Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The giving tree

In the comments section for a recent post BeccaG wrote:  Perhaps it's time to admit...I have an ulterior motive in reading your blog. These past few posts have been particularly useful in leading me toward my ultimate goal--learning how to make an english saddle! (insert evil laughter here). Someday I'll figure it out! ;)

This rates as one of my all time favorite comments, mostly because it's exactly the sort of thing I might have written some seven or eight years ago.  I was a reasonably accomplished tackmaker back then.  I'd made a lot of bridles and halters, a couple Rio Rondo kit saddles and a team harness that had won a championship at NAN.  Still, I wasn't satisfied.  More than anything else, I wanted to make a nice English saddle.

This was a big goal and not an easy one to accomplish.  There were no KeriOkie books back then, and you couldn't yet buy cast English saddle trees from Alison's eBay shop.  I had to figure out how to make everything myself, and for the most part I was up to the task.  There was one thing, however, that I just couldn't seem to get a handle on.  That was the saddle tree.  Despite my best efforts, the secret behind making good model sized saddle trees continued to elude me.

And then, someone gave me a much needed nudge.  

I'm sure some of you remember Susan Dolittle.  To my knowledge, she's no longer active in the hobby, but back in the early 2000's she was turning out a lot of really nice English saddles.  I was a huge admirer of her work and sent her an email saying as much.  She responded and a few emails later, she sent me a couple pictures of one of her saddle trees.
It's only a slight exaggeration to say that these pictures changed my life.  
Now I should point out that Susan didn't send me a pattern or instructions.  She didn't teach me how to make a saddle.  I figured that out all by myself through a long process of trial and error.  Still, I owe her a huge debt for pointing me in the right direction.  

So when I post pictures like this:
or this:
what I'm really doing is paying forward the gift that Susan gave to me.  I'm sharing little pieces of the puzzle in hopes that they might resonate with someone like my younger self...  or BeccaG!


  1. I haunt your blog looking for exactly these kind of tips and inspirations to make my own tack better. Thank you very much for being kind enough to share how you do things!

    PS: Glad things are going better at home!

  2. Oh, you are a sweetheart! This post really made my day :D And those! I now see what I was doing wrong with the to work on it! Thanks so much!

    P.S. I just had one of those "Oooooh" moments! The holes in the "arms" of the tree...and the pins...I get it now!

  3. I really admire you for sharing your knowledge. A lot of people wouldn't.
    In fact a colleague of mine who writes a card making blog and sells her cards was looking for topics to blog on and I suggested giving some card making tips. She thought I was mad for suggesting she give away her secrets!
    I don't see it like that. I think the more you give, the more you receive. And you have to have confidence in your product at the end of the day - and yours are certainly worthy of that!

  4. Jenn, I enjoy reading your blog because it's fun. I have made one English saddle (mostly from a cast tree and KeriOkie instructions) but I really don't enjoy tack making. I also know that just because you share some knowledge of HOW you do what you do, it doesn't mean people will be able to do what you do. I would preffer to trade for your lovely tack (I better get some dolls made). I do enjoy seeing some of the behind the scenes part of your work.

  5. Do you sell ANY of your english saddles please?

  6. I'd love to see one picture where you can see under the saddle flap, where the girth goes! That would be wery helpfull.

  7. I use model tack for reference sometimes because people often don't take pictures of some parts of tack.
    Do you have any pictures of the girths on harnesses? No one really takes pictures of their horse's belly while tacked up. Pictures of cruppers on harnesses would also be super helpful!

    1. There are a lot of harness pictures scattered throughout this blog. I don't have much hands on experience with driving, so I tend to take a ton of pictures whenever I have the opportunity.