I love horseback riding ~ always have, and I expect I always will. As a kid growing up on the family farm, I had a couple ponies to ride. When I outgrew them, I moved up to my uncle’s saddle horses. For awhile there, I was sort of the ‘head wrangler’ on his Adirondack dude ranch. He called the place “Oleo Acres”. You probably never heard of it; after all, it was one of the cheaper spreads….
Nowadays, I’m the head wrangler at Adirondack Stable, a boarding stable/equestrian center sandwiched between the Adirondack Park and Lake Champlain, near the Canadian border in upstate New York. So, naturally, I get to ride lots of horses of all different kinds, from Quarter horses and Appaloosas to Thoroughbreds and Arabians, and even one gigantic 1,800-pound Percheron mare, named Tundra, who I ride bareback in just her halter, with reins attached to guide her with!
As a natural extension of my riding job, kind of an ‘off-shoot’ I guess you’d call it, I also buy, sell & trade used saddles. Somebody’s always dropping by the Stable looking to acquire a better saddle ~ one that is either better quality than the one they have, or better-fitting or more comfortable to both horse and rider. Of course, some folks are in the market for their very first saddle, while still others want to sell an extra saddle that they have just sitting around gathering dust, and then there are always people who want to “trade up”. So, that’s where I come in, by being a kind of ‘saddle broker’, or dealer in used horse tack.
The phone rang one day while I was mucking out stalls, and it was a girl who used to work with me at the stable, wondering if I’d be interested in buying a second-hand saddle she had for sale ~ she needed some extra money to buy a load of hay for her horses. Well, the upshot of it was, I ended up buying her saddle, which turned out to be a semi-collectible model hand-made by Monroe Veach, in Trenton, Missouri. Now, I knew a little bit about the history of Mr. Veach, since a good friend of mine had recently had a Veach-made saddle in his possession, and asked me if I could find out anything about it for him.
Being a 21st-century saddle broker, I immediately logged on to Google, where I learned that Monroe Veach had begun his career by making repairs to harnesses, saddles and other leather goods while in the Army during World War I. He went on to become a trick rider and trick roper in Foghorn Clancy’s rodeo, before returning to MO to open his own custom saddle shop. Not only did he build custom-made Western saddles of the highest quality, he also called upon his rodeo experience to help him design and build an improved trick-riding saddle for his contemporaries on the rodeo circuit, and became the premier trick-saddle maker of the era (mid-20’s thru the 1930’s). In 1993, Mr. Veach was inducted into the National Cowboy Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, OK.
The particular saddle that my friend, Brian, had on hand was one that had been custom-ordered by a modern-day version of Buffalo Bill Cody, a gent by the name of Ben Stalker, who went by the moniker “Buckskin Ben”. Ol’ Ben had commissioned Monroe to build him a kind of ‘billboard saddle’, one that not only served as a seat atop his magnificent steed while leading the Grand Entry at the beginning of each of his Wild West Shows, but also as a ‘traveling advertisement’ wherever he went, since it was stamped “Buckskin Ben” in large letters on the saddle’s cantle, pommel and fenders. As it was naturally a ‘one-of-a-kind’ piece, and in decent condition for its age, that saddle brought in a tidy sum for Brian when he sold it on eBay.
The one that I bought was a newer model, and not a ‘celebrity version’ stamped with somebody’s nickname, so it was not in such high demand as Brian’s, but was a very nice example of a top-quality, limited edition, hand-made saddle. I rode it a few times while exercising people’s horses for them, but since it sported a 14” seat and I prefer a 15”, I decided to part with it.
The final result of that transaction was that I swapped it to a lady in Willsboro for a 2-wheeled cart and a leather driving harness for my Palomino mare. But since it had passed thru my hands on its way from Point A to Point B, I have some real good memories of ‘riding the Veach’, and also learned a bit of rodeo and saddle-making history in the process!
But, ya know, there are Definitely days when I wish I had that saddle back ~ especially since both the cart, & harness, have long since "gone on down the road"!!