Do Overs

One of the most frustrating parts of tack making, for me anyway, is realizing that somewhere along the way I've made an error or miscalculation that significantly affects the finished piece. Maybe I measured something incorrectly, maybe the dye isn't right, or the shape of the seat isn't good enough or the panels are uneven or or or or...you get the idea. It happens. 

What's most frustrating is when it's something I suspected all along and didn't address early enough. So then I have a choice - I can leave it alone and call it 'good enough' or do it over. 

It's especially easy to overlook things in the early stages when I have a special case, like one of February's commissions.This piece is a western saddle that's being fitted to both a custom horse AND a custom rider. I checked my usual saddle tree against both, thought it would work just fine, and proceeded along my merry way. Everything looked pretty good at first.

Except that you can kind of tell the skirt is too short or the seat is too long. But I'd carved it! And dyed it! It would be fine. The seat couldn't be any shorter, because of the rider, and the skirt just couldn't be longer because of the horse's back! I finished the saddle, but it niggled at me. It just didn't look right. I sighed. I made a cinch. I sighed some more. I made the flank cinch. And then I decided that it just had to be fixed.

This is the best photo I have of the saddle pre-surgery. The angle makes it hard to tell, but the cantle hangs over the back of the skirt by several millimeters. That's just not cool, yo. I don't have photos of the destruction, but I was able to extend the lower skirt and salvage (almost) everything else by cutting it in half under the fenders. I pulled off the fuzzy lining, spaced the two halves out better and glued it back to the tree. They were secured by a piece of leather on the underside of the saddle. Here's what the saddle looked like after I pieced the skirt back together.

I wasn't able to save the rear jockey - it ended up being too short once the skirt was lengthened. Fixing the saddle took three or four hours, including time for the new rear jockey to be carved and dyed. It was worth it, though. The saddle is better balanced and looks more in scale with the rider and horse.

If it doesn't look right, it probably isn't. Sometimes, to make the best thing you can, you have to go back and tear stuff apart. Even if it's "finished." Nothing should be so precious that you can't improve on it!

*Please excuse the poor cell phone photos and the lack of both custom rider AND custom horse. The client has kindly asked that they stay off the internet, at least for now.