The Repair Shop

Rigging and ground seat of the retree


No matter how careful you are when taking the saddle apart, putting a new tree in a saddle can still be a very difficult process.

Here we have cleaned up the original rigging of this saddle and installed it on to the repaired tree. This is where I don’t worry so much about putting them back EXACTLY where they were to begin with. With this particular saddle, age and use has probably stretched the rigging somewhat out of alignment and proper alignment of the rigging insures the saddle rides square on the horse. For this reason, I install the riggings without paying attention to where they were and instead putting them where they should go. Sometimes you have to accept a little difference to get there but not enough that will affect the rest of the job.

Once I have the rigging installed I move on to the ground work. Luckily with this saddle we were able to utilize the ground work completely which saves some time. Each piece is installed just as it was when the saddle was first made. The great thing here is that all other parts will fit as original (seat, cantle back, plugs, and so on). On the occasion where these pieces can’t be used, you would install the groundwork as in a new saddle keeping in mind the way the old seat and such will fit with what your trying to recreate. This adds lots of time and labor.

After all this is completed, the cantle back and front should drop right in place and with the help of glue and elbow grease you are ready to put the seat in.

Occasionally when putting the front on, you will notice a difference in the horn hole thanks to the new horn cover. Everyone covers horns different and the original may have been thinker or thinner at the base. My suggestion here is to cut it bigger if it’s too tight (which is better) and if it’s too big, your only hope is that the glue will help to hold down the slack around the base.

The next post we will visit about installing the seat and binder which gets us to the point of washing and final assembly.

The work involved in a retree


This will be the first of a few blogs on putting a new tree in a saddle. In my opinion few saddles are worth the money to put a new tree in them. The misconception among most folks is that putting a tree in a saddle is something easy to do and is cheaper than getting a new saddle. Both of which are false.

For most saddles, a broken tree should be the end of the road. The thing to remember when contemplating the retree of any saddle is the age of the saddle. When we do a retree in the shop, ALL the original parts are used (except the horn and sometimes the binder) so the customer is getting back the same old saddle minus the broke tree part… And less money in their pocket.

This brings us to the price of the job. We charge a minimum of $1000 including the tree repair but not including any parts that have to be replaced, if any. The thing to consider here is what the saddle would be worth after the repairs. A custom saddle in good condition may have merit but a $600 saddle in poor condition probably not.

In these photos we have had the original tree completely restored and fiberglass covered making it as strong or stronger than when it was new. A new horn has been applied and we begin the retree by putting the gullet cover on and working on getting the original ground seat pieces back in place. This insures that the saddle sets as close to the same as it did before it was broken. Using the old pieces is sometimes difficult and we will sometimes have to install a completely new tin strainer and ground seat because they get destroyed taking them out. This adds cost to the job.

As you will see in the next few postings, putting a new tree in a saddle is anything but simple and very labor intensive. If a saddle is built correctly, it should be tough… Saddles, when built right, are not built to be taken apart.

When to replace stirrup leathers

“if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. This seems to be the thought with most people when it comes to their saddles, but this idea could lead to having to fix some body part when it comes to stirrup leathers. Some get lucky and the stirrup leather will brake right as you put your weight in the stirrup getting on or off your horse. Unless your riding a colt, this is usually in eventful. Other unfortunate souls will be leaned out over a steer or yearling about to take that perfect shot when… Here comes the ground. Ouch!

Take a second to check your leathers every so often. Look for heavy corrosion of the Blevins buckle, this can lead to the actual buckle braking. Look at the holes, are they stretched out or have cracking around the hole. Also, try to fold the leather in a couple spots. If you see the leather crack at the fold then it is probably time for a new pair.

When you decide that you need new stirrup leathers, or after the accident, replace both sides and DO NOT patch them. Patching stirrup leathers may be cheaper, but you are only buying time till… Here comes the ground! Ouch!

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!