View Full Version : Help with tooling for new saddle!

Jul. 25, 2012, 01:55 PM
I'm finally getting me dream saddle made (!!!) and need to figure out what kind of tooling to put on it. It will be a half-breed wade. The saddle maker told me I can have any tooling pattern I want, but there are so many choices I'm having a hard time choosing. I want this saddle to be extra special since it's going to cost a fortune, and it will be a saddle I keep forever (hopefully).

So, any help with tooling patterns would be most appreciated! What's the most amazing tooling on a saddle you've ever seen? What theme would you have on your saddle?


Jul. 25, 2012, 05:36 PM
I love some of the Dale Chavez saddles: http://www.dalechavezsaddles.com/dale_chavez_saddles.htm

I used to be a total geometric/basketweave tooling person, but recently wound up with a roping saddle that has floral and basket and I LOVE it.

Jul. 25, 2012, 05:59 PM
Traditionally, oak leaf or rose patterns were used by the better saddle makers, each one had their own personal few drawings of each one of those, that made their saddles stand out.

Pick one that you like best, any will be fine.:cool:

Jul. 25, 2012, 08:11 PM
Thanks for the replies!

The Dale Chavez saddles are beautiful. I used to prefer plain saddles with no tooling, but I've seen some tooled saddles by a few saddle makers that were incredible.

I was thinking maybe floral with leaves and animals hidden here and there. The animals would be animals native to where I live (Wyoming). Not too many, and they would be hidden amongst the floral and leaf tooling. Kind of a summer in Wyoming.

Still thinking on other options too....

Jul. 25, 2012, 08:30 PM
Tooling makes the leather tight, it won't stretch here and there, so tooled saddles last much longer, plus they look really neat.

Jul. 25, 2012, 08:35 PM
That's interesting. I never knew that!

Jul. 25, 2012, 08:39 PM
The traditional basket weave with oak leaf highlights always looks good.

Jul. 25, 2012, 08:44 PM
I agree --- basket weave with oak leaf highlights is great. But it has to be GOOD basket weave. I've done leather tooling, and while it looks easy at first, to do basket weave well takes a lot of experience --- and then it is awesome.

Jul. 25, 2012, 08:53 PM
I have seen some very pretty basket weave, but I'm not a basket weave person. I like floral tooling better.

I did see one basket weave that McCall does that reminds me of pineapples (no idea why), but its really pretty. I think its called Southwest. I didn't like it in the catalog, but saw it in person and it really is nice.

I was thinking something like this...

Or this...
Interesting swirl tooling

Or this...

Lots of choices...!

Jul. 26, 2012, 10:57 AM
Well, first of all I`m green with envy. ;-o

Personally I like the basketweave too. I used to prefer plain also but saw a really nice basketweave with a smooth seat and it really looked nice. A friend explained the practical purpose of tooling and it all made sense. Your body and backside that come into contact with the saddle can breathe better if the saddle is tooled because there is some air circulation between you and the saddle if the leather has a tooled pattern on it. If one spends a lot of time in a saddle, this can make a big difference in comfort. I still like the rugged simple look of a non-tooled working saddle though.

Lucky YOU!

A new custom Frecker saddle is on my bucket list. :-)

Jul. 26, 2012, 11:09 AM
I'm pretty excited about getting the saddle!! :D I got one of the last spots on Kent Frecker's list. He told me he only makes 8 saddles a year so I was lucky to get a spot on next year's list. Also, he's an incredibly nice person. I had an opportunity to sit and talk with him last weekend and thought he was very knowledgeable about both horses and saddles.

I actually prefer the look of a plain saddle, but since this will be a special saddle, I thought I'd go with a half-breed. I have until next spring to figure out what I want so I have a little time to work it all out.

It's gonna cost a fortune, but I'll hopefully keep it forever. Unlike my custom dressage saddle that I paid $4K for and sold for $1,200 with only five rides on it....:cry:

Jul. 28, 2012, 12:51 AM
I went with a combination of basket weave and 'barbed wire' bordering:


Jul. 28, 2012, 01:06 PM
Beverly - Very pretty saddle and I like the tooling you chose. Very pretty horse too. :)

Jul. 28, 2012, 01:47 PM
Older ranch saddle with larger pattern full tooling:


Reining saddle with smaller pattern full tooling:


Jul. 28, 2012, 03:39 PM
I do love the full carving, they make me want to touch them for softness. Those are lovely Bluey, they could come live here ANYTIME.

I heard the full carving lets you get a better grip on the saddle, friction hold, for riding and staying in place. I know I prefer SITTING on a fully carved saddle more than the plain ones. That bit about heat dispersal with carving is interesting, not something I ever heard before. I do think carving-stamping takes daily wear much better than the plain leather does, not worn thru as fast.

I always put the partially carved saddles down as "lesser" because they didn't get the extra time spent on them. Cheap saddles were plain, not carved when I was a kid, learning about saddles. Like any horse thing, you look over a person's "outfit", saddle, bridle, horse, boots and clothes, when you meet them. Plain new saddle meant they didn't spend a lot on it, usually one of the local Horse Auction specials. Though seeing an old, well broke-in saddle all shined up, meant it could be inherited, of good quality, riding what they had already.

Stamped over-all, or carved on all parts, would be a better look to me, than smooth fenders or seat leather over the fender tops. Too slippery when plain, especially if rainy or you are sweaty and someone drops their head!

A couple designs I have liked were Sunflower and Morning Glory. Both were pretty, recognizable for those flowers in the carvings.

Funny, I didn't think I was such a saddle snob until I wrote it out!

Jul. 28, 2012, 04:11 PM
In my case, for this one, went with partially tooled because fully tooled is such a pain to clean.:)

I don't dislike full tooling, just a change of pace. But the amount of tooling is simply a function of additional hours of 'cosmetic' touches. Far more important in terms of quality is what you can't see, the tree and interior workmanship.

A boarder at the barn just paid more for a Colorado saddle than I paid for my custom- and when horse started complaining, a quick look by a knowledgeable saddle fellow showed an asymmetrical tree.

Jul. 30, 2012, 12:15 PM
Bluey - both beautiful saddles. The older ranch saddle had flowers on it I couldn't identify, but they were very pretty.

Go Fish
Jul. 31, 2012, 02:19 AM
I used basket weave for my reining and cutting saddles, a floral pattern on my pleasure saddles. Sort of a tradition in the western show pen, although I don't think people pay much attention to that anymore.

My old Victor equitation saddle from the early 70s is tooled with marijuana leaves...seriously! :lol: I was always a rebel and my Dad just rolled his eyes when I ordered it. Very few of them were made and it's somewhat of a collector's piece. I'm SO glad I hung onto it.

Jul. 31, 2012, 10:55 AM
Go Fish - I never knew anyone even did marijuana tooling! That's hilarious!! :lol:

Jul. 31, 2012, 11:53 AM
Saddle makers will tool any pattern you want, even little unicorns.;)

The better, older saddle makers have a few special tooling patterns that are just theirs and you can know their saddles by it at shows.

Many apprentice saddlers work years on refining their own patterns, before they go off on their own.

I don't know today, but years ago, a really good saddle was fully tooled, everything else was a notch below, although just as serviceable.
I didn't know anyone ranching or showing, with made to order saddles, not riding fully tooled saddles.
Now, you would see here and there a very down on it's luck cowboy, that had to use a rough out plain saddle, the kind that would eat your behind raw for long time, before it got somewhat slick.

For years, I had not seen basquetweave tooling for a whole saddle, that was just for some borders or fill in.

I expect all that changes with the discipline, the region and tradition.

The past 30 or so years, since cutting became more than one more rodeo class, those saddles are not any more tooled all over, more plain.

I say, get what you like, that is what will be important, not looking like anyone else.:yes:

Jul. 31, 2012, 01:21 PM
I ordered a semi custom saddle from Dakota. I took their basic roper and put this combo together. You choose your saddle style, tooling, seat, horn wrap and other finishes.


Apparently they liked the way it came out and are selling it as I put it together; except I did a black leather seat not the suede. It is a Diamond pattern with oak leafs that they offer, I thought that was different with out being too heavily tooled.

Aug. 1, 2012, 12:45 PM
What are you going to be using your saddle for? Showing/competitions or trail riding?

I personally will never own another basket weave saddle. I LOVE the look of them... hate to clean them after trail riding in mud/dust and we do a lot of that type of riding.

Our trail saddles have simple barbed wire or floral tooling just around the edge of the saddle, but nothing too elaborate. My barrel saddle has basket weave just on the back. DH's roping saddle has oakleaf & floral tooling over the entire thing which can be a pain to clean, but is a beautiful saddle.

Aug. 1, 2012, 01:04 PM
Thanks everyone for the replies and ideas for tooling on my new saddle!

This will be a work/trail saddle. I get invited to brandings and to sort/gather on occasion, so this would be the saddle I'd use. I also would alternate this with my dressage saddle for trail riding.

I was thinking that the heavily tooled and basket weave saddles would be a bear to clean. So that would be a consideration.

Actually my first thought was a plain roughout saddle with just a swivel knife border. Still considering that, but the half breed floral saddles look so pretty....

Aug. 1, 2012, 02:15 PM
Marijuana tooling-- that is hilarious. :lol: I had mine tooled with wild sunflowers -- I'm a Kansas girl. ;)

For years, I had not seen basquetweave tooling for a whole saddle, that was just for some borders or fill in.

I expect all that changes with the discipline, the region and tradition.

The past 30 or so years, since cutting became more than one more rodeo class, those saddles are not any more tooled all over, more plain.

I say, get what you like, that is what will be important, not looking like anyone else.:yes:

Tooling also covers up cosmetic flaws in the hide. I had my saddle made ~15 years ago. The guy who made it complained that he couldn't get the quality of hide that he'd gotten years ago. Hence, I ended up with more tooling than I'd planned on. But it is beautiful. Tanned oak leather with braided rawhide trim. I'll take pic if I get a chance.

Yes, OP, get exactly what you want. I still love my saddle and it rides like a dream. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit any of my round-bodied Arabs, but I will never sell it. I will buy my next horse to fit the saddle. Yes, I will.

Aug. 1, 2012, 02:43 PM
mp - I'd love to see a pic of your saddle! It sounds beautiful.

And if it doesn't end up fitting my colt when he grows up, I too will by my new horse to fit the saddle... :lol:

Here are some fully tooled saddles that I thought were pretty...



And some amazing detailed tooling pictures...









Aug. 1, 2012, 02:51 PM
Not my style of saddle, but the tooling is wonderful and very imaginative some of it.
I don't see any unicorns there.:lol:

The back of that saddle on the last link is absolutely beautiful, the kind that wins western saddlemaker's competitions.:cool:

I would say that saddlemaker will make you a saddle to be very proud of forever, whatever you decide to put on it.:)

Aug. 1, 2012, 03:05 PM
The animal tooling isn't my cup of tea either, but I do think its amazing. Kent made the saddle with all the forest animals for his son who likes to hunt so it has a special meaning to him. He also made a saddle for one of his daughters that has a mix of flowers on it. His daughters are named after flowers so those flowers are on the saddle - which I thought was a really sweet idea too.

I think Kent makes wonderful saddles - he's an artisan and understands saddle fit too. I think the trees he makes are some of the best, and his ground seats are so comfortable.

It makes me a little queasy thinking about the $$, but I think I'll end up with a beautiful saddle in the end.

Thanks for your comments!!

Aug. 9, 2012, 07:45 PM
Hi Bluey..the second picture in your post looks like my Bona Allen. I love that saddle and how it's beautiful hand tooling. I have tooled some leather in my time and really really appreciate a job well done! I have thought about parting with the Bona Allen...but I know I could never do it...they don't make them like that any more!


Aug. 9, 2012, 10:16 PM
Hi Bluey..the second picture in your post looks like my Bona Allen. I love that saddle and how it's beautiful hand tooling. I have tooled some leather in my time and really really appreciate a job well done! I have thought about parting with the Bona Allen...but I know I could never do it...they don't make them like that any more!


That is beautiful tooling and it has the old silver lacing on rawhide border also, that makes it stand out.

I too would keep it around, if nothing else for decoration.:cool:

Aug. 11, 2012, 09:58 PM
The basketweave doesn't seem to be very hard to clean, in my experience, in comparison to floral tooling which is a BIG pain.

I'm just having a saddle done. The tree was made by Warren Wright of New Zealand. I'm riding an absolutely plain Jane saddle made on the same tree (with a slight difference in the horn) and it is beyond comfortable, for me and my horse. If I don't like my new, flowers-and-pattern stamped saddle (can't imagine I won't), I'll keep the one I'm riding. It's on loan from the maker, since I prepaid for my new saddle.
If I weren't getting a Warren Wright tree, I'd sure wait for a Freckers tree.

Instead of the usual basketweave (or crazylegs or other geometric standard), I really like Jeremiah Watt's 'Navajo Rug' stamp:
I want to combine that with a bit of floral tooling, on a half-breed tooled saddle. We'll see how it turns out!

Equine Studies
Aug. 11, 2012, 10:53 PM
Here's a saddle I inherited in the winter. I cleaned it (still damp in this photo) and there is still some white soap/conditioner in the tooling which I have yet to tackle. What a giant pain, however I still love it.


I'm an eventer really, but appreciate beautiful work regardless!

Aug. 11, 2012, 11:09 PM
I'd love to see your saddle, but the link won't display. (Facebook won't give permission to view content)