Friday, June 29, 2012

Tackmaker OCD

Yesterday the kids and I and some of our friends went to Casa Bonita.  

This theme restaurant is a Colorado landmark, featuring a huge dining area complete with thirty foot waterfall, live entertainment and mediocre Mexican food.  There are also two arcades, one with games and another with rides.

My kids know me a little too well.  As soon as they saw this palomino, they knew they were going to be required to pose on it.  James went first.  I snapped his picture quickly...
and then I noticed the bridle.  Ugh.  That's not how it's supposed to go together.
I tried to ignore it--I really did--but my tackmaker OCD was going crazy.  Carol said, "Just fix it already."  So I did.
 Whew!  That's much better.
Although--and I can't ignore this either--he still needs a curb strap...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Native American saddlery at the Old West Show & Auction

Today's photos feature some of the Native American tack and regalia that was on display at Brian Lebel's Cody Old West Show and Auction which was held last weekend at the Denver Merchandise Mart.  Once again, I'm mostly focusing on items featured in the auction and all information comes directly from the catalog.

First up is this lovely Crow frame saddle.  It is shown atop a Cree saddle blanket that is made of wool and cotton cloth with multicolor leaf and floral designs.
I haven't seen a saddle this nice outside of a museum so I took lots...
and lots...
of detail shots!
There is no rule against touching the auction items so I also peeked under the cover to get a better look at the rigging.
Here's another Crow item.  This martingale is made of red trade cloth and Muslin and features multicolored beadwork in geometric patterns.
This beaded pad saddle is of Cree origin.
 The tassels are made of yarn and feature glass tubular beads.
I love horse masks so I was especially taken with this Santee Sioux hide mask.
It is quilled in a leaf and flower pattern and sewn in sections with fringe along both the seams and edges.
Another mask, this one was on the show room floor and didn't have any visible documentation.
Isn't it neat? 
 Speaking of neat...
 This old McClellan saddle has been covered with contemporary beadwork.
Detail of the pommel...
 and the included saddlebags.
As always, tack and costume makers are welcome to save these pictures for reference purposes.  Please do not republish without permission!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


If you've watched the news at all this week, you know that Colorado is burning.
Chris Rains photo
There have been no less than twelve major wildfires in the state this month.  The High Park fire near Fort Collins has destroyed more than two hundred homes, and yesterday the Waldo Canyon Fire roared into the city of Colorado Springs engulfing entire neighborhoods and causing mass evacuations.

Several people have inquired about my family's safety, and we are fine.  We live in a suburb on the east side of Denver and are a long way from the flames.  

Still, there's a lot to be sad about.  One of the casualties of yesterday's firestorm was the Flying W Ranch.
My family visited the Flying W last summer and had a great time walking through the old buildings, 
 meeting the livestock,
learning to rope!
 The Flying W has been a Colorado institution since 1953 and will be greatly missed.
Closer to home, we said goodbye to the youngest saddle rat, Holly, today. 
Losing a rat is a small thing compared to losing a home, but loss is loss and we're all feeling very overwhelmed and blue.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring relief on all fronts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Me... on a model horse!

Have you ever dreamed of riding one of your model horses?
In 1984, Just About Horses magazine featured an article explaining one method to "put yourself on a Breyer horse."
I have very specific memories of my best friend, Sarah, and I discussing this article.  Although the pictures weren't terribly realistic, they were awfully fun.  We imagined ourselves in all sorts of model horse set-ups, none of which were ever realized.
Fast forward twenty eight years to yesterday.  I was checking my Facebook feed and noticed this picture of hobbyist, Laura Mitchell.  Look, she's riding a model horse! 
I made a comment on the photo and after a bit of discussion, Laura very graciously offered to put me on a model horse.  A couple hours later, this arrived in my inbox.  
Ok, I realize that I am forty three years old and it's sort of ridiculous for me to be this excited about riding a model horse, but...  Isn't this the coolest thing ever!?!  Thank you so much, Laura!

P.S. If anyone else would like to join in the fun, Laura used this webpage to make the photos.  I will happily publish any and all pictures of my blog readers riding their models!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Blast from the past

A couple weeks ago, I was browsing the Tack Room Forum on Model Horse Blab when I noticed a new thread entitled, Help with ID'ing a tackmaker?   

I am always interested in looking at tack photos so I clicked the link and read: About 10 years ago or so, I traded some models for really awesome bridles and halters. I'm ashamed to admit that I've forgotten who made it though! Here's a quick shot of some of the pieces (on the JH, it's the bridle only; saddle is by me).
 Hmmm....  I thought.  That kind of looks like some of my older work.
I checked to see who had started the post and my heart rate quickened.  Morgan Pfaff!  I did make some tack for her way back when!  Could it be?
Fortunately, I didn't have to wonder long.  There was one more picture which Morgan described like this:  Here's the better news: I happened to keep the papers she sent with the tack to help me figure out how to use it properly. I'm hoping the writing/sketches might help ID who made these?  
The last photo sealed the deal.  I may not always be able to recognize my tack, but that scrawl is unmistakable!

Morgan and I have reconnected and she was kind enough to send me new photos of her old BCS tack.  These pieces were made in the early 2000's, when braided headgear rather than English saddles were my bread and butter items.
This gymkhana bridle features a handmade mechanical hackamore and lots of Spanish ring knots.
More ring knots adorn this halter... 
and this bridle and breastcollar set.    
Another handmade bit!  Impoverished tackmakers tend to be more inventive than their better funded counterparts. 
This set also included a pair of braided hobbles...
and a riata. 
In exchange for all that tack, I got a North Light Friesian,
a Black Horse Ranch hunter...
and a Black Horse Ranch Arabian. 
All three were mainstays of my photo show show-string during the first decade of the 2000's and remain in my collection to this day.

Thanks so much for both the pictures and memories, Morgan!  This was one of my first big hobby trades, and it pleases me to no end that ten years later, we're both still happy with the results!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Parade saddles at the Old West Show & Auction

For weekend every year, Brian Lebel's Cody Old West Show & Auction fills the Denver Merchandise Mart with all sorts of amazing, historic saddlery, including a large number of silver trimmed parade saddles.
In years past, I've wandered the vendor booths with camera in hand, and no one has voiced an objection.  This time, however, several vendors specifically requested that I not photograph their items.  I found this rather disappointing, of course, but I respected their wishes and kept my lens cap firmly in place.

Fortunately, there were no such restrictions on the auction items.  Today's post focuses on five of the parade sets that were featured in last night's auction.  All information comes directly from the auction catalog.

First up is fully floral carved and sterling silver mounted parade saddle by Hollywood Saddlery.  The estimated price on this was $5,000 to $8,000.
Next up is a budget friendly model (ext. $2,000-$3,000) made by Keyston Bros of San Francisco.  This one features deep flower tooling in the Northern California style and sterling silver plates.
Lot #104 was a two tone brown set was by Kahle & Son of San Diego. 
This was another heavily carved saddle...
which also featured an impressive amount of sterling silver trim.
It sold with a matching bridle and martingale.  The estimated sales price was $20,000 to $30,000.
Onto the Bohlins! 
Edward H. Bohlin (1895-1980) was one of the most influential saddlemakers of the twentieth century.  He was best known for his silver mounted parade gear and related goods, and it is always a treat to see his work in person.
This particular saddle is the Ham Johns model and is built on a Miles City tree with a solid silver horn, fourteen inch swells and a four inch silver cantle. 
The estimated selling price of this set was $25,000 to $30,000.
Here's a close up look at the bottom of the serapes--those little dangle-y bits are chain.
Last but certainly not least was this Bohlin pony saddle mounted on an English rocking horse.  This would look absolutely stunning in the corner of my studio...
but with an estimated price of $15,000 to $20,000...  
Well, maybe next year!