Designs and Tooling on a Western Saddle

Every one can enjoy looking at a well made western saddle. The shape, the color, the way it feels, and mostly the way it looks. The amount of time that goes in to making a western saddle can be tremendous. Hand carved or tooled saddles are beautiful pieces of art work. There are many different kinds of tool work and hand carving for saddles. When shopping for a new saddle or describing a saddle to a friend you should know the proper terms for some of the most common tool work patterns, hand carved effects.


      The idea of decoration the saddle comes from the Mexicans. Looking good was as important as function of the saddle. Saddle tool work can be as much or as little as the rider prefers. There are often parade, show, or trophy saddles that are over the top with silver and tool work. Leather carving and stamping are all referred to as tooling or tool work on a western saddle. It takes a good eye and a steady hand to work on a dampened leather saddle.


       All saddle makers create a pattern or layout of the design for the saddle to be worked on. The pattern should fit neatly and have a good flow to the design. Everything should be perfectly symmetrical. The left and the right side of the saddle should match exactly. The depth of the actual carving should be consistent and at the same depth. The most common themes for western saddle design are: leaves, acorns, flowers, and geometric patterns like the basket weave pattern.



      The Flowers that are the most common are roses, but you will find poppies, daffodils, orchids, irises, lilies, sunflower, and morning glory.


      Leaves and vines are popular as well with the most common being the oak leaf and acorn patterns. There are also ferns and other types of foliage used.


The basket weave pattern is the

most common geometric pattern you will see.  There is however a move to hounds tooth and other types of complex patterns.



Newer saddles often feature new designs or styles of tooling. Very popular as a western theme is the barbwire tooling found on many saddles now a day.


Saddle may continue to change and evolve but the work and tooling involved stays the same.