Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Circa 1957 - Go Into the Light

I am a sentimental pack rat.  This is not a fact most people know, since it's usually obscured by my ouchy-bleedy, non-warm-and-fuzzy personality ... but it's true.  I save silly stuff:  a matchbook from the dance club where my husband and I met, a cheap souvenir key chain from a trip to Paris, my sons' first shirts and locks of hair from their first haircuts, one of Lyric's baby teeth (and all of my kids' baby teeth) and my very first plush toy (a musical lamb that plays Brahm's "Lullaby").  Of course, this is true of my tack, as well.  I have all of my mom's old western tack as well as my own; I even have  my first western pony saddle and bridle (red leather with brass tacks), so I understand the attachment that can develop with a piece of tack that you've had since dirt formed.  Just seeing it reminds you of the horse or pony you rode it in, and touching the well-worn leather can bring back the adventures and the mishaps and the bone-deep satisfaction you feel when you dismount after a truly good ride.  It's not just a thing made of leather, wood and metal - it's an integral part of your horse life, a history book, almost another limb.  So yes, I understand the attachment.

I also know understand that your tack, like your horse, will reach retirement age; a time when it's great to look at but perhaps not so wise for actual use.  The saddle in the photos below is a perfect example of this.  It's an old polo saddle that was originally purchased in Oxford, England in 1957, sent to me for a strip flock and new billets.

The plate says it was made by Hayes saddle makers in Cirencester. The leather is on the fragile side - it's covered with rain spots, and I'm not certain how well it would hold up if I started trying to dismantle or re-stitch anything - but the stirrup bars were tight, the billets and webbing seemed sound enough, and at first glance, it looked quite decent for 54 years old.

Then I looked at it from the front, and I noticed some serious crookedness:

As you can see, the cantle slants off to the saddle's left, and the right panel seems to be a smidge higher than the left at the pommel.  When viewed from the back, the crookedness is even more obvious:

The cantle is far to the left of the pommel - looks to me as though this saddle has been mounted from the ground a LOT.  Even the panels are misaligned:

Close-up of rear of the panels - the unevenness is really obvious here:

Giving an owner the news that it's time to put the old reliable trooper out to pasture is always a touchy bit of work.  Some people take it well, and some look for any way to forestall the inevitable:  "I'll only use it on the old horse I've used it on for 23 years" or "I'll only use it on greenies as a breaking saddle" or "I'll only ride at the walk!"  Fortunately, this customer was understanding and figured that after 54 years of service, his saddle was indeed ready to "go into the light."


Hurakan said...

Oooh, saw one just like it at the sales today - didn't get too close but would have been fun to see if it was so twisted, not so fun to work on!

AnEnglishRider said...

Haha, I am a packrat about a lot of things, but saddles are not one of them. I've got someone coming to look at/probably buy the first saddle I ever bought back when I was 16 on Friday and I am ready to see that sucker gone.

Barefoot Basics said...

I still have the first saddle of my first horse which may be getting on for that age as I bought it second hand when I got her. I also still have my ponies saddles even though they are both retired and the saddles pretty saleable, it is funny how we form attachments to inanimate objects.

Anonymous said...

As I dug out a fillet string the other day (and forgot to actually bring I to the stables, so bale twine still does the job), I also found the royal blue foal halter my friends gave me to use on a foal that never arrived. I must have been 17 then - half a life ago.
- Thinkerbell

Anonymous said...

I have a Hayes saddle. It belonged to my favourite horse who passed away 2 years ago and i can't bring myself to sell it as it reminds me of her! I bought it second hand about 25 years ago so it wil be at least 30 years old.