Saturday, August 29, 2020

Our Butet story

When I was twenty two, I moved to Tennessee to work for a high end tack shop that catered exclusively to riders showing on the A show hunter/jumper circuit.
At that time, French made Butet saddles were the most popular - and hard to find - saddles on the market. My store was one of only a handful of licensed Butet dealers in the country, but even we could barely get them in. At all points in time, our Butet waiting list had at least a dozen names on it.
It seemed like everyone wanted a Butet, including other saddle companies. Miller's wanted one so badly, they bought a Butet from my store with the express intent to copy it. Since they told us they would be taking it apart, I boxed up a slightly battered test-ride saddle and shipped it to New Jersey.
A couple months later, I received a copy of the brand new Miller's catalog.
I eagerly flipped to the saddle section to see the new Butet copy. My first reactions was "Wow! That looks exactly like a Butet!" Then I looked closer and realized it looked exactly like our Butet. The buttons had been changed and there was a new logo on the flap, but there was no mistaking those oil spots on the knee pads. That was our saddle. There was no question in my mind.
For comparison, here's a picture of the actual production saddle from 1999. It's similar, but definitely not a Butet.
This was a funny tack shop story that was shared often while I was part of the tack industry. As time went by, however, I mostly forgot about it. At least until one day many, many years later when I stumbled across a Facebook comment by Pat Coulter. In it, she shared a story about a saddle. She said that one of her friends worked at Miller's in the 1990's. At the time, Butets were really hot, and Miller's wanted to capitalize on that popularity. So they bought a Butet, switched out the buttons, took a picture of it and put it in their catalog under a different name. "Can you believe that?" she asked, and of course I could. I just couldn't believe I was hearing my Butet story from someone else.
That's the part that actually seems unbelievable. What are the odds that two people - two future model horse tack makers - would share this one obscure saddle story? What are the odds that we'd uncover this coincidence some twenty years after the fact? Pretty slim, I think, but I'm glad it happened. I'm glad that my Butet story became our Butet story, and I'm glad I knew Pat Coulter.

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