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Let???s Go Shopping III: Western Saddles from Wonderful to Wonky

By Cindy Hale

20-Aug-10

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I’ve reined in my tendency to slap down a credit card on the checkout counter at the tack store. Now I simply browse. And drool. Or not, depending on the item before me. Such is the case with western saddles. Take a look at some of the ones that caught my eye.

Silver show saddle

I discovered this lovely creature at Thrifty Horse, our local consignment shop. It’s a Dale Chavez ensemble: saddle plus breastcollar and two headstalls. Those of you properly indoctrinated into the world of western showing are permitted a hushed moment of silence reserved for anything created by Dale Chavez. Note the two-toned silver pieces with the subtle southwestern motif. Look at that exquisite hand tooled design. Notice how the gently padded seat is built to cradle the grateful behind of the rider. Did I mention it came with a matching breastcollar and two headstalls? And a show bit? Even my husband, Ron, gravitated toward this outfit. He, the man who is attempting to assuage my periodic bouts of despondency over no longer competing on the English show circuit by saying, “Why not show western? How much would it take to get you started?” He then flipped over the price tag and saw that this little bit of gently used cowgirl bounty cost more than the sod and the sprinkler system we just installed in our backyard, so that put the kibosh on that brief interlude of spousal charity.

At the opposite end of the saddle shopping spectrum was this online find. You can imagine my glee upon viewing the entire image. And here I thought that being fashion forward in western saddle designs meant sticking a few Swarovski crystals in the floral centerpieces of silver cantle plates. No, apparently it means integrating Abercrombie and Fitch into horseback riding via the look of distressed denim. Now, first off, let me say that I get the whole idea behind non-leather tack. It’s inexpensive, an enticement for riders on a tight budget. Plus, sometimes you don’t want to clean your tack, you merely want to hose it off or wipe it down, whichever the case may be. And to that end, this is definitely a care-free saddle. Who cares if you leave it outside for a couple of days (in a hurricane)? Finally, with this saddle you can avoid all those snarky comments from your friends who give you a bad time for buying a stiff, squeaky new saddle. You can simply point out the cleverly inspired nuances and exclaim, “Hey, it’s not new. See? It already has bald patches and frayed edges, just like my favorite pair of jeans!”

Pink camo saddle

Then, just when I thought the casual flair of western saddles had reached its zenith I found this on ebay. Honestly, I appreciate the appeal of a pink saddle—within reason. Tasteful touches of pink can say “girlish” without saying “Barbie doll.” For example, if I were a barrel racer I’d probably be gunning for glory while sitting pretty in a (leather) saddle with a (leather) seat of carnation pink. Heck, I’d probably even do the faux ostrich print that’s so popular these days. But pink camouflage? On a not-quite-leather saddle? I try to grasp the point here. Maybe it’s a play on the fashionistas’ current fascination with camouflage. But instead of using plain ol’ grungy greenish-gray camouflage, the saddle manufacturer decided to be whimsical and go with pink. Nothing says fun on the trails like a black saddle adorned with the mottled shades of an exploding strawberry patch! Then again, perhaps this is some kind of saddle designed specifically for hunting, so the camouflage is necessary. Try whispering this in an Elmer Fudd sort of voice: “Shush! Be very, very quiet. I’m hunting pink rabbits in a pink forest. On my… pink horse.” There. All better. Now doesn’t this saddle make sense?

Oh well. At least there’s a western saddle out there for everyone. I’ll always covet one that’s handcrafted with finely tooled leather and adorned with silver. But until I win the lottery or inherit a small fortune (both of which are highly unlikely), I’ll just remain pleasantly satisfied with my comparatively humdrum model. That, and stay out of the tack stores.

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Let???s Go Shopping III: Western Saddles from Wonderful to Wonky

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Kaitlynn    San Tan Valley, AZ

8/27/2010 12:58:14 PM

I think theres a place for funky tack where you and your friends know that its tacky tack just for fun. I used to have all purple stuff when I owned a gray Arab mare. It was like a joke at the barn and that was fine. But the blue jean saddle? I can't imagine anyone thinking that is cool. Wouldn't those bald spots be uncomfortable?

Jen    Tennesee, TN

8/23/2010 5:54:36 PM

Okay, I guess I'm just really tacky, but with a different saddle blanket, the pink camo isn't bad. I have a black mare that I show with, and the hot pink and black tack might not be so bad. Maybe.

Horselover    Somewhere, NC

8/23/2010 10:02:08 AM

Have you heard of the blog Tacky Tack of the Day. They also showcase some terrible and some gorgeous tack. But I guess the lesson is beauty is in the eye of the beholder....or maybe a judge if your at a horse show.

Caitlin    Canton, CT

8/23/2010 9:56:04 AM

That first saddle has a little too much silver for me, but I can see the attraction as a flashy show saddle. The second one is pushing it-can you imagine that in a few years after it's dirty and faded and gross? Then there's the pink Camo thing: that is the epitome of tacky tack!

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