One of these things is not like the other...
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.)
Oh yeah, I did that one already too… Isn’t it funny how that when you get an unusual-to-you order, you often get more than one in very close timing? In this case I am talking specifically about cantle height.
We don’t get a lot of orders for 3” tall cantles. In fact, I just checked the numbers and prior to this string of orders, we have only made 24 3” tall cantles out of the 2078 trees in our database, with 6 of those being in the last year. And yet Rod just made 3 more this past week, and we have orders for 2 additional ones in the next couple of weeks. Why the difference?
Well, we have a couple theories. One is the style of the saddle. Over half of what we build are Wades and other slick forks. That style of fork traditionally goes with a taller cantle. This one is 5” tall and 13” wide. (It only had one coat of varnish at the time the picture was taken which is why the color is different than the others.) On the other hand, we have a reprint of the 1942 Hamley catalogue with a picture in it of a Wade advertised with a “3 inch back saver type cantle”, so they weren’t always made with tall cantles. But the style of tree we most commonly make certainly skews the numbers to taller cantles.
That idea fits with these orders. Three out of the five orders with short cantles have Buster Welch forks. Two of them are in this picture and have 13" wide cantles. The tree on the left of this picture is Packer fork with a 12 1/2" wide cantle. Lower cantles often go with these styles of forks. The other will be a copy of an old Porter saddle from the 1930s with a 14 1/2" wide "comfort" cantle. With the changes in trends that go through the horse and saddle industries, I can see us building more lower cantles in the future.
Another reason seems to be regional. We were talking to Dennis Lane in Australia a while back about cantle height. He commented that he could probably count the trees he has built with a 5” tall cantle on one hand. That is when I told him that three out of the four I had marked out for Rod for the next week were 5” tall! In the same vein, in talking with a maker in Texas a while ago, he said that a 4” cantle out there was considered fairly tall, although by that definition, we have sold a fair number of trees to Texas with “tall” cantles.
That idea fits here too. One of these trees is going to New Brunswick in eastern Canada. Two are headed to Sweden. Of the orders coming up, one is going to Massachusetts and the other to Spain. So they are going to areas where lower cantles are on a higher percentage of saddles than in western North America. While the majority of our trees still go to the working cowboy market, with the advent of the internet and the growing interest in western saddles in other parts of the world, we are getting more orders from farther away. These all just happened to come in close proximity to each other.
Those are our guesses at the the logical, reasonable explanations as to why, when I put up a picture of four cantles, the three similar ones are rather unusual cantles for us to make. Of course, the real reason is probably “just because”…
So, the question of the week is: What are your favorite cantle heights to build or ride, and why?
I've ridden in a few tall cantled wades that were a shade wider with less dish that I liked alright, but the more dish in the seat the more likely the sides of the cantle were to catch the sides of my cheeks!
When I am helping a client search for a saddle I look for a seat that holds their pelvis in 'neutral' naturally (if the seam on your jeans is a straight style look for a straight line down from your iliatic crest/hip bone down to your hip joint/socket) so that their spine can move freely above the pelvis & their hips can move freely below. I also look for a soft smooth line from the seat to the upper-leg, I don't want a wrinkle or crease between the butt & the upper leg.
I am working on a survey of riders about cantle height, I hope to be done with it by mid-month. If you can help me promote it so I get as many responses as possible I will be happy to share my findings with you!!
The way a rider sits in the saddle is due to the shape of the groundseat the saddle maker builds into the saddle. A good maker can take any size and shape of cantle and build a seat that will fit their customer well, though it may take more work in some cases than others. If a "maker" doesn't build a groundseat as such but just puts some leather over the tree, then the shape of the tree will affect the rider a lot more. That is where the quality of the saddle maker shows up the most.