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Silver Parade Saddles

Silver Parade Saddle, Bohlin, for Dick Dickson Jr.

Parades and horses go together like peanut butter and jelly. Imagine one without the other. Imagine a parade down Main Street without high stepping horses exquisitely attired in parade saddles, adorned with silver outlining the top and side edges.

Flashing in the sun, silver conchos1 twinkle over his ears, across the forehead and down the horse's nose. Leather reins connecting the bit to rider are often decorated with round silver ferrules2. Parade saddle may have various sizes and shapes of conchos, from tiny silver spots interwoven among larger and varied sized poppy inspired designs, square, or diamond shapes. But let's not stop here with only silver enhancements. Many parade saddles have additional gold overlay, from plain spots to artistic cutouts of stars, riders, longhorns and bucking broncs, a favorite image. Riders may start off with simple parade saddles and matching bridles, then add tapaderoes3 and breast collars4 to their outfit every year. A complete dream and goal can consist of adding silver laden drops along the rump of the horse, called an encara, that looks like a beautiful scarf twinkling along the rear legs.

Where do these fancy ideas come from? Man has always wanted to dress beautifully for special occasions and dressing-up their horse was no different. It seems that those artisans from Mexico and the Western part of our nation did it best for the vaqueros and charros. In Mexico, silver thread and cactus fiber (called pitiado) was used to embellish. Silver was the next step to use for this "horse jewelry". Edward H Bohlin began his silver and leather work in Cody, Wyoming in the late 1920s, but quickly moved his operation to Los Angeles where Tom Mix and many others rode his famous saddles. We can look towards Northern California as well, where Visalia and Keyston made their stunning silver parade saddles beginning in the late 20th century. Hearts were a thematic favorite for Brydon Brothers of Los Angeles, who shared their fame with the illustrious Hollywood Saddlery Company.

Plain or simple, the men and women who parade are proud of their horses and love dressing them up in horse "bling".

Anatomy of a Parade Saddle

Click to Enlarge

Conchos:
Small decorative ornaments made of sterling silver, gold, brass, chrome or a combination of materials which come in many shapes: round, oblong, diamond, square. Conchos can be plain or engraved, overlaid with other materials or pictorials and also be used in combination with various other shaped conchos to decorate saddles, bridles, hatbands, belts or any piece of leather that wants to sparkle and become more ornate.

Silver Ferrules:
Ferrules are used to jazz up reins in order to best show off the horse's headstall, especially in combination with other silver ornamentations, like conchos, silver browbands and nosebands. Starting out square or rectangular, the flat sterling pieces are then bent to cover round leather reins. They are often deemed essential to complete parade outfits.

Tapaderos:
Every saddle needs stirrups in order for the rider to be able to stay centered and to give the horse gentle instructions from their legs and feet. They are usually fashioned from wood, iron or leather. Tapaderos were originally used for the practical job of covering the cowboys' legs when riding in brush or high grass by protecting the stirrups (and the riders' feet) with leather. But now they are found more often on both Mexican and parade saddles. In order to create a long, graceful finish to the look of the saddle, tapaderos (or taps as they are often nicknamed) usually refer to those covers when they are longer (as long as 20") and often carved with the same beautiful tooling and silver ornamentation to match the saddle.

Breast Collars:
Breast collars have dual purposes. First and practically, they hold the saddle from slipping back on the horse. But secondly they present another place to bestow jewelry to dress up a horse. Basically fashioned of leather, they often have silver ornamentation that matches both the saddle and bridles.

 

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