The Best of the West
While the first thing you see on a Western saddle is its tooling and silver, the heart of the matter is hidden between the leather and the sheepskin lining--the tree. If you were one of my local clients, our conversation would go like this: "First we'll determine the shape of the tree your horse needs, then the style you need for your discipline, then the size of seat. With that information, I will start the hunt for that perfect saddle."
And that's what it is too, a hunt to find a saddle with the appropriate tree shape, made by the Steele Saddle Tree company. Why Steele? Because I haven't found another tree that I or my clients like as well. Steele is a three generation company, and the current owner came up with the "Fit to be seen" system of fiberglass forms in the major tree shapes. I as a saddle fitter, am grateful to not be heaving eight different saddles up on a horse's back as I sort out the best match.
That said, I have accounts with four different Western Saddle makers, all of which use Steele trees. My two favorites are Crates Leather Company and Rocking R. The only down side to either of these saddle makers is that it is a blue moon day when the saddle I need is ready to be shipped without a two month wait. On the other hand, something that works and is a thing of beauty is well worth the wait.
And while we're talking about something that works, I would like to introduce you to the Brown Freedom Saddle. Meleta Brown, World Champion Barrel Racer, put years into designing a saddle tree that would allow the horse's shoulder's the freedom to move. We've been riding her saddle on every horse that we can get to and about the only one that hasn't worked was an extremely overweight horse whose fat shoulders lifted the pommel more than I liked. On the other hand, the shoulders were still perfect!
Sheridan Rose Barrel Saddle Base Price $2395
Oakleaf and Acorn Barrel Saddle Base Price $2075
Basketweave Barrel Saddle Base Price $1950
Trail Saddle Base Price $1950