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We are no longer building saddle trees. We have two saddle fit videos available on our westernsaddlefit.com websiteWestern Saddle Fit - The Basics, aimed at riders, is available either on DVD or streaming on Vimeo while the six hour series Well Beyond the Basics, aimed more for professionals but understandable by anyone, is available by streaming on Vimeo. (We left this website up because we have had many requests to keep the information available.)

This week out of the shop

Posted by RodandDenise on October 7, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

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We made our annual wood buying trip this week.  For our hardwood, we go to Edmonton (a four hour one way drive) to PJ White Hardwoods to pick out a lot of our wood for the following year.  They get the lifts of the correct type and thickness of wood out from their piles of lumber, cut the bands and then allow us to go through the lifts board by board and choose which ones are suitable for our purposes.  Here, we are checking out the 2” thick yellow poplar we use in our bars.  We are over half way through this lift.  The ones we want are on the left.  The ones we don’t want are in the middle, and Rod is checking out the ones we have yet to go through on the right. 


Where do you start with a table full of bones?

Posted by RodandDenise on October 4, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

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With the front legs, of course!! Well, at least that is what we did.  Before boiling out Arnie's bones, I had put all the small bones from each leg into a wire mesh “bag” we made out of screening.  That way they would at least stay sorted by which leg they belonged to at the beginning. 

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We started by laying them out in order.  In this picture, we had already hot glued the splint bones back to the cannon bone and glued together the seven carpal (knee) bones.  We followed the picture in my anatomy books to help, but it was really neat how they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  A very well designed system, it was surprisingly easy to figure out what was what, especially since with Arnie’s arthritis, some of these small bones were fused together.


Hamley Hangers

Posted by RodandDenise on October 1, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

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We just shipped out a tree with our first order for Hamley Hangers in 15 ½ years of building trees.  It is fun to be in a profession where you can still be doing different things 15 ½ years after you start!  The idea for this style of “stirrup bar” came from the Hamley company a long time ago, but it never did become really popular.  One of the problems was stirrup wear.  A stirrup leather going over a relatively narrow bar of metal will wear more quickly than one going over the bar of the tree, which is much thicker.  The advantage to them is supposed to be greater stirrup swing.  Rod had to make a few changes on these bars to use the Hamley Hangers.  Here's what he did.


Meet Arnie

Posted by RodandDenise on September 28, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

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Yes, we really do have a skeleton in our basement!

Arnie belonged to a neighbour of ours.  He was a minature horse who was getting on in years and was obviously very arthritic when he was put down in April of 2010.  (He has some interesting changes in his bones.)  Our niece Rachel came for a day to learn basic anatomy, and we cleaned all the meat off the bones then.  Later, we boiled out the bones to get them totally clean.  It takes about two, twelve hour days of boiling every bone to do this.  Since they didn't all fit in the container at one time, it took a few days.  And no, we didn't do this inside!  Rachel came back in the summer and we took about three weeks to get him all put back together again. 

Over time, I plan to write about basic anatomy and how it functions as I tell you how we put him all back together again.  Although I always enjoyed learning anatomy, it has been a few years since vet school, so we all learned a lot with this project.  Besides, having a skeleton in your basement is kinda cool!  And yes, Rachel did get extra credit at school for doing a special project.  She sure put the hours in!


Crunching the numbers

Posted by RodandDenise on September 21, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

The cows we have been custom grazing for the summer go home next week, so after that it will be time for our annual trip to Edmonton to buy wood for the saddle trees for the next year.  This means an afternoon at least of figuring out what we have so I know what we need.  This year I decided to totally redo our calculations since we have changed a few things since I last redid them – probably about 10 years ago.  One thing I needed to figure out was what proportion of Wades, wood post swell forks and metal horn trees we have been making lately.  So I went to our database and figured out… 


A special saddle tree for a special lady

Posted by RodandDenise on September 17, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

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I shipped this tree yesterday.  It is going to a saddle maker here in Alberta who will build the saddle for a woman who had her right leg amputated above the knee.  This woman still rides and is comfortable in her original saddle in the arena.  But when she rides outside she isn't as secure in the saddle as she would like to be if her horse jumps or spooks at all.


This week in the shop

Posted by RodandDenise on September 16, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

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                                       Rod putting the finishing touches on a wood post Bowman fork.

Still no frost!  The grass is green and the flowers are blooming and it is still warm enough to be working outside - albeit with a jacket on.  In the summer Rod does as much wood working outside as possible for a couple of reasons.  One is that he just prefers to be outside, and the hotter the better!  The other is the dust.  Despite our great dust collection system, he still needs to wear a dust mask for all the carving he does with the grinder in the "dirty room".  Outside, the wind blows it away and it is much nicer, not to mention healthier.


How we use the Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System numbers

Posted by RodandDenise on September 13, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

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We occasionally get people asking us how we use the Dennis Lane card system in building our trees, so I figured I would try to explain in a bit more detail than I have on our main website.  We put up a section on how the cards are used on a horse to determine the shape of the horse so if you are unfamiliar with the system, there are lots of pictures there that explain it here on our site or you can go to Dennis's site and see his instructions.

What we don’t do

So when someone tells us their results, what do we do?  Do we make bars the inverse shape of the cards?  Do we have a whole jig system so we set it up to look just like that horse’s back and fit the tree to that as we build it?  Do we have a bar pattern for every possible combination and permutation of bar specs?  NO, NO, NO!!!  None of the above!!


Duplicating trees Part 2- making the replacement

Posted by RodandDenise on September 9, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

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This is a different tree than the last post, finished and with a lot of the leather in place. 
It should go back together pretty well.

Figuring out the specs

Once we have all the measurements taken, Denise goes to our charts and tries to figure out how we can make something come out the same but built with our angles.  If the cantle angle looks different than what we make, if the cantle cuts on the bar are a lot different, if the cantle corners come farther down or up the bar than ours do, how do we make the seat length right so the seat still fits, but get the thigh length right so the seat jockey fits between fork and cantle properly?  Can we make the cantle height at the back measure the same so the cantle back still fits on yet make the face work for the seat when the angles are all different?  And if we are changing the fitting specs from a 5” wide hand hole to a 4” wide hand hole (which we have done) how can we do that and still have the skirts and fork cover go back on easily?  It is often the more poorly made trees that are the hardest to get right.

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Duplicating trees Part 1 - taking them apart

Posted by RodandDenise on September 8, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.

We have had a run on duplicate trees the last few months.  Maybe the economy is such that people are willing to spend the $ to replace a tree in a saddle rather than buy a new one.  Whatever the reason, we have had “bits of saddles in a box” in our back room constantly since early in the year. 

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It may look OK, but it sure squeaked and bent in the middle.

Why do people want trees duplicated?

Most commonly, it is because the tree broke, but right up there in numbers are people replacing trees that don’t fit well.  Some have been from old saddles that still have good leather but the tree doesn’t fit today’s “normal”, and some have been from new saddles that just aren’t working for the horses they are riding. 

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Taking off the rawhide, we found both bars broken along the angle of the nails
in the back stirrup groove.