The eight-string Loop Seat saddles of the 1890s were the last of the "Cattle Drive" inspired saddles. After the development of the Loop Seat, pretty much all following saddle styles, reflected the adaptations of stock saddles to ranch-specific chores: cutting, roping, bronc bustin', etc. The 1890s Loop Seat saddles marked the end of an era.
The saddle was called a "Loop Seat" because the stirrup leathers looped through the seat-cover as they passed over the bars. This was the western saddle maker's answer to the hide glues and saddle pastes used to hold saddles together in those days. The glue used by saddlers was boiled down from animal hides, similar to today's Elmer's glue, (the bull used as the logo, representing the by-product of processing, is still used by Elmer's to this day).
This particular saddle was built as a proto-type for an up-coming Western. John Wayne's 100th Birthday was May 26th, 2007. A big celebration was held at his birthplace in Winterset, Iowa over the Memorial Day Weekend. Michael Martin Murphey performed a number of times during the course of the weekend and this saddle served as a back-drop at his booth. He took time out of his schedule for a photo-shoot with this saddle on his horse, Wildfire.
This example of late 1890s Stock Saddle has rounded skirts
which were all but nonexistent till the very end of the 1800s.
Rounded skirts seemed to show up first in the desert Southwest,
most likely to cool the horse..
The problem with hide glues was they often became soft when saturated with moisture. Earlier half-seats got around this problem by nailing the seat-cover to the bars of the saddle tree on the sides. In the front, the seat-cover passed under the stirrup leathers and in the middle, between the bars, it was folded under and tacked. The edges of the seat that covered the cantle were stitched or laced to the back covering of the cantle. In this way, the seat of the saddle was held secure, even if the saddle paste that held it together during fabrication, got damp during a rain storm or river crossing.
When Western saddle makers started making full-seated saddles, they didn't sew and nail them like the English-type saddles made back East. Since the layers of saddle construction were already held together with saddle strings, the saddlers used the stirrup leathers to hold down the leading edge of the seat cover. And so, the Loop Seat saddle was developed.
Shown in this photo is the complete set: saddle, breast collar and bridal, complete with strap reins.
This example of late 1890s Stock Saddle technology comes complete with eight-braid, round-edge braiding on the cantle's edge and decorative incised floral decorations accenting the saddles design. This particular saddle has a 15" seat, semi-Quarterhorse bars that are thinned and faired to fit a wide variety of body styles. It has center-fire Spanish rigging with brass hardware. The lightweight design and rounded skirts make it an ideal saddle for those desiring an Old West look, at a weight they can heft. A saddle like this runs $6,000.