Saddlemakers usually find their niche with one type of customer. There are reiners, cutters, cowboys, outfitters, buckaroos, cowpunchers, ropers, etc. that all have their specific needs for a saddle. The saddler often carves out a career doing work for the folks whom he can relate to and understand their respective needs. But I have always loved the variety and challenges from doing work for many different disciplines. Each of these disciplines bring different kinds of people and horses all having their own requirements and terminology unique to them. Years of experience dealing with these diverse factors made the challenges less overwhelming and feel more routine… “just another hard-to- fit horse or a funny exotic breed, a mule or a fancy bred quarter horse.”
After some 40 years it is easy to think you’ve seen it all.
But one day, the phone rang and someone asked if I could make a saddle for a donkey. At first, I thought someone was pulling a joke on me. But the joke ended when they told me that they were a few miles away and they would like to stop for a visit.
A very experienced rider can describe what he wants in a saddle faster than you can write it. But for others it’s a different story, and that was the case with this particular client. The lady and her donkey were desperate. She had tried many saddles for many years and had been turned down by saddlemakers from all over the country.
After trying a handful of saddle trees on the beast named Flash, (a halter and gymkhana champion) I realized the size of the problem. A few visits later with a tree in the wood, we finally had a decent fit and were able to talk about the leather work which was just as complicated as the tree work. None of the standard measurements fit. Everything had to be fitted to Flash. My many years of experience with a wide variety of equine animals and their owners had prepared me for the challenge.
Now the saddle is finished and the lady is happy but the challenge is not yet over. Breaching straps, a breast collar, a headstall, and a pommel bag need to be fabricated.
One very important small step is to stamp on the saddle what type of animal the saddle was designed for. Otherwise, a few years down the road, someone is going to saddle up a horse and really wonder about how well Pedro Pedrini’s saddles fit!