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 horse’s 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 $4000.00+ 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 converted all of our company saddles to the “Double Wade” for use by our ourselves, our guests, and our staff. 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.