Cal DeCora was one of my first saddle customers after I moved to Salmon, Idaho twenty-nine years ago (1 April 1984). Recently he brought the last two saddles I made him in to be cleaned and oiled. One of the benefits of longevity in the saddle biz is that you get to see how saddles are working for folks under heavy use. I offer a free cleaning and oiling after the first season of use in part for this reason. Sometimes it takes a long time for customers to take me up on the offer. These two saddles have rawhide cantle bindings on them. Some have said that rawhide belongs on live cattle and saddle trees… and I’m certainly not thrilled about rawhide trim on saddles. The problem lies in the fact that rawhide doesn’t want to stay where you put it unless it is contained in some way. On standard bindings whether rawhide or leather, I always shape them in a way that they follow the plane of the face of the rim of the cantle rather than following the back of the cantle straight up. This ensures that the binding does not increase the dish of the cantle which can be a problem at the corners of the cantle where there is contact with the upper thigh. A rawhide binding will roll forward as it contracts over time causing even more problems with increased dish. Laying the cantle binding back a bit will help prevent this. Another way I’ve been able to avoid this problem is overlaying a cantle back cover that is scalloped near the rim of the binding. Each scallop is pinned with an escutcheon pin that is tapped into the rawhide/leather just above the stitch line on the back side of the binding. This seems to ‘hold’ the binding from rolling forward. The first saddle made for Cal I did none of this with less than satisfactory results. This is one of things I look for when asked to evaluate saddles with standard bindings: Make sure your binding does not increase the dish of the cantle.
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