Getting the right fit when saddling a horse
Story and photo by Carolyn Kaberline
Before Scott Thomas, of Campbell, Texas, tries to fit a saddle to a horse, he first wants to know a little bit about the horse and its rider.
“I want to know what kind of issues the owner is having,” Thomas said. “I also want to know how the horse is reacting to the saddle and how the horse is being used—whether it’s used for a hobby or it’s part of a business. It helps me decide on the type of saddle that might work.”
Thomas, who “has been in the saddle business all his life,” spent Saturday at R Bar B Saddle Tack and Trailer near Topeka fitting saddles for horses that were brought by their owners from as far away as Salina.
“I rode in rodeos and grew up on a ranch,” Thomas said, adding that his father, who still lives in Colorado, owned a saddle shop then and still does. After earning a degree in agriculture business from Colorado State University in 1996, Thomas, who liked working with his hands, decided to go into saddlemaking. He then apprenticed with a saddlemaker in Oklahoma to learn the trade.
Now under contract for Circle Y Saddles in Yoacum, Texas, Thomas spends 10 to 12 weekends a year traveling around the country and fitting saddles like he did at Saturday’s event.
During the course of his fittings, he noted that some of the most common causes of poor fitting saddles that he’s run into recently are overweight or underweight horses or young horses still changing as they grow. He also says that owners often use saddles that are too narrow for their horses.
In addition to critiquing saddle fits, Thomas also took orders for his saddles, explaining that a saddle usually takes about two months to build with costs ranging from $1,500 to $3,500. In building a saddle, Thomas usually designs the base tree, then fits the tree to the horse and rider, “and then it’s the cosmetics from there.”
Thomas notes that while riders in past years were content with steer-hide and bull-hide, some tooling and perhaps silver on saddles, today’s riders are into exotic leathers such as stingray and ostrich and into bright colors such as pink.
Even though Thomas could only spend one day in the area, he noted that he and R Bar B owner Russ Brown had designed several saddle trees.
“I’m leaving a sample set here, so Russ can continue to fit saddles and show people what we’re doing,” Thomas said.
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