Hey guys!  I have tons of pictures of my new saddle in process!  How exciting!!

I wanted to share with you the BIG difference between a true custom saddle & an off-the-rack saddle, there are TONS of differences of course, from choosing the type of tree the saddle is built on to the design of the tooling & color of leather.  There are a few saddle shops that make what they call ‘custom’ saddles, some are better than others, but basically you choose between 2 or 3 gullet widths, then you’re allowed to choose some finishing touches (leather color, tooling, add-ons, etc.)  It’s easy to spend $3,000+ on a saddle like that.

tree with cantle
Here’s a photo of my tree when Crystal had just started to work on it, you can see the rawhide covered tree with some leather already attached.

What I have chosen to do is get a custom saddle, built on a custom tree.  I choose the height & width of the horn & fork as well as the height, width, and dish of the cantle, which combined decide the design & usability of the saddle. and got some good input on the measurements of the bars to fit my horses.  Since I didn’t order the tree to fit a specific horse, I am hoping to get a saddle that will fit a lot of different horses well.

So….how did I find a saddle tree maker?  Well my first choice, Rod Nikkel recently retired, but you should still check out the blog his amazing wife Denise writes…SO much saddle fit information!!  www.rodnikkel.com 

I was super excited when I found a female saddle maker who makes beautiful wade style saddles in the great basin style that I love!  Turns out Crystal Smith apprenticed with Kent Frecker (who makes Buck & Reata Brannaman’s saddles).  So when I found her I was pumped!!  Crystal recommended one of Kent’s custom trees, so the order was placed & my deposit was sent, and I was officially in line!  🙂

After my wait was up & my tree was built, Crystal got to work.  HERE is the BIG difference….the ground seat:

Starting to add layers
Starting to add layers
blending the ground seat
blending the ground seat








Most saddles are mass-produced, a pre-made seat is slapped on the tree (which may or may not be made of wood), and covered with a layer of leather.  Some saddle companies know their saddles aren’t very comfortable, so they cover them in gel so you can’t feel them!  THIS ground seat IS the difference between a custom saddle, this is the reason custom saddles start around $3,500.  The saddle maker blends the shape of the seat so that your bones are supported by leather & the leather is supported by the tree of the saddle.

carving the ground seat
carving the ground seat

I’m sure you’ve sat on saddles where you can feel the bars of the tree under your thigh.  When you sit in a custom saddle the ground seat made of layers & layers of leather is carved so that the riders’ pelvis & femurs are supported.  When I describe the difference between a ground seat & a pre-fab seat I offer this analogy:  make a stack of magazines about an inch tall, then compare them to a hardcover book of the same height.  Now push your finger down on each, which is softer?  Now imagine the magazines are carved to conform to your body vs the book gets carved into a standard hourglass figure.  Which would you prefer to sit on?begining cantleNext up, the rigging, the skirts & TOOLING!!  😀  Looking forward to riding my new custom saddle!

If you’re interested in ordering a custom saddle shoot me an email, I have the tools to measure a specific horse to order a custom tree.  I have tons of experience helping people find saddles that fit them just right, like jeans one-size does not fit all, and I know what questions to ask you in order to get all the qualities you want in your custom saddle!

830 thoughts on “Why I pay $4,000+ for a saddle

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