Big Horn Western Saddle Restoration

This project pictured here is the restoration of a Big Horn saddle. It was made in the 1960's and was very popular for trail riding because of the huge fork and the comfortable seat. My customer wanted this saddle restored using as much of the original leather and parts as possible to keep the cost down. The saddletree remained intact, but 90% of the rest of the saddle was in very poor condition and had to be trashed. The photographs show that most of the horn covering was missing; the fork cover had pieces ripped out and clearly 60% of the padded seat was missing. The inskirt rigging on both sides was ripped out. The fenders and stirrup leathers were dry rotted and torn. The wool under the skirts was totally gone as was all trim, such as tie strings and conchos.

unrestored saddle unrestored saddle

The first step in restoring this saddle was to remove all the leather down to the tree and determine what could be salvaged. Unfortunately, we neglected to take a picture of the bare tree. This is a factory fiberglass-covered wooden tree. Even though the tree was sound, I sanded it down and applied a new coat of fiberglass for added strength. The photograph below shows that I have started to rewrap the horn and redo the strainer plate for the seat.

unrestored saddle

I retained the old fork cover for a tooling pattern. On the right (photograph below), you can see the new fork cover before it was tooled, dyed and fitted to the tree. The one thing that was changed about the fork cover was that the original had a welted seam and the owner requested that the new one be laced.

unrestored saddle

This picture shows a close up of the new fenders. They were carved with the horse head motif that was on the original; however, the customer had a ribbon added in at the bottom of the oval so that the saddle could be personalized with his initials.

On the finished project, you can see the completed fork cover and the new padded suede seat. The skirts have been redone from the inside out adding all new rigging to match the original and new wool. You will notice that the leather on the front rigging looks to be a little lighter than the rest of the saddle. In a short time with a little oil, usage and sunlight, it will match the saddle perfectly. New tie strings and silver conchos and nameplate have been added. A D-ring has been added at the back corner of the seat on both sides. These are not part of the original equipment, but are for buckling on saddlebags. All of the heavy leather, including covered deep roper stirrups, has been oiled and buffed to a nice shine. This saddle is comfortable like an old friend and has been revived for many more years of riding.

This type of restoration has to be priced on an individual basis because of the many variables.

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