Currently there are eight saddles in my house and a couple more in my shop. Sadly, these aren’t saddles I won team roping but very old saddles from the late 19th century. Apart from two sidesaddles I own there is very little difference between the 135 year old saddles and one you might ride today.
Clearly, in a world full of change the American saddle has not kept pace. That’s one reason why when modern cowboys go to check the cows and say they’re going to get their “Mule”, it’s not one of the long-earred variety. One of the reasons people are opting for ATV’s instead of horses is all the accessories they have that horses don’t have.
About the only modern feature on today’s saddles is the cupholder right behind the saddle horn for your cup of Starbucks. That is what it’s for, right? Clearly saddles could use a major makeover and today it’s all about accessorizing, options and add-ons. More folks might choose the horse over the ATV if their saddles offered a jack to recharge their cell phone and if saddles and horses became Wi-Fi hot spots. It’s all about social media and staying connected and I’m quite sure a saddle that could take verbal instructions, Facebook, text and Tweet would sell well. And who wouldn’t want a GPS on your saddle so you’d never get lost? Just think, if you had a high definition TV on your saddle connected to a drone you could see where all your cows were hiding.
To compete with the ATV’s, every saddle maker should offer options like shock absorbers, springs, or air seats like truckers sit on. I’m talking an ultra-comfortable saddle that is more like a Lazy Boy recliner with stirrups. There should be heat warmers in your taps and in your seat to warm you up on a cold winter’s day. Other options might include rear view mirrors, parking brakes, a relief tube, gun rack for multiple guns and a 5,000 pound winch behind the cantle for pulling cows out of bog holes. A dashboard would be handy too for throwing all your junk on. Your saddle should also measure your heart rate, temperature and blood pressure and automatically enter you in the next team roping. To compete with ATV’s every saddle should have compartments for carrying your fishing pole and a refrigerator for vaccines and beer. Would a microwave run on the methane produced by your horse be too much to ask? With all these options you’d hardly ever need to get off your horse.
To protect you and your loved-ones how about an ejection seat in your saddle? Instead of being bucked violently on to a pile of rocks you’d be shot so high there’d be plenty of time for your parachute to open as you floated back to earth. I’m also envisioning stirrups that automatically dial 911, the morgue or request a helicopter life flight when you fall and get hung up with your foot in a stirrup. And we might as well put seat belts and shoulder harnesses on saddles now before Obama’s regulators make them mandatory.
There should be a real horn on saddles so you can call the cows to fool them into thinking they’re going to get fed. Kids would like to ride more if the learning curve wasn’t so steep so why not joysticks or steering wheels connected to your bit? This would mean horse-loving women wouldn’t have to attend clinics to learn how to ride better and they could stay home and do their chores. I’m also envisioning lots of LED lights on saddles. What good does it do to win a USTRC roping in Oklahoma City if your leg covers up the documentation on the fender. If your championship was written in blinking LED lights instead of being just carved in leather everyone would know of your accomplishment.
Simplicity is out and complexification is in, so we need to take a page from the computer industry and sell planned obsolescence, software updates and expensive protection plans. Just think, with everyone wanting the latest version, new life will be breathed into saddle shops and leather workers like myself will become billionaires as saddles become newer, bigger, uglier and far more difficult to operate.
These days, that’s a sure fire formula for success.