About Custom Saddles

So you've been educating yourself about saddle fit and better seats for correct, comfortable riding, and are thinking about a custom saddle for you and your horse. Great idea! But custom saddles are a very different world from buying a ready-made saddle in a tack shop.

A custom saddle is a big investment, and one you won't make very often. They are not inexpensive, and they take some thought and investigation and more learning to figure out what you really want and need. Then they take time to build.

When I build a custom saddle, the first thing I do is get the customer set up to measure the pertinent angles on their horse's back, because fitting the tree to the horse comes first. Then we talk about fitting the tree to the rider, and after that we talk about all the other details that go into building the tree and the saddle. The process can be as simple as "Here's a picture - build me this saddle to fit me and my horse", or it can be as detailed, specific, and complicated as you want to make it. If you love diving into the minutiae and being very closely involved in the project, that's terrific, and I will be there with you all the way, guiding and answering questions until you are satisfied that your dream saddle will be exactly what you want.

Comparing Wade to 3B

The primary differences between Wade and 3B are the fork and the bars. A traditional Wade has a fork thickness (front-to-back) of more than 4-1/2", while a traditional 3B has a fork thickness of 3-1/2". Wade bars are a bit wider than regular bars, for more area of contact. We primarily build the 3B, but either type can be modified to suit whatever you want or need.

Wade saddle

Wade saddle

3B Visalia-style Saddle

3B Visalia style saddle

Half-tooled freehand floral
All-leather ground seat
7/8 double inskirt rigged
Wood/rawhide tree from Rod and Denise Nikkel
93 degrees wade bars
Seat 15-1/2" - 16"
Cantle 5", 40 degrees, cheyenne roll
Fork 5" thick, 8" wide
Wood post horn, 3" tall, cap 4-3/4"
Gullet height 7-1/2", handhole height 6-1/4"
Bork bronze rigging rings
Heavy cast aluminum stirrups
Weight with back cinch 34 lbs
Simple border
All smooth
All-leather ground seat
3/4 single spider rig
Wood/rawhide tree made by top treemaker Rod Nikkel
93 degrees regular bars
Seat 15-1/2"
Cantle 4-1/2", 40 degrees, pencil roll
Fork 3-1/2" thick, 8" wide
Wood post horn, 3" tall, cap 3-1/4"
Gullet height 7-3/4", handhole height 6-1/8"
Bork bronze rigging rings
Heavy cast aluminum stirrups
Weight 32 lbs

Here are answers to probably most of your upfront questions about building a custom saddle: What will it cost? and How long will it take?

What Does it Cost?

Base price    $4,000                                                            
$1,800 down, non-refundable                                

Wood/rawhide tree, custom fit to horse and rider (using the Dennis Lane cards)                 
Hermann Oak leather, medium weight (11-13 oz)              
All-leather ground seat                                                          
Half-leathers stirrup leathers, 2-1/2" wide                            
Heavy cast aluminum stirrups, 2" tread, or wide tread wooden stirrups                          
Small round skirts                                                                  
Single 3/4 (or 5/8 or CF) rigging, spider (strap) rigging style
Pencil roll cantle binding                                                       
Plain with simple line border                                                 
Six sets of cowboy-length latigo saddle strings on leather conchos
Near and off-side cinch latigos                                             
Breast collar dees (if you want them)     

(The Willow is a good example of the plain 3B saddle)                                                           


Half-tooled floral    $400 - 1500
Full-tooled floral $2000 or more
Cheyenne roll $125
Rope strap $25
In-skirt rigging $150
Double-rigging (back rig) $50
Back cinch & billets, lined $200
Back cinch & billets, unlined $150
Buckrolls $120
Breastcollar $120-$170
Conchos at cost
Upgrade stirrups at cost


How Much Time Does it Take?

Quality handmade custom gear takes time to make. There is time involved in design (if it's custom, it's not made with off-the-shelf parts and patterns), and time for the leather to be properly worked - wetting, slicking, molding into position, drying, shaping, fitting, tooling, and finishing. There are a lot of small pieces that must be carefully formed and fitted into position. At some stages the individual leather parts must be allowed to dry and shrink before final fitting, which can take days. So, it takes a while to build a custom saddle.

I try not to build more than one saddle at a time because I like to focus on that one custom saddle. Depending on the complexity and amount of tooling, a saddle can take me anywhere from one to three months, usually, after I get the tree.

The tree takes about 6 weeks to build from start to finish, and most good custom treemakers have long waiting lists. It can take a treemaker as long as six months to start building a tree for me after I place the order.

So how long will your custom saddle take? Possibly as long as 10 months (sometimes a lot less depending on how long all the wait lists are). It could be worse - there are master saddlemakers who have five year waiting lists for their custom saddles.

The wait time is not all bad - once you have your saddle order placed and the wait for the tree begins, you have time to think about all the design decisions that need to be made, and those design decisions can be time-consuming. Because it's a completely custom saddle and tree, it will be uniquely yours, and you can have whatever features you want - you don't want to be rushed with those decisions. And I will be in contact with you throughout the design process to help you through it.

To ask more questions about or to order a custom saddle, send a message to saddle info




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