Sunday, April 22, 2007
Thursday, April 5, 2007
This post has been edited to put together what I've learned so far in a more coherent manner (and to tidy up the writing a bit too). I have received a few emails with a few different opinions regarding date. Do please let me know if you disagree about any info stated below - this is a work in progress so will change a little as time goes by.
This would have been a higher end saddle back in the day when it was purchased, designed for an upper-class or upper middle class clientele. Perhaps it was a specially customized mail order piece if such a thing were offered? We were told upon purchase that it was "custom-made" (also were told it was as much as 150 yrs old). Of course, we didn't buy the saddle based on what the sellers told us. We bought the saddle not knowing its condition or the detail of the design as it was caked in mud and paint. But I could see that the design was birds and thought at minimum (if saddle proved to be in such bad shape) I'd be able to remove the leather decorations and make a purse or other more easily displayed item and recoup the investment that way.
Don't panic! I'm not cutting her up! She cleaned up nicely and is in remarkably good shape.
Although some do use saddles of this era for riding, this one could only be used on a very small horse (due to size of the tree) and by a small rider. And the iron stirrups would have to be replaced for all but the teeniest of feet (I'm under 5 feet tall and although the saddle may fit otherwise, the stirrups won't). I read somewhere that iron stirrups are usually on saddles pre-1915. Post-1915 brass is more common - I can't find the reference now (just have it written down in my notes) so don't know the validity. The padding would need to be replaced too (you can see the wear to it below). But why would you want to add to the wear of such unusual and beautifully done hand-tooling? Best keep this lovely for display!
Most sidesaddles of this era have rather moderate value. $100-$300 (nope, no missing zeros there!) is about what many of this type old-style sidesaddles can fetch. This one however, stands out as a wonderful example of the art of leather-tooling. Its value is not really as a side saddle, but rather as an ornate saddle with beautiful 100 year old (+/-) leather work!
The design on the larger skirt covers the entire surface. Most designs were down down one or both sides, but not in the center. This is because the center area would suffer much wear in the normal use of a saddle. As expected, the center part of the design does show more wear than the side areas.
I haven't yet found the right term for the above section of the saddle, perhaps its just considered more 'skirt.' Whatever its name, it sports two wonderful owls. Beneath the owls (and shown in picture below) can be seen some of the graceful shaping of the branches as well their bird occupants.
Look at the attention to detail evident in the leaves, stem and feathers! Someone took some time putting this together!
Not only is the design unusual in its chosen subject, it is also unusually ornate! Saddles were after all, a utilitarian item - a necessity to get about before cars became the norm. A saddle so lavishly decorated was an aesthetic indulgence, reserved for those with the means for such impracticality.
The puncture design on the seat, like the stamped one on the shorter skirt shown above, is more like what may be expected of this era saddle. The seat decoration is somewhat elaborate, but certainly not unusual. It seems an odd choice to me however, as the puncture nature of the design and the wear any saddle seat must endure seem like an obvious mis-match. A choice fated to the type of damage this seat shows.
All in all, this beauty is in good shape for an item of its age. The leather is a little stiff, but becoming more supple all the time as we have been using Pecard's Antique Leather Dressing on her. As mentioned above she came to us caked in so much mud and paint, the details of the design couldn't be seen. We cleaned it all off with room temperature water and a soft-bristled toothbrush to reveal a true beauty!
We are really pleased with the results as we had no idea upon purchase of the detail of the work. We are looking to sell this saddle, but have not settled on a price yet. Clearly we'll be asking for an amount above the $300 that can be expected for its more usual cousins. At that price we'd once again realize more taking it apart to re-use the decorated leather. I'd much rather see this gal intact and in the hands of someone who will appreciate it as such. She is, due to the unusual nature of her decoration, perhaps a museum-worthy piece....
In researching this saddle, I come across some fabulous saddles and accessories for Rodeo Queens! I've looked at some fabulous queen's chaps too! Saddles are given as part of a prize package to the winner of some rodeo queen contests. That's a mighty nice prize and some contests include fairly large prize packages. Must be some steep competition with such generous winnings! Beauty pageants, even with a horse, were never the thing for this tomboy, but if your inner-beauty queen is aching to run free, why not be a Rodeo Queen!