Goodnight Western Side Saddles
By Linda Flemmer
The rigging rings on 19th century saddles were made of forged iron round stock which would rust if exposed to the elements and horse sweat. The iron oxide would rot the leather it touched, causing the rigging straps holding the rings to fail. To prevent this disaster, saddlemakers of the era covered the metal rings in 4-5 ounce (medium thickness) belly leather. This was the case until approximately 1915 when brass rigging hardware became more common. The saddles pictured in this article demonstrate leather covered iron rigging rings. (Figures 1, 2 & 4)
The Goodnight-style saddles almost always had a dainty tapadero stirrup that protected the foot from brush in rough country. It also served to keep the rider's foot from
Figure 1: Slight uphill
Figure 2: Grab handle on offside
Figure 3: Stamped pattern shown on seat
Figure 4: Suede seat on restoration
accidentally pushing too far thru the stirrup and becoming entrapped. The Goodnight saddles' tapaderos also show an extension of leather against the horse's side to protect the lady's shoe from becoming soiled. The leather of the tapadero is placed around a bent wood stirrup. I was fortunate to find the original tapadero stirrup with my Steelbound. (Figure 1)
The Goodnight saddle is invariably a double rigged saddle, meant to be used with two cinches (cinchas with a connecting strap to keep the rear girth from migrating back to become a bucking strap! When girthed this way, the saddle can still experience some shimmy or "walk" in the rear, despite the rear girth being brought up snugly against the horse rather than hanging loosely as on an astride saddle's flank cinch. The double girthing system is simply not as secure as a balance strap on a more modern saddle. One way to remedy this follows:
Use a half-breed latigo (single thickness short strap with punched holes) on the near side front rigging ring. Attach your string girth to one of the upper holes and take it up using a regular latigo strap on the front off side. Attach your second string girth to the same near side half-breed latigo on a lower hole. Take it up with a regular latigo on the rear off side rigging ring. The second string girth now functions as a wide balance girth without altering your historical saddle. The angle of the second "balance" girth is such that you should not need a connecting strap between the two. (Figure 5), Mike Flemmer up on TBM Gem's Song (Razz) on the Great West saddle.)
Figure 5: Mike Flemmer aside on Razz
The Steelbound I've pictured (Figures 1, 2, 3) has been dated to between 1900 and 1905. The brand has been documented in publications of vintage saddles, but no dates or specific saddlemakers are known to me. I have personally seen one other Steelbound Goodnight-style western sidesaddle in a darkerleather.
The Great West saddle (Figure 4) was built by the Great West Saddlery, Calgary, Northwest Territories (Canada). This company, the largest harness and saddle-making company in the West at the turn of the 20th century, made many of the saddles used by western ranchers of the period as well as the Canadian Mounties. It is the only sidesaddle I've seen made by this company. The saddlery stamps on the corners of the original skirting date the saddle to between 1902 and 1903.