The Making of a Saddle

The first step is the cutting out of the saddle. The layout of the patterns is very important. We use a right and left hide that has been gauged for the same thickness. Each part of the saddle has a specific place on the hide it needs to be cut out of to ensure balance and consistency of the saddle; ie, the rigging out of the same place and direction on each hide, the skirts, jockeys, swells, and so on.

Layout of Patterns
Layout of Patterns

The first part of the tree we begin to cover is the gullet, then the cantle. Each part is wetted then wrapped in wool blankets overnight; this is called "casing" your leather. The wool blankets allow the leather to breathe and disperse the water evenly through the leather until the consistency is right for shaping and tooling.

Getting Leather Wet

The edges are carefully skived thin to blend in with the tree.

Skiving Edges

The gullet and the cantle


The rigging comes next. They are carefully fitted to ensure the pull is right for the tree; extra measures are taken to be sure both sides are exactly the same.

Fitting the Riggings

Ground seat comes next. There are six layers that take place in forming the perfect groundseat—one that allows the rider to feel balanced and close to their horse. Of course, the ground seat in a Wade or cowboy saddle is different from that of a reiner, cutter, or roper saddle.

Ground Seat

After the ground seat has been shaped and properly dried, it is then sanded to ensure a smooth finish.

Sanding the Ground Seat

The swells are next to be covered. Then the skirts are carefully placed, making sure they are the same on both sides.


Filler leather is sewn into place to keep the skirts from curling up, then are shaped to the tree for proper contact to your horse.

Filler Leather

The jockeys are fitted to the tree, then cut parallel to the skirts to give the saddle a symmetrical, visually-appealing look.

Fitting Jockeys

The seat is next. Our center line is very important to keep the saddle balanced correctly.

Layout of the Seat

We center a cross on the ground seat as well as on the seat leather to match.

Layout of the Seat

The leather has been properly "cased" to eliminate wrinkles while being shaped.

Fitting the Seat

Seat lines are drawn so the front jockey is straight with the rear jockey, then cut out, and the seat is drawn down with a strap over the top, then rubbed into place.

Drawing Down

The cantle is carefully shaped to fit comfortably in your hand as you grip it.

Shaping the Cantle

The stitches are recessed into the cantle binding leather so the stitches are not easily worn out.

Stitch Grooving Cantle

As with all our tooling, we draw it out directly on the leather free-handed, giving each saddle a distinct look.

Hand Tooling the Cantle

The horn is next to be covered. Great care is taken to make sure the horn will last a long time without losing its shape.

Nailing the Horn

The center piece of leather is glued to the horn then nailed down with ring shank nails, then the top is also glued down.

Gluing the Horn

Again, the stitching is recessed into the leather to avoid rubbing on the stitches and wearing them out.

Stitch Grooving Horn

After stitching, we trim the leather, round the edges, and rub them smooth.

A Finished Horn

We strive to have the finished horn in a funnel shape to ensure that your dallies go to the base of the horn.

Funnel Shaped Horn

The fenders are cut to length according to the customer’s inseam and riding style. While the leather is properly cased, we rub all the stretch out of the fenders and stirrup leathers, then trim them again equally.

Rubbing Fenders

We then twist and wrap the stirrup leathers before drawing them down to eliminate stress on your knees and ankles.

Wrapping the Fenders

They are then drawn down tight and allowed to dry in the right shape and position for the rider.

Leather Drawn Down

While everything is drying, we cut out conchos, carriers, billets, rear cinches, etc.

Conchos and Billets

Before we take the skirts off to sew on the sheepskin, we drill holes through the tree, jockeys, and skirts. This is where the strings will come through.

Drilling Holes

The strings are then laced through the skirts, and sheepskin is glued on, ready to be sewn.

Sheep Skin

Oil is the next step. Each individual piece is oiled with a heavy coat of pure neatsfoot oil; over the course of several days, more oil is applied to give the saddle an even look.

Oiling the Leather

Then we spread leather cream on the skirts and stirrup leathers to help eliminate squeaking.

Greasing Skirts
Greasing Fenders

Everything is now reassembled, and the final step left to do is wrapping the horn. This can be done with mule hide, latigo, or chap leather. With each wrap around the horn, we stretch the leather. Often times, this may have to be rewrapped several times to get all the stretch out, then smoothed down and tightened with a chinaman strap.

Wrapping the Horn

The final product is one we can be proud of, knowing we have done all we can to make a quality saddle that will last generations.

A Finished Saddle

Frecker's Saddlery
125 W Bannack
Dillon, Montana 59725