Evolution of the Blue Sky Sage "Double Wade" Saddle

 Part 2:

Benefits of the Wade Saddle Design and the Development of the 

Blue Sky Sage "Double Wade" Women's Saddle

Double Wade "Deluxe" Model

Double Wade "Basic" Model

Today, as in Clifford’s and Tom’s day, the only true Wade saddles are custom or semi-custom built on a genuine Wade tree. While all saddle catalogs offer a so-called Wade-style western riding saddle, they are not built over a Wade tree. They are usually just standard stock saddles with the swells removed and sometimes called a “slick fork”, perhaps with a large post-style dally horn. Price is your first clue. Any commercial saddle advertised as a Wade for under $2000 can be assumed to not be built on the Wade tree.
It is important to understand what separates a true Wade saddle from the cheaper commercial knock-offs. The angle and dimensions of the bars of the tree are crucial and specific. While there is some “wiggle room” here, stray too far from the design and you lose the saddles’ ability to fit a wide array of horse confirmations. This is where the knock-offs miss the mark.  Secondly, a true Wade is designed to “get off a horses’ front end”, allowing maximum freedom for the horses’ mobility on his front shoulders. This is a well-known advantage whether you are a dressage competitor or a cowboy on a cutting horse.  Any high-level horsemanship simply must allow the horse a full, free range of movement in his front end.

A true Wade saddle is going to be a handmade saddle
, either from a production shop like McCall Saddle Company of Vernal, Utah or from an independent custom saddle maker.  The McCall is true to the original pattern, well-made, and reasonably priced, with a starting base price of around $3000 or so. Bobbi rode a McCall saddle for several years and it proved to be an excellent choice for her and her horses both in comfort and fit.

A custom riding saddle built by an independent saddle maker will be a more expensive option, often starting at $3000-$4000 as a base price. Several saddle  makers in our region, including Harwood, Castagno, Fandek, or Pollat to name a few, can build a true Wade saddle with fine craftsmanship and the ability to customize everything the customer could want or need in a quality riding saddle, but every customization raises the price. And, it can take up to two years to have a custom saddle built so the wait time and cost can be prohibitive to many riders.

With the understanding that it is difficult and expensive for most people to own a true Wade saddle without resorting to the low-end knock-offs that are prevalent in the marketplace, Bobbi and I have collaborated with custom saddle maker Aaron Fandek of Fandek Saddles & Stirrups in Pinedale, Wyoming to design and build an affordable, true Wade saddle, labeled as the Blue Sky Sage "Double Wade" Women's Saddle. We have several of these saddles in production right now that will be incorporated into our company for use by our guests on the Blue Sky Sage horse riding tours. And, the first one out of Aaron’s shop will be Bobbi’s. These are custom-built saddles that will be affordable to most serious horsewomen and horsemen, starting under $2500. And, keeping true to its roots, the design retains the foundation of Cliff and Tom’s intent while continuing the evolution to take advantage of modern thought and materials. The "Double Wade" is our take on honoring and incorporating Cliff Wade's original design, with the inputs from "us Wade's", Mike and Bobbi, for riders of today that have become part of the Blue Sky Sage following.

Bobbi and I have spent a literal lifetime using the good, the bad, and the ugly of saddles, and we have learned more about the development and use of the from Aaron Fandek than we could have imagined. Fandek knows what he is talking about with custom saddles and between the three of us, we have developed a design that I think may be the best of the best when it comes to a good, using western saddle at an affordable price. This design came out of a desire to help our horses perform better for our guests, and to give the guests a more comfortable and accommodating saddle to use during their riding vacation with Blue Sky Sage Horseback Adventures.

Like all good saddles, the "Double Wade"
 design starts with the Wade-shaped tree.  Made from hi-tech poly fiber, the tree is absolutely indestructible. The fiber tree allows incorporation of a cable rigging system, made of Kevlar material, the same material that bullet-proof vests are composed of. This cable rigging has three distinct advantages. First, it is fully adjustable, meaning the girth position can be easily adjusted forward or back to fit specifically to the horse you are riding at the time. This is a huge advantage over a fixed-rigging which is built in to most western riding saddles.  The second advantage is the slim construction of the design; a standard rigging is thick with layers of leather and steel, preventing closer contact with the horse. The close contact of the cable rigging is second only to the feel of riding bareback.  Finally, the cable system reduces the overall weight of the saddle by 10 to 15 pounds.

 In the photos, Aaron is gluing, shaping and "skiving" the ground seat leather. Note that he is using a mule deer antler as a tool to smooth in the leather as he is gluing. Bobbi was onsite during this process to be "fitted" into the seat, which will be narrower across the forward part of the seat where the femur bone contacts the saddle, allowing a woman's leg to fall into the proper position on the horse. The ground seat leather has also been built-up in the center, providing a higher rise which also facilitates the straighter drop of the leg on a woman's build, while the "pocket" or rear seat is a little broader, to better fit the wider hips of women.

The sheepskin lining has been eliminated on this saddle design for several reasons. It adds little to no cushioning to the horses’ back, and if you press down hard on the sheepskin lining of any western riding saddle with your thumb, you will be surprised at how little cushion is present. Cushioning is the job of a high-quality wool saddle pad. Eliminating the unnecessary sheepskin also reduces quite a bit of the saddle weight, bulk, expense, and construction time. The Blue Sky Sage "Double Wade" Women's Saddle is designed to be used with a very good quality wool pad or blanket.

The third feature of this new western riding saddle design is the very slim, quick-adjust stirrup half-leather and buckle, with the “buckaroo twist”. This design promotes close contact, with a minimum of leather bulk between rider and horse, and puts the proper twist on the stirrup to prevent knee and ankle fatigue.  The twist also helps the rider keep his or her legs and feet in the proper position with independent seat riding. And, these stirrup half-leathers also have contributed to reducing the overall weight of the saddle.

The complete design of the Blue Sky Sage "Double Wade" Women's Saddle gives the close contact “weld” and security of a dressage saddle, the light weight and comfort of a trail saddle, and the durability and strength of a roping saddle. It is a design I think Clifford himself might have enjoyed riding.

The Blue Sky Sage "Double Wade" Women's Saddle is fully integrated into our riding program, and can be ordered exclusively through Blue Sky Sage Horseback Adventures. Contact Mike or Bobbi directly for ordering information at  info@blueskysage.com. You can also call us a 307-260-7990.

Click here to read Part 1, "The History of the Wade Saddle"

Bar length: 22 1/4" - 23", depending on seat length
Gullet: Medium is 6 1/2" W x 8" H (deep) / Flatter is 6 3/4" W x 7 1/2" H (deep)

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