Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Toots Geyer Saddle

I was thrilled to recently add a Toots Geyer saddle to my collection.  Thanks Diane!   There aren't that many pieces out there by this artist, yet she has definitely achieved her own style.  This saddle is dated 2004.  (Thank heavens it's actually dated and signed!!)  As it happens, the few pictures I have of pieces by Toots Geyer are dated 2005 and 2007.  So I'm guessing this is another talented tackmaker who was active for a handful of years about a decade ago.  If I'm wrong, let me know and I'll update this!

This is the "before" picture:  Before I added the missing tug straps, polished the silver and did some cosmetic disguise work on the seat.
Notice there is no blanket.  I had fun hunting through my collection trying to find a suitable blanket.  This saddle is HUGE.  Nothing I had that was cross-stitch or sewn was going to fit!  I had to fall back on my gotten-in-the-70s pile of Mexican recuerdos (souvenir) serapes.  I could barely find a horse with a long enough back.  Matriarch is immensely long, yet this saddle looks no more than normal on her.  It might even be a scoosh too big!!

My Matriarch was finished by Katie Richards.  (Thanks, Sue Peet, again!)  The orange serape tied everything together;  it brought out the gold tones in the horse and the saddle.  Other blankets, such as pink, white or red, did not look quite as well as that orange.  Although it's not my final choice, the serape did well enough for pictures.
The lacing has not tarnished.  I'm not sure why.  If it's sterling it should have tarnished a little.  If it's aluminum, I did not know aluminum lacing was available.  Go figure.

One feature of this saddle I found interesting was the corner carved leaves.  They were tooled separately, cut out and glued on.  I had never seen this before in model tack.  There's no reason this couldn't happen in full scale and it probably has. 
Another interesting feature was the breastcollar.  The three-part design meant that it fit the horse perfectly, without any choking pressure on the throat.
The seller had clearly stated the tug straps were missing.  I dug up some Rio Rondo buckles to match what was already there, and cut and dyed some kangaroo lace to match colors as closely as I could.  No leather keepers were found on any part of this set; only the martingale had one ring.  If the original tug straps had only rings for keepers, that would lend weight to explaining how they might have been lost.  There was nothing permanently fastening the straps on.  Let the rings slip or drop, and there go your tug straps...
Forensic tackmaking!!
Of course the hard part was polishing the silver.
Breastcollar rings, beads and crimps of the bridle and reins, and bits all needed it.  Even the curb strap was tarnished.  I was tickled to discover the bits were stamped .925, the universal indication of sterling silver.  And yet their 'tarnish' was of a golden-y color, not at all the expected black.  Eventually I decided I was seeing the remains of some kind of coating, probably nail polish.  I had to scrape it off the long beads of the bridle.
Below:  polished on right, unpolished left.
All hail the power of the microbrush!!  Ask your dentist for a few...

I mentioned cosmetic disguise work on the seat.  Even good artists make mistakes, and using a pink or red or purple ink pen to trace out the seat pattern was definitely a mistake.  I hate pens -- the petroleum-base ink always stains and smears!  This saddle had neon-pink stains on the edges of the seat.  The picture does not do them justice.
First I tried to scrape and cut off the worst-offending fibres.  Fortunately I had just sharpened my knife.   This helped but didn't really solve it and did start to endanger things.  Then I brought out my dark brown Edge Cote and gently painted all around the seat edge with a small pointed brush, blending in and touching up without heavy contrast.  That helped immensely.  It covered the pink and gave the saddle a subtle professionalism it hadn't had before.
Toots used sinew in various places to tie parts together.  The cinch, latigo and bridle all feature sinew ties, and these harmonize with the back skirt hatching/lacing.  I loved the Western flavor this gave.
Here are a few other examples of Toots Geyer saddles.  I collected these pictures in 2005 and 2007.
taken from the Web.  photographer unknown
taken from the Web,  photographer unknown

taken from MH$P.  photographer unknown
probably taken from MH$P.  photographer unknown
taken from MH$P.  photographer unknown
All these saddles give a clear sense of Toots' style.  She liked large tooled and colored leaves, particularly oak leaves and acorns, and she used cut-outs to great effect.  She liked large fringe on the blanket.  She liked rawhide-type braiding on the cantle and gullet, sometimes on the horn.  She liked using sinew (rawhide) ties.  Clearly she liked silver lacing and sometimes buckstitching.  Warm earth tones, basketweave stamping and irregularly shaped or angled edges round out some common aspects of this artist's work.
Speaking entirely personally, I find the flavor of Toots' tack to be quite similar to the flavor of Fara Shimbo's.  It may not be supremely detailed or refined, but its scale is part of the appeal, large-hearted and charming.  The effect is of a friendly, comfortable yet hard-working piece of tack.  I am well pleased to have found this example.


  1. Silver lace on saddle is cut from Pie Tins, they don't tarnish.
    Thank You for the article. I am old and gray, retired. Still have a couple of horses and my own working roping saddle left. Thanks again Hope you enjoy the saddle as much as I did making it. Toots

  2. I enjoyed this post about Toots Geyer's work and love seeing her response above. So much history in the hobby being captured on blog posts is just wonderful.