How to make a western saddle - A western saddle begins with a tree that defines the shape of the seat, horn, swells and cantle. The saddle trees are usually not made in house as its made of a different material (fibreglass, wood or plastic). Some comes with a interchangeable gullet to allow the perfect fit for the horse’s back.
A master-level leatherworker puts a lot of time and pride in the making of a saddle. Please note the best way to learn how to make a new saddle from scratch is to take a saddle making course with a reputable saddler. We have simplified the process into a list of 11 simple steps for saddle making for beginners. However please keep in mind that they will differ slightly depending on the saddle maker and whether it is a western horse saddle or english saddles.
1) Cut out the hide
The first step involves setting up your crafting table and cutting all the leather parts out for the saddle. Make sure you lay the saddle parts out in order on the table so you don't mix them up.
2) Casing of the leather
The next step it to wet the leather pieces and leave in a wool blanket overnight to make it easier to shape to the tree.
3) Attach the leather to the tree
Carefully attach the leather pieces to the tree with glue, starting with the gullet. Use nails to keep the pieces in place. Any engraving of the saddle should be done before attaching it.
- Start with attaching the bars of the tree
- Attach the swell
- Attach the skirt
- Attach seat jockeys
- Attach the seat
4) Shade and sand the ground saddle seat
Six layers are used for the ground seat, and its sanded down for the perfect fit. seat of the saddle rider's weight
5) Tooling/engraving of the saddle
Many western saddles are made with fancy tooling and engraving. This is usually done when the leather is attached to the tree to make sure the pattern shows up and aligns as intented.
6) Stitching & Trim of leather
This is a tedios process and always done by hand. Some saddles are made with a contrast stitch to make it a part of the design. For example white stiching on brown leather.
7) Cut, twist and wrap the fenders
The stirrup leathers are attached and done before attaching them to the saddle and adding stirrups.
8) Cut out Conchos, carriers, billets, rear cinches, etc.
This step varies depending on what type of saddle you're riding in, roping saddle, cutting saddle or western pleasure.
9) Oiled with a heavy coat of pure neatsfoot oil
Finishing off with oiling the saddle with neatsfoot oil makes the leather pieces more symmetrical and seals the leather from water damage etc. It also makes it darker and more protected to wear and tear.
10) Wrap the horn
The saddle horn is left to last, wrap the saddle pieces around the horn and stitch up.
11) Final step - Attach cinch, stirrup leathers etc
The final product will be done once you add all the extra bits and pieces such as the cinch and billet straps to the sides of the saddle etc. Please note western saddle making is a bit different to English saddle making. Many saddle shops offer custom saddles, so you get to be a part of choosing leather color, different sizes and the right shape and gullet size for your horse. High-quality leather saddles takes a lot of work and care to make and maintain, if you keep the leather in good condition the saddle will last you a long time.