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Padded Seat vs. Hard Seat

Everyone has an opinion on what feels comfortable to them in a saddle seat.  Some folks like a plush cushy padded seat to make their ride more pleasurable.  Some prefer the other end of the extreme and want nothing between their tushy and the ground seat but a piece of skirting leather.

I believe the latter is the way to go.  As a craftsman, I spend quite a bit of time applying pieces of leather and sculpting/skiving each piece to insure the best possible balance and feel in each and every one of our saddle.  The last thing I want to do is cover up my hard work with a thick layer of synthetic foam that will completely change the way the saddle rides.

For the most part, consumers have grown accustomed to seeing saddles of all style with padded seats.  This has become the norm and because of that many folks judge the quality of the ride by the type of padding used instead of the quality of the ground seat the saddle has… in fact, many consumers have a limited understanding of what a ground seat even is much less what a properly crafted ground seat feels like.

If the ground seat is so important then why do so many manufacturers cover them up with padded seats?  The answer has two parts.  First of all, many manufactured saddles’ ground seats don’t get much attention in the build process.  Sometimes there isn’t even any kind of leather ground seat installed at all and the balance and feel of the saddle seat is left up solely to the tree maker… This seldom creates a seat that is properly fit for the rider.  With that, the padded seat is used to cover up poor craftsmanship in the ground seat and hopefully create a feel that is good enough to get the saddle from the sales rack into your tack room before the padding breaks down and you’re left with a poorly seated saddle.

The second reason so many saddles have padded seats is due to the more economical way manufacturers cut and install the final seat in their saddles.  The seat of a saddle is the biggest piece of leather that is cut in the entire saddle build and therefore the most expensive.  In order to cut cost some, the majority of manufacturers cut and install what is called a “three piece” or “split” seat.  Basically, instead of one big piece they cut two seat jockeys (left and right) that they skive and sew together in the middle of the saddle seat and then sew the padded seat over the top of the junction giving the finished product the appearance of a full seat.  Again, the padding they use covers the overlap and any bumps where the two jockeys come together… at least until the padding breaks down.

Padded seats definitely have a place in certain types of saddles and many manufacturers have a great seat in their saddles despite the three piece seat.  We often install padded seats in our saddles (no three piece seats allowed in our shop though) if the customer request it.  My only issue with them is the fact that the seat will change some over time due to the padding breaking down and also its something else to wear out and need replacing.  Since I work so hard to insure the quality of the ground seat in my saddles, I use a very thin foam that limits the change initially in my ground seat.

Many folks think the more padding the seat has the more comfortable it will be on longer rides.  This is not true at all.  A thick amount of padding lifts the rider out of the saddle to a position of being on top of the saddle instead of “in” the saddle allowing for a more balanced ride.  If the ground seat is done correctly, a hard seated saddle is much more comfortable and allows consistency over the life of the saddle.

If you want some proof of my opinion, look at the saddles that full time cowboys ride on big ranches where they ride from morning till night… you won’t see padded seats in many of those saddles.  Cowboys who are in a saddle all day seven days a week swear by hard seats.

Broken saddle tree?

So your tree is broke, what do you do with your saddle now? Personally I say throw it away. Most saddles out there are not worth replacing the tree in. You would never pay someone to replace the frame in your pickup after a wreck, saddles are the same.

Replacing the tree in a saddle is labor intensive and after its over you still have the same old saddle. The better option is to get a good used saddle that is in as good a shape and many times you can do this cheaper than replacing the tree.

If the saddle is something that seems impossible to replace then its worth using the broken tree as a model and getting a custom saddle built as close to it as possible. Most custom shops like us have the ability to reproduce even the most specialized trees. If that seems like too much of an investment then its not worth replacing the tree.

Most true custom saddles come with at least a ten year tree warranty if not a lifetime warranty like ours. In this case the saddle from the start is worth the trouble of tree replacement and should be of no cost to you.

When deciding what to do with that saddle with a broken tree, compare what is TRUELY worth to what it will cost to repair. Most of the time it isn’t worth the money… But it may make a great bar stool!

Hard to reach spots?

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Having trouble getting to the tight areas when oiling that saddle in your tack room? Here’s a trick I have learned!
Pam makes a spray olive oil that, although maybe a little pricey, works great for those spots a big fat hand won’t fit! Since we oil all our leather products with good clean olive oil, this oil in a spray can is a great complement in our shop and takes a lot of pressure and worry from the hard to reach!
Try this out and let us know what you think!

DGSaddlery first post!

This is the first post for our new blog here at DG Saddlery. Our plan with this is too post answers to common questions like saddle fitting, padding, leather care and much more. We also hope to use this to keep our great customers notified of things happening at the shop and places we are going.

Please feel free to log in and comment on any of our posting so that we are sure to fully answer any questions that you may have as we move along. We really enjoy hearing from our customers and helping them with issues that come up in the world of horses.

Our hopes are that this will become the main place where everyone can come to better educate themselves about saddles, saddle making, or anything western. Hopefully it will also be fun and interesting.

Be sure to visit our website DGSaddlery to view some of our work or to email us with questions or concerns.

We are really looking forward to this and hope you are as well.