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RichardCollmorgen

The right saddle for calf and team roping

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Hi, I'm from East Texas and I'm trying to learn all that I can about saddle and tack making. I'd like to build some saddles someday for myself. I have been "lurking" in this forum for a while and I've learned a great deal from you all. I want to pose a question to you guys. My brothers and I team rope and train team roping horses and my nephew is becoming a pretty good junior calf roper. What would y'all look for in a roping saddle, team or calf roping. What kind of tree, rigging, any special features, etc.. I know that most of you ride and many of you probably rope so give me your opinions. I ride a 22 year old saddle by Jay Nordley with a double dee rigging. I'm not sure of the tree design.

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Richard,

I'll jump first here. You're riding a good one. That said, seems like most all the calf ropers seem to like the low Toots Mansfield (LTM) trees. I have one in mine. I have a few issues with it. First off, I am wondering why the leg cuts in the swells?? You can't get a leg in under them. There is not enough forward stirrup swing in most of them to get your leg up in there either. About all they do for me is make a nice sharp edge to bite my inner thigh when my horse stops short and I am leaned out there. There is not much fork to lean into with the LTMs, another anatomical consideration. I am attaching a couple pics of mine with the LTM swells to illustrate the swells and show that leg cut I am so fond of. A few things we did on this saddle that kind of worked out, and a few that didn't. We purposely left the skirts full under the leg to help you stand out there. We also made a relief for the front dee ring, and rounded off the corner in front of that. Seemed like a decent idea at the time, but looks a bit odd. I took suggestions from a few guys, which explains why the front is rounded and the back is square. Hmmmm.

Team ropers are a little more over the board than the calf ropers. Some guys like an Olin Young (dating myself, I used to drool in a Ryon's catalog when I was a kid), Bowmans, or the one I like the most is a Dee Pickett. I get Dee Picketts from Timberline that actually have a smooth leg cut that is somewhat functional. I got a nice one with a real similar shape from Sonny Felkins too. They have a little shoulder to them so you can lean up into them, but not so wide as to interfere. They make a real nice all around tree I think. I have made some for all-day cowboys, and they like them too.

As far as rigging, we could start a fight here. The double dee in a full position, 15/16ths. 7/8ths is probably the most popular. The argument about them being stronger or weaker than a plate rigging probably has as much to do with the choice of leather used than anything. They are popular on the production saddles because the dee ring riggings generally are clicked out and don't use as much leather. If you use good leather, they have proven themselves. I fixed a high end name calf roping saddle last year. No names, but the skirts are monstrously thick, the rear jockeys are doubled, and the seat jockeys are doubled at the edges. The front riggings were made from the flankiest 9 oz crap they could find. I guess they used up all the good leather lining the stuff you could see, instead of where it matters. It worked well for molding over the clubby thick front bars and stitched down to the mostly unblocked skirts well. They had a little tab on a long skinny neck to hold the breast collar dee as part of the rigging. The fortunate thing was that the rigging tore out while the horse was tied to the fence standing and not tight to a steer. The actual position of the rigging is pretty well fixed between the 7/8 and full. Some limit to forward stirrup swing depending on how a guy puts them in. Some calf ropers prefer a limit to the swing, some don't.

I usually set the back dee an inch or two further back than regular to help balance out the jerk more. I also normally use 2" back billets on the ropers unless the customer is using custom buckles that are 1-3/4". Final thing I do is use a wider back cinch. I make them from 6-8" depending on what a guy wants. I got this back cinch pattern off an old Crosby looking saddle 25 years ago. I like it, wide where you need it, and narrow up high to minimize spur tracks.

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I sure think Bruce got it pretty well covered. I am partial to an Olin Young style front. Posted below is a photo of mine I use daily. Been wondering for a while why a plate type rig has not been used much, if ever on these arena roping saddles? JW jones1.jpg

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Edited by jwwright

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Richard, I'll say this hoping not to turn your thread into another "how to fit a tree" discussion but my first priority in a ropin' saddle is a good fitting tree. The reason I put this first is this sport is where it really matters, pleasure riders worry about it constantly and most ropers don't worry about it enough, a pleasure rider can ease along a lot of miles and get by with less than great, you might get one steer, one night, or maybe one week but you're horses will quit working at some point if they're getting pinched or sore. All that time spent schooling a rope horse comes undone as soon as he's sore, bad habits, and bad behavior are soon to follow. So I'd say that's that's my number one, tree style is a matter of personal choice, I've had Bowmans, Chuck Sheppards, Toots Mansfeilds, Dee Picketts and liked them all in their own way. I don't really care for D-ring rigs I'd rather ride an in-skirt myself but again that's personal choice, I'm with Bruce on the wide flank cinches you need some width, if everything and everybody is playing the game well it's not such a concern but it doesn't happen like that. Your nephew will unload somewhere and the calf roping calves will be so huge you can't tell them from the breakaway calves, and everywhere you jackpot theirs some guy riding a head horse that's got to slam you back there or his horse won't face. so the wide flank is a nescessaty for your own horses comfort. In summary if it fits your horse, and you've did what you can to see it's a comfortable rig for a horse to work under the rest is just for you, pick what you like and ride it. Calf roping pretty much dictates you're gonna ride a low cantle and wide stirrups but other than that you've really got a lot of choices.

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I enjoy reading all of y'alls thoughts and comments. I've attached some photo's of my saddle made by Jay Nordley and my dad's old saddle that he calf roped on in the late '50's. It was made by Shirley Brown. The swell on my saddle is bigger than on the Shirley Brown and the cantle is a good bit higher. I really don't know what style of tree is in either of the saddles. The tree in the Shirley Brown is the second one in it. The saddle originally had a BIG duck bill horn in it. About 25 years ago my brother was starting to rope and my dad had Comal Saddlery replace the horn (kind of hard to dally around the duck bill). They found the tree cracked and wound up replacing the tree. My dad remembered a horse flipping in the trailer with the saddle. That's probably where it got cracked. Comal did a very good job. You really can't tell looking at the saddle that the work was ever done. I asked him about it and he said they charged him $340 to replace the tree, refleece it, restring it and clean it.

If any of you can make any guesses what style trees these saddles have let me know.

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Wild idea that we thought we would throw past the ropers here. Calf ropers want to get the horn low to the horse’s back to cut down the leverage. A wood post horn can be lower to a horse’s back with the same clearance because you don’t have to make the gullet as thick as you do when you have to accommodate screws to attach the horn. You can put a wood post horn on a swell fork. For those of you involved in the sport: Would there be a reason, other than tradition, why a wood post horn would not work well on a calf roping saddle?

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Rod, theoretically it may work as Bruce said "tagging" as I was taught back to the horn would be possible but some guys grab a horn a couple jumps leaving the box that may be a little inconvenient with a big fat horn it would have to be pretty small for a wood post. When we roped a lot of ammy rodeos I used to see a few guys using high forked saddles that would run a rope under the gullet, up the back of the swell and tie it on just to lower the jerk. You mentioned tradition , I don't know whose going to go first and show up with that rig, the heckling might be second only to grabbing a wig and entering the barrel racing I'm afraid.

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Jim,

The smallest we make a wood post horn cap is 3 1/4". Not huge but not tiny either. As to tradition - there are a lot of cowboys wearing pink at the moment and, even more surprising, saddle makers are actually starting to TALK to each other, so never say never... All it would take is one top roper to use one and it would be the new fad...

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The smallest we make a wood post horn cap is 3 1/4".

Why not make the cap smaller? How small will you make the neck of a wood post horn?

Keith

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Keith,

The minimum neck size we make on a wood post horn is 2 1/8" in the wood. (We make it larger for horns with larger cap sizes to balance the look.) This is just what we are happy with for strength (using laminated hardwood for the entire horn). A 3 1/4" horn cap is only 3" in the wood, so 7/8" difference in total. We tried to make a few at 3" (2 3/4" in the wood) and that left very little room for shaping. As well, the smaller the horn cap, the less distance there is for the horn to slope down from the front to the back, making the back of the horn taller relative to the front than on larger horn caps. The result ends up looking a whole lot like a pop can stuck on the top of a fork, especially once you get the horn wrapped. Some people like that look - and even order the horn with no dome to accentuate it - but most people like a bit more shape to it. So that is where the 3 1/4" measurement comes from.

Edited by Rod and Denise Nikkel

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There is a little section in one of the old saddle books - "They Saddled the West" I think, or possibly Beattie's book just titled "Saddles" about the evolution of the metal horn. Originally they were all wood horns and solid forks. Pictures of those old relics looks like the necks were fairly thin, about like the metal horns now. The horns snapped off and sometime in the 1880s (?) the metal repair horns came in. I think Meana had one with a hollow base to fit over the broken stump. I have an old Visalia in right now, and the horn cap is loose from the neck. I am sort of curious if it is a wooden horn.

As famous as a broken rope was for Dean Oliver, I am sure that nobody today wants to be remembered for missing out an a world championship because their horn broke off.

Yep cowboys are wearing pink. I will be the guy wearing the bright pink shirt at King's reception in 3 getting-shorter weeks. It is the brainchild of a local rodeo wife/mother for breast cancer research, now known as "Tough Enough to Wear Pink". Originally it was a donation of something like $100 from a winery for every contestant that wore pink at a single performance of the NFR. It has mushroomed into a huge deal, and Wrangler came on board. The pink night at the NFR is cool - pink ropes, splint boots, chaps, the bucking chutes and roping chutes painted pink. Some local rodeos now have a "pink performance" and fans and contestants are encouraged to wear pink, with a percentage of gate fees going to the program. Sales percentages of TETWP clothing and merchandise goes to the fund.

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I don't know anything about roping, but Bruce - if you tell the guys it's "salmon", not "pink", they're more likely to go for it... "Salmon" sounds very manly... ;)

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Jim,

The smallest we make a wood post horn cap is 3 1/4". Not huge but not tiny either. As to tradition - there are a lot of cowboys wearing pink at the moment and, even more surprising, saddle makers are actually starting to TALK to each other, so never say never... All it would take is one top roper to use one and it would be the new fad...

To me it when steer roping that big of a horn would be slower to dally,and being that I am portly I would hit my belly.

Tim

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Raftert brings up a good point- the diameter of the horn is really going to matter when dallying. The height is also gonna play a major role because it determines how many wraps you get before doubling over on top of the rope.

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