A Charro saddle tree
We are no longer building saddle trees. We have two saddle fit videos available on our westernsaddlefit.com website. Western 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.)
Earlier this fall we built a Charro tree, named because this is the style ridden by traditional Mexican horsemen, or Charros. In our research we found that there is a lot of variety in the traditional Charro saddles. This makes sense because according to Frederic Remington, a writer from the late 1800s who rode with the Mexican riders of the day, they only ordered the iron rings and then made their own trees and saddles. So when we see pictures of the old Charro saddles, there are some that have extremely wide forks and some that are actually slick forks. This means that there is no single style that is “the traditional Charro saddle tree”.
In this case the customer sent us a modern tree from Mexico, asking if we would make something that looked similar but that would fit today’s horses and have a comfortable seat for the rider. So the bars and the fit were done the same as normal. It was just figuring out that fork and cantle…
The thing that is consistent on Charro trees is a very large wooden horn with a lot of pitch to it. Going off the design the customer sent us, the finished horn cap measured 7 ¼”. As they were often decorated around the edge of the horn cap, we made the edge an inch thick.
The fork was set at our normal stood up angle. It still has a slight pitch forward, but not a lot. The rigging on these saddles go through the gullet and come down on the front and back of the fork with the rigging ring below the swell on the fork. Rod shaped the fork so that the rigging would be set at a full position and not fall ahead of full.
The fork, patterned on the tree the customer sent us, was 16 ¾” wide and rather fun to shape. The Baltic Birch plywood made it look very pretty.
Some Charro trees have cantle slots. Some don’t. The customer wanted them on this tree. The extra thick edge on the cantle, as on all Charro trees, is an advantage when it comes to the strength of the wood above the slots.
This was a really fun tree to build. As always when we do something unusual, there are things we would do differently next time. But overall we were really happy with it and so was the customer. He has promised us pictures of it when he has it finished and if he gives us permission, we will post them here too. We’re looking forward to seeing them!