restoration

My customers have many different reasons for wanting to have their saddles restored-and I have my own reasons for wanting to take the restoration process to a new level! Most of the saddles that come to my shop for restoration are hand-made by artisans of a by-gone era. As someone who lives and breathes history, the restoration of these saddles is a work of love. My goal is to restore them to their former beauty and match the craftsmanship of the original makers.

During the late 1800's and early 1900's when most of these saddles were built, there was a saddle maker on every corner. In this competitive market, many of the builders became highly skilled. Many saddles were not just pieces of equipment used in transportation, but highly refined works of art. The truly quality saddles have survived even the severest neglect and the poorer saddles have been disposed of as we do in our throw away society today. More...

In the following paragraphs, I will discuss restoration of antique sidesaddles. Many of the principles would apply to saddles of all types. I do restore western saddles used for cutting, roping, endurance, trail riding, etc. and parade saddles (including the silver work). I also restore McClellan Cavalry and Artillery saddles, Circassians and other novelty types.

Using modern technology and methods, the restoration process starts with the renovation of the tree (framework) that the saddle is built on. All breaks are repaired and the tree is completely encased in fiberglass which makes it extremely strong. The process continues with the covering of the bars (the bottom of the saddle) with the finest garment leather available from Goliger Leather Company. Then the saddle is uprighted to start the process of adding rigging. In some cases when a saddle will actually be used for riding and not just for display, the rigging is modernized with the addition of a balance strap. A modern stirrup can also be added as the old original stirrups were very small-not much bigger than a child's stirrup. With one note about the original stirrups, in many cases they are missing. If the owner wants an original style stirrup, I can reproduce them in steel copying originals that I have in my collection.

The process continues to restore the seat as close to the original as possible. The old seat may have been leather or tapestry, stitched with a design or unstitched. When enough of the design is available, I can reproduce it exactly. With the seat complete, the next step is making patterns from the old leather if possible or using catalog pictures of these particular saddles to get the cuts of leather just right. When there is enough of the original tooling patterns for an example, I reproduce them to the best of my ability. I use top of the line Wickett & Craig cowhide. After the leather is added to the saddle, the finishing touches are buttons made either of brass or silver whichever is appropriate.

When desired, I stamp information on the billet protectors. Often, this includes the date of the restoration, for whom it was done and the original owner's name. When the restoration is complete, my goal is to have a saddle that is as near the original as possible-one of which the original craftsman would be proud.

If you would like to have a saddle restored and to get a quote, please send me several pictures of a saddle, for a more substantive discussion.

Contact Pete Harry