Saddle Customization
is more beneficial, less cost, 
than you think

Why own a saddle that’s customized for me?

What’s the largest problem I see when helping horse owners, (or owners to be), with buying a new or used saddle? People get caught up in some “deal” with “not enough” regard to their true needs.

Often, if the saddle seems to probably fit the horse, it's priced somewhat “bargain”, you’re convinced somebody else may snatch it first, and especially if used and “good”, or “fixable”, shape, there’s this “gotta have a deal” mentality which will tend to push your purchase into a big WRONG!  

WHY DOES the RIGHT SADDLE Make such a Difference in our Lives?

1) The Experience - We all spend very much time at work, (or with other very necessary distractions), don't we? Yet, there’s something about time in the saddle! Every human needs a reason to, a way of, a purpose for, enjoyment during our limited free time, don’t we?  So horse people ponder & dream about our horse, our previous rides, our next ride, our best ride, until we’re really ecstatic about going to hit the trails, or the arena. We want our chance to even better our best experience! - This day might be “the” day.

       “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” - Sir Winston Churchill.     

Our imaginations are full of combining our balance with the strength of our steed. We yearn for massive meaning through such discovery as can be accomplished with an animal this large.

Some of us feel united with favorite movies, or heroes, or warriors, of our memories!  Some of us relish the wind through our hair, the gentle bounce of a canter, the strength we feel in an extended trot, or accomplishment of a jump over a fence, or refining our dressage or reining movement. Some of us see ourselves pick strategically though creeks. Some of us would rather jump & splash through those creeks.

Some of us love to show off the ribbon or trophy that holds meaning of all the effort, time, and focus to earn it. Some of us just need a time of quiet, to hear the stillness, with reflections, honor & grace. Some of us need to tend herds, inspect fencing, check trees, or smell the fresh earth, taste the terrain, as we plan for the next seasons.

Time with your horse definitely invites romance, has even led to extended families and children, has led to better business decisions, has led to sanity in an insane world! It invites a time of gratitude; a time of bringing back to mind the best of the best things that happened during the past year(s). Riding encourages a person to realize that all the stresses of life are there so you can have these few moments of “Real Life” between God & Nature.

For some, it is the ultimate in competition among peers; for some, riding maintains a learning experience that holds instant reward because we know we’re really, gradually, improving our whole Self. We avert stress. We’re not comparing our abilities to impossibilities we face in other facets of life. For most of us, riding is simply a comparison of, a knowledge of, a presence of holding a place in this life, this world, which offers meaning, entreats growth, & affords opportunities that without team of horse & rider, could never be understood. 

2) Safety – To know your child, your parent, your own self will not rotate underneath the fleeting hoofbeats of a scared or angry horse from ill fitting or slippery materials! To know when a covey of quail, or a bobcat growl, or a sudden turn in surprising, or planned, direction will be an athletic circle and not a broken arm, leg or back… 

3) Trust – Knowing you are one with your steed; understanding this isn’t a kitten or puppy, and that the risks and rewards are much more superior! To nudge, not kick the encouragement you both need to move forward on a life journey…

So, if any of this reasoning identifies why you have a horse, Why would you settle for anything less than the best “contact” between you and your horse?   I do understand temporary. [However, (metaphor coming) you could walk everywhere you go. You could ride a moped. At times you do. But you usually chose the protection, the speed, the safety, the security of a truck? Yes. I own a bicycle and love that experience too. But I need better means to be able to accomplish all I need to accomplish.] And if you did not identify with any of the feelings of power, and authority, and awe, and belonging, above, maybe it's time you did!

Don't you deserve better?  It's not just the used saddles. You don’t have to settle for what’s immediately available. Many saddle makers have hundreds of production models on their floor, ready to ship. Many of the best saddlers simply make them as orders come in. They stay 100% busy by doing their best for you, and reputation keeps them busy, 1 at a time.  I have from 130 to 150 new saddles most days, in stock, ready to try on.  I say try on, because today, you don't settle for what I or any other dealer has in stock. The saddles are here to discover your best choice. (And sometimes, one of them works really well for you!)

I remember being 17, starting Cultured Cowboy as Walking T Stables & Tack, with 3 Simco saddles. 1 barrel 1 pleasure 1 roper. I rode English, but my major market did not. (I had another half doz saddles in the barn to try on too. – They weren’t for sale.) In those days, all we knew was either round skirt, or full skirt, seat size, (usually too big), and lots of pads to make stuff work. Wow – Ralide trees were brand new! And this was just before everybody was beginning to wear 2 lbs of feathers & fur clipped on a really tall crown hat!

Today we have more pad selection than ever. That's good! Most of the padding we used in the 70's is (thank goodness) long gone. Much has improved over the years. Gels, foams, fleece, covers, even wear leather positioning, the way we join sides to make better air channels & wither relief, and pockets on pads are so much better, today. We understand everything from chiropractic to bridging much better. WE know there are specialized saddles today for every event. The opportunities for fit & function are tremendous now.  So why are over half our riders settling for less?

Perhaps because of the same reasoning of much unhappiness in life, from families splitting to lack of confidence. - Not having the right guidance, the right instruction; going by the “seat of our pants”, or hearing from influential others who know less than they should, to be giving you advice. Sometimes we trust a name brand. But the brands usually make a large selection, while only specializing in a couple things. Brands understand target marketing, and confusion too. Brands are great! Ya just gotta know how they think!

I began this writing with used saddles. If the saddle is in good shape, will it perform for you as you need? fits both horse & rider as it should? Get it. If it’s not what works, just resell it, right? This might take months of your valuable time. Well, what about new saddles?  They come with warranty to the original purchaser. Not the second guy, unless the maker is exceptional. (Some Are!)  

With new saddles, and the right makers, you have a lot more options available to get exactly what meets your needs, than you might think.  And semi-custom, or customized saddles are really the best bargains for most riders. Cultured Cowboy has working relationships with several experienced saddle makers who also understand how important fit and function are to your years of enjoyment.   But unfortunately, there are more profits in cheap junk than the good stuff!
      Read more to see what to avoid:

Two saddle examples I recently took on trade (and Why they were traded) were: 1st) made in India. India is best known for water buffalo tack: often belly leather, lots of open pores, stretchy;  tarnished “before you get it” silver plate;  not tightly bound, cotton stitching;  low wages, accused of child labor whether true or not,  ‘nough said.  Yet, I love “Bobby’s Tack”, best maker of English bridle leather stuff! His quality is unsurpassed, and made in India too. He is one of life’s exceptions. Ya can’t slam a country that is trying hard to change! They are on the “uplift”. Both India & China understand and relish the horsehair & leather potentials!  (God Bless that we’re all understanding economic inter-dependency, and may economics begin more unity which leads to a whole world that treats our “neighbor” as our self.)

(OK back to saddle relevancy) One customer bought a “deal” brand new. She assumed the cloth was Cordura nylon. It wasn’t. It was a stiff canvas glued to bonded leather. The canvas wrinkled loose on her first ride. Rubbed blisters under the rider’s thighs. Manufacturer’s warrantee – You return to the maker for inspection. Cost too much to return (more than paid for the saddle) to the maker out of the USA. (Buyer beware of auction rules.) Buyer Dealer was USA addressed, but was actually the agent for the company in India. 

2nd nightmare) Supposed to have been a Cordura nylon combo saddle. It was not Cordura. Looked great when rode the 1st time. But, a few rides later: cotton edge binding on the skirt tore out. Everything metal rusted. The leather used got so stiff…  Cultured Cowboy has conditioned it 3X, and it still won’t soften. I asked someone how old they thought it might be. They guessed about 20 years. It’s closer to three.   

OK, 3rd surprise) Another saddle was supposed to be leather. Hand laced. Buckstitched. Good lookin.  Loosened up as it was ridden. So it was just left abandoned by the owner. The “finance” lender brought it to us. A very thin piece of tooled leather was glued to what is in effect pressed paper, even the skirts. When damp, you can dig it out with your fingernails! What was supposed to happen when it got wet from sweat, or rain, or riding through a creek? Again, buyer beware sales.  Why did I take ‘em on trade? To show people some of what/why not to buy!

The first two: traded for a saddle they really needed. The last one: lost their dream. Got out of the horse “business”.

#4) This saddle came to us with a broken tree. The owner thought it was because the horse suddenly went “wild”, threw the rider and fell rolling over the saddle and cracking the tree. Nails were poking in places they should not. Inspection revealed the saddle probably broke when pressure was placed on the bars of the saddle as it was tightened. Wood split from ill placed screws. Then the nails and broken wood hurt the horse which began the wreck that happened. When asked if it could be fixed, the answer was easily no.

Most saddle dealers could tell you a lot of these stories of how “lucky” people are that they didn’t get hurt. And this doesn’t address wrong use, ropers looking saddles never designed to catch a cow, and such. The wrong barrel saddle can cost you time, can hurt your horse so it actually quits, balks, or injures itself trying to run. Bad fitting saddles can exacerbate rider injuries.

What if the stirrups can’t come up enough to allow proper pressure on ball of your foot, with a comfortable leg position? Your ride sucks. Too big a seat or too small a seat – thigh/calf position -  al make a difference in your comfort and riding ability!  You’re probably a better rider than you think – if you have the right tools. 

So are you worried about price? Saddles depreciate, but not at the thousands of $$$ that your truck will. Or your trailer. Still you buy a truck. What’s the cost of trading saddles till you get the right one? If yer tradin’ horses every week, go ahead, you’ll pair it with an animal, if it halfway fits the rider, yer OK, huh?  If you’re trying to outfit your 1 or 2 personal horses, without some guidance from a riding coach, or a dealer that actually works with horses, and riders, I’ve heard from hundreds of horse people, that they trade a few saddles till something works.

If so, the average expense of getting towards the correct saddle is about $600.00, or a $200.00 drop per, thrown away as “learning” experiences, before you ever buy a saddle that works.  Studies show that the average price of a new saddle sold on the Internet is about $1680.00, US.  Most horse owners have income enough to afford this easily. Cultured Cowboy can fully customize saddles starting at $1900.00 and semi, starting at $1300.00. (Fall 2017 pricing)

We have some production imports that sell pretty low, and can ride pretty high. (Cheaper silver plate parade/show/pleasure saddles sometimes start at $650.00. Finished in USA, mostly built overseas.) But they will look worn quickly, if you’re riding them hard. These are best used to package with a horse and make a deal look sweeter upon re-selling the package.

Cordura cross, (worth riding) start at under $600.00. Better ones average about $790.00. Best ones are $1250+. Beware those made with inexpensive couch fabrics, polypropylene support straps and nickel plated stirrup buckles. Rust cuts into the poly. And the poly gets harder and brittle over time. Nylon will stay soft. Stainless will last much longer before corroding. We prefer BigHorn & Fabtron over other brands. 

 We have a line of JT International saddles, treeless, very adjustable, modeled after a $2800.00 Australian saddle, (but all synthetic) for under $320.00. (This saddle has to be ridden to be believed. Beats a bareback pad all to death!) We have Kathy’s Tack & Sterling P, and Bowman saddles that are available for the more discriminating competitors. All these are custom made for high end clients. As an investment, one of the best!  (When the prize money available is well over the investment required, experienced competitors understand that the 20 – 25% of 1st through 5th place rating is upon the tack & dress presentation …)

The best deals for usin’ saddles – we got ‘em. Figure $1600 to 2800.00.  Trail saddles? BigHorn has Sil-Cush, a dream come true for older riders. And they have variations made for those under 60 too!  Our Dakota 213 can be customized with almost any tree, any seat size, any inseam need, at pricing we are not allowed to advertise.   Hard to fit horses, Call us. Does the rider have a previous injury that is of concern: knees, lower back? Call us. Young rider? Mature rider? 1st time rider?  Professional horseman? Call us.  Reinsman, Tucker, Circle Y?  Garoutte, Dakota, BigHorn, American? Sterling P, Kathy’s, Bowman? Many of these companies are onto 2nd or 3rd generation. Some are made start to finish by one saddler. Some are made on a production line where a worker only does a couple steps on every saddle in their production line.  Did they pass forward their legacy? Some did. Some great makers are so busy that they don’t advertise like other major brands. They choose to spend time doing what they love – making quality saddles. Remember that advertising costs must be passed to consumers by large advertising manufacturers.

If your legs are short or long, will you buy a truck whose reaching the pedals will make driving dangerous?  Then, why not so with your saddle?  GET THOSE STIRRUPS WHERE YOU NEED THEM. Not all saddlers offer this option. Yes, all saddles stirrup leathers have a lot of adjustment. But, do you want a great big glob of bulk under your leg to make the things short enough to touch your toes into the stirrup & not lose them?  NO.  You want proper leg contact with your horse. You need to be able to place the weight of your leg onto the ball of your foot with your heels downward. You need to have this relaxed position to better cue your horse as well as for proper balance. And without a “bulk” under your leg to interfere.

What about seat size? Are you buying a 16 inch seat because it's the most popular? It is, but that does not mean it’s best for you. I had one PRCA professional rider downsize just 1 inch in his seat. His position improved enough to make him a lot of money he would have never made before. I had another rider go up an inch. This allowed better positioning on her horse. It relieved lower back problems for both horse & rider.  For most rides, have 2 fingers between the cantle top & your back. And 2 fingers between front of your thigh and the base of the pommel. (this can change with certain horse sports, “growing kids” and rider agility)

What about cantle height? What if you ever/never had a lower back injury or defect? You have certain foams available, that the US government spent NASA millions to develop. Could the right seating make the difference in how long, or how comfy, or how supportive you ride? What if you like to stand in the stirrups to ease yer body some from all that sitting, or to throw a rope? Would a bicycle seat make all the difference, or is a full seat best for you?

Almost everyone is familiar with gullet width, and some with gullet height. These play tremendous importance in fitting your horse. But did you know that center fire rigging, which actually adjusts from 7/8 to center, can affect more than most standards in many riding endeavors? This allows you to find that “sweet spot”, (forward to back,), where the saddle rests comfortably, with the girth positioned as is needed for rider security. No elbow interference.  Did you know that Semi QH bars are made to fit more on the top of rib cage for speed, and getting out of the way of a barrel horse, while Full QH bars wrap around most horse side a little more for security when turning or roping? They both fit 80% of horses running. It's a lot of other little subtle differences that cull the winners from losers.

What about rigging diversity? While center fire variability could be best for your trails? Would a re-enforced flank help set the saddle as you work your cattle?  IS the sweet spot of your horse gonna work better with 7/8 or ¾ rigging?  Can you get a plate that allows both?  What about a deep drop rig vs in-skirt rigging? Which is better for your use? (call us)

I could spend 30 – 60 minutes discoursing the advantages of roughout/ smoothout/ sanded topgrain leathers next to the rider. Or, Real Sheep Vs. Better Synthetic bottoms. (I hate the slick acrylics & will no longer give them as an option, though they may save $50.00 to $200.00 on the price of a saddle.)  Or, fender styles, or short back horses & weight distribution. (Don’t assume the skirting is too long. Skirts flex out of the way. Where does your tree bar hit?) Almost all saddle tree’s bars now flair out or are angled away at the front/rear edges, to prevent “digging in”.  

Or “does a 19 lb saddle” have any advantageous influence on the affect of your horse of 950 lbs. (As a 14 yr old Boy Scout, I carried 45 lbs on my back for 10 mile hikes, without any undue distress. It was adjusted to fit properly. I weighed about 135 lbs.  What was the percentage distribution of even 35 lbs on two 1.5 inch padded straps over each of my shoulders, pressing into my small clavicles, Vs. 55 lbs of tack plus your weight on a 1000lb equine with bars of 5 inch width & 20 inch length along both sides of the ribcage?) If the saddle is a properly designed trail saddle, one that weighs 35 lbs will be as easy to lift as a 25 lb saddle which does not allow you to lift as close to your body.  (Call us)

Your boney structure of horse worry should maybe concentrate on the amount of closure of  leg bones, the epiphysis & diaphysis of the leg bones. (  This is indicative of the rest of the horse’s body structure. A 16 hand 2 yr old has no business doing the loads expected from a 14.3 hand 4 year old!  Over 45 years of experience tells me, you either have a great mature horse, or a “wonder” young horse. My bro-in-law is a scout for the Atlanta Braves. He will quickly advise that young pitchers develop skill. Diversity, rather than a 90 mph fast ball is key in a young pitcher. Throwing too fast too early is a path to injury! Ditto, your horses! Wrong tack, as well as starting too early, will emphasize injury in young horses. Got a good horse? Take the time the “HORSE” needs.

TIME BITCHES, CONCERNS:  Regardless, … saddles made just for you, can usually be delivered from 6 to 12 weeks., depending on the tree maker’s availability to the saddler. (yeah, those custom show saddles from our best makers can take up to 6 months or even a year, depending on your requests.) There are limits on the number a person with quality of skills, can deliver. Ya want ‘em delivered right!  If it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting on!  Plan ahead, or borrow till yours comes. When you purchase your horse, you could make this time of tack, a condition of your total purchase.

OK, so I have a lot of saddles ready to go. With makers who have stuff on the floor & my inventory, over 2000 saddles.  I appreciate the immediate variety. I do care that you get what you want & need, so your rides are “dreams come true”; not “masters of disaster”.

If ya want the “BEST” experience with your horse, give this experience all you can! I’m not bashing anybody. I am suggesting that you search for long term satisfaction, rather than spur of the moment gratifications.  How many of you have called, and I advised you think about it a day? Send me pics of the horse? Tell me more about your riding? What are your goals? If your horsey dream came true, what would that be like? I purposely delayed a day or two. …Most of you.

I’m not in this business for just the $$$. Or, I’d have “buy” buttons, overnite shipping, cheap crap sold high, and such. Rather, I help people with saddles, boots, chaps, and bits, because of my love for many God-given opportunities for us all to have our “experiences” of our lifetime!  

    God Bless you all.


Do me a favor…  Write questions, comments, concerns, to  Don’t expect an immediate response, just a reasonable response time. I’m 61 & have a family life too. And I like to play with my horses, as do you. This ain’t a foreign deal. Not an automated click deal. It’s a real deal.

I get somewhat concerned about people coming to me after they made several mistakes. (It's the Daddy in me.) Though I’m more than happy to help, their frustrations could have been avoided.  Please copy/paste this article to your buds, so we can, together, best help everyone own their best choice!  Please keep my contact info with it as you do. 



This article may be reprinted with permission from only after asking for said permission, and with a credit acknowledging Cultured Cowboy as author, preferably a link to our site, and our phone numbers  Thanks.
(864) 223-3700 | (866) 492 6926 toll free

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