Thursday, April 8, 2010

Worth the effort?

I finished the saddle.I know this looks a lot like every other dressage saddle I've ever made, but there are some small but significant differences. Most of these can be found in the front part of the seat section, specifically the pommel and the twist.
I think most model tackmakers struggle with these areas. I know I do. It's really hard to get the pommel high enough, the twist narrow enough and still have the saddle fit the model properly. I haven't quite figured out the solution to these problems, but I think I got a step closer with this saddle.
Another thing that is unique about this saddle is the lack of stitch-marking. I've always stitch-marked my English saddles, but recently it was brought to my attention that, unlike huntseat saddles, most real dressage saddles aren't stitched around the flaps. I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled by that reminder. The model horse hobby tends to regard stitch-marking as a sign of quality. Leaving it off made me feel a bit shoddy and second-rate.

Now that it's finished, though, I'm warming up to the look. It's rather elegant...
So, all these little changes that most people probably won't notice--are they worth it?

Yesterday, in the midst of the struggle, I might have said no. Today, I'm back on the yes side. Every gain, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. It's not in my nature to be complacent. I want my saddles to look and fit just like the real thing, and little by little, I'm edging closer to that goal.


  1. I think it is stunning. But then I don't think I've seen anything but stunning saddles from you!
    I don't know enough about dressage saddles to say if the changes are better or not.

  2. It's incredible! It looks real. I love it, I think it was well worth it.

  3. I agree, it was well worth the effort! Lovely work, as always. : )

  4. Nope, not worth the effort at all. I think you should hide it at my house. I will keep anyone from seeing it. So, just box it up right now to save the embarassment, and send it to me!

  5. I like Linda's comment!

  6. Looks beautiful! It's really nice to see tackmakers like yourself sticking to real life examples instead of loading up with every possible bell & whistle that might not be realistic.

  7. It's amazing. I have all the leather and tools, where do you get patterns etc? My mom makes a ton of leather things so I have more tools than you would imagine and a whole abundant stock of different types of leather. Recently she got some dyed pigskin that would make lovely easy to work with leather for trying my hand at making some model stuff.

  8. well I think that I need it, I mean come on, my one (well two, well maybe three) dressage saddle from you are totally out of date, what should I do??
    But I would be willing to hide it at my house to help you out!
    But really, I like the little adjustments. And true, my real dressage saddle isn't stiched around the flaps...funny never thought about it before!

  9. Another incredible work of art! There is no doubt your tack is the most realistic I've ever seen. I agree that it is very elegant, and I like the lack of stitched flaps. Out of curiosity, do you have a specific dressage saddle you use as your reference model?

    Great job, Jennifer! It is beautiful!!

  10. Hahaha! You all are soooo funny. I don't think the saddle needs to be hidden anywhere. In fact, I am generally pleased with the way it turned out. Still,there is a part of me that wonders if the extra three or four hours I spent on the seat section was time well spent... The changes are so small, but then again, even an eighth of an inch makes a difference at this scale. And when you change one piece, it affects all the others. I actually cut three separate sets of jockey flaps for this saddle. The first two *almost* worked with the new seat pattern. Almost.

    Sydney, you should totally give model tackmaking a try, but I should warn you--it's addictive. I make all my own patterns and it's a lot of trial and error. Patience really is a virtue when it comes to tackmaking!

    Buckpony--this saddle is based on a couple different saddles. The new seat section was largely (but not entirely) inspired by an Albion. However, I recycled an old (2008) pattern for the flaps and panels. I know I used a specific saddle when I developed those pieces, but I can't remember what it was. I used to be able to keep track of all that stuff in my head, but not so much anymore!

    Anyways, thanks everyone! The kind words are really appreciated.

  11. Well, it looks beautiful!

    I approve of leaving off the stitch markings. Being new to the hobby, I tend to notice things that are hobby-unique and not reality based, and in researching Western saddles I had noticed that a lot of model tack makers get happy with the stitch markings, especially around the fenders and jockeys where most Western saddles don't have stitching. If it doesn't have stitches there in a real saddle, it doesn't need them in the model, even if it adds definition and looks "detailed"!

  12. Like Allie says, I am used to reality based, not things that are specific to the hobby. =)

    Is the problem with twist/pommel/model fit something that can be fixed for model fit by panels or panel materials? Such that it might not look as correct on its own, but on the horse looks exactly like real life (like two piece brows on bridles for certain forelocked horses)?

    I like the balance of the saddle, and definitely like less stitching ;-).

    Things to look for in next project (as always, this is only my eye of how to get it closer to reality... I think your work rocks!). The pommel.... many pommels that have the angle farther back like yours are that way because they are a cutback. Or else the detailing of the skirt and seat has more "rolls" or levels of detail.
    Of course, so many of the more "modern" dressage saddles do so many innovative/ experimental/ non-traditional things that it can be hard to know just what is considered correct. Also, many have gusseted panels to allow more contact/fullness through the panels under the cantle, not that you would need to do gussets (a nightmare at that scale!) but notice there is more full contact and less rock when the saddle is on a horse and being used.

  13. I had always thought (coming from the English/German saddle side of things) that stitch marking around the flaps indicates that two thinner pieces of leather have been used for the flaps, and that used to indicate a lesser quality (that the maker couldn't afford the thicker flap leather). I have noticed most huntseat saddles in the US have stitching round the edges, whereas most saddles of all types in england rarely have that stitching. Hence my saddles rarely display it and probably why my saddles have never been uber-popular in the US. Food for thought!

  14. Being a western tackmaker, I have to weigh in on the placement of stitch marks there - while there is an amazing variety of styles and makes, most do have stitch markings all around the jockeys (except the top edge where it meets the seat), and all the way around the fenders. Here's an example:

    While I am sure there are examples of saddles without stitch markings there, I felt uncomfortable with the word "most".

    It IS good to keep checking back to what the real horse world is doing though, and this is a good reminder. It is easy for us in model horse land to just make up what we think looks pretty and go with it!

  15. Lauren, I just *have* to say that real English saddles with stitched flaps aren't made from lesser quality leather--at least not as a rule. In fact, you'll find the stitching on a lot of the high-end brands, most of which come from England and continental Europe. There aren't a lot of English saddles made in the United States. Even the home brands for American tack companies usually come from somewhere else. Fifteen years ago that somewhere else was almost always England, but that could have changed by now.

    I do think it's possible that in many cases only saddles bound for the US are stitched. I remember looking at wholesale catalogs for companies like Hermes and Butet and marveling over how different their European marketed saddles looked form their American counterparts. Different styles for different markets and all that...

    Erin, I can't get your link to work but I can guess what the saddle you referenced looks like. I'm guessing it's a fully tooled modern Western show saddle with lots of silver. Those saddles will almost always have the stitched edge. I know this is the sort of saddle you specialize in, so I think you should party on with the stitchmarking! Now if you were doing another sort of Western saddle, it might be a different story. Again, different styles for different markets!

    So much to think about! Thanks everyone for an interesting discussion.

  16. I LOVE black stirrup pads. Which reminds me, when I can, I need to get a new pair for my *real* dressage saddle.

  17. Teresa, you are so funny! Thanks for not writing about stitch marking. I had no idea that discussing that here would open such a can of worms!

    The stirrups are from Alison Bennish and come with the black pads. My real saddle has Stubben irons which also came with black pads. Most of the replacement pads you see are white, so I guess that makes the black ones sort of memorable!

  18. Glad to make ya LOL Jennifer! I prefer the black ones as they, to me, look polished, and don't show the mud, crap and other stuff I usually slather on the bottom of my shoes and then climb on Flick with!

    Besides, white pads, white horse stomach - a big NO NO NO NO in my life. White rubber yellows and looks disgusting as it ages. Flick's stomach is only cuter with age.

  19. Hey how much to buy one of you english model horse saddles? :)

  20. what is the pricing for a saddle like this one

  21. I honestly like the look without stich marks but just for the record, here's a saddle with stich marks