Parade Saddles

Hello everyone and happy Wednesday!

When I was a kid, my idea of some kind of wonderful was a palomino horse and a black and silver parade saddle. If I’d been blessed with a palomino horse and a parade saddle, I would have ridden around the countryside, solving crimes and helping people…but no.

I didn’t get my palomino or parade saddle. What I did get a very cute black pony named Bunny and we won a dollar in the Sandpoint, Idaho July 4th parade in a year I will not specify. In that same parade was a riding group that did indeed have parade saddles. I remember coveting them.

Now that I’m older, I still love parade saddles, but I doubt I’ll ever own one. I can’t see where I’d ever use one, and more than that, I can’t see how I would fit one into my budget. But I can tell you a few things about them.

These saddles were most popular in the 1950s and 60s and they were made to stand out. Because they were covered with so much bling, they tended to be larger than the average saddle, with wide skirts and tapaderos, which are the stirrup covers. Silver was the bling of choice, which made the saddles very heavy. The saddle often had a matching breast collar and perhaps even a bridle.

One of the most famous parade saddle makers was Ed Bohlin, a master craftsman in both silver and leather and had superb carving skills. He was born in Sweden in 1895 and came to America at the age of 15. He worked cattle drives in Montana and then started his first saddle shop in Cody, Wyoming. He met Tom Mix in Los Angeles and Tom convinced him to stay in the area and set up shop there. Ed made over 12,000 saddles, many of which were featured in the Rose Parade. He also dressed and outfitted numerous movie stars.

I did a quick eBay search and found a Bohlin saddle for sale for almost as much as my first house cost. It was beautiful, both as a saddle and as a piece of history.

So I must ask…what piece of western memorabilia would you like to own?

Jeannie Watt
Jeannie Watt lives off the grid in an historic cattle ranching area and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

23 Comments

  1. Hello Jeanie- what a wonderful topic. I do collect Western memorilbilia and especially Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, & Tom Mix toys that were all the rage back then. I have toy guns with Roys name in them, comic books by all these famous movie stars from the 40’s & 50’s. One thing I have that is precious to me, is a rocking horse of Tom Mix & Tony that I bought that was savaged from the infamous Greensburg, Kansas Tornado that leveled 75% of the town on May 4, 2007. One interesting fact about why this was so meaningful to me, was I was a very sick infant and spent 26 days in Cooks Children’s hospital in Ft. Worth fighting for my life. Tom Mix came and saw me, of course I don’t have any memory of this, but my parents do. He was there visiting all of the sick babies and that really moved me when I found out later in life. So being able to purchase this rocking horse is quite special to me.
    I’d love to own either one of these wonderful actors saddles, one of their horses bridles, or a hat from the actor themselves.
    Thank you fir featuring this article. Have a great rest of your week.

    1. That is a wonderful story, Tonya! Tom Mix has always been one of my favorite cowboys. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I remember seeing those saddles. They are amazing. As a child I always wanted a huge headdress. I really do not any more though. I have read about feathers having things in them. LOL

    1. I think a kid would have a ball in a headdress, but I can see how the appeal might diminish with time. 😉

  3. I have watched many parades and saw beautiful saddles.

    1. I love parades. I always cry when the horses come. Don’t know why.

  4. I never really put much thought into saddles as I’m not a horse rider. But when you said you found one that cost almost as much as your first house, I had to go to Ebay to look. There sure are some pretty ones over there, but that silver covered one that you posted is still my favorite.

    1. It’s a beauty, all right. I think the price of silver was a lot lower when they were making these saddles in the 50s and 60s, so it was doable. Now the silver alone would break the bank.

  5. Fun post, Jeannie! I remember well watching the Rose Parade and seeing the mounted groups in those fancy silver saddles. So gorgeous. But my favorite part of your post is the picture of Ed Bohlin in that 10 Gallon hat. Ha! I always thought those were so goofy looking, but he just about pulls it off. I had to laugh about it being so tall they couldn’t fit all of it in the picture, though. LOL.

    1. Here’s a secret–my husband had one! I don’t know why. He never wore it much, but in Nevada you see all kinds of hats on the range, and a number of people wore the big ones.

  6. Since I’m not a horse rider, I confess I haven’t paid as much attention to saddles as much as the cowboy on the saddle on TV and the movies! lol On trip a trip to Texas, though, I did buy a hat and boots a (very) long time ago.

    I, too, looked, at ebay and saw the Gene Autry Parade Saddle, Attributed to Edward Bohlin, for more than $50,000. Amazing! I myself would pick a parade saddle with a natural tan rawhide color. Thanks for a great post. I love leaning new things.

    1. You’re welcome, Eliza. I agree with the natural color. Black leather doesn’t age that well, either.

  7. Aren’t those saddles beautiful?! I love looking at them in pictures and parades. My daughter is the horse lover in our family and she loves the well-worn old saddles. I think for me, I love the old western guns and plinkers they used way back when. But not sure I would pay too much for them. LOL

    1. Old guns are another fascination of mine. They are so cool!

  8. I would say a saddle from the 1800’s since a man’s wealth was put into his saddle for those who made a living as a cowboy.

    1. Excellent point, Kim. I have a saddle from the 1920s. It has a very narrow tree, and it doesn’t fit many horses. I do love old saddles, though.

  9. Omygosh, thank you! When I was kid I fell in love with palomino horses. I would daydream and even dream about riding a palomino. I once had a dream where I was in the Sahara desert, and I was riding this most magnificent palomino stallion — no parade saddle though, just bareback. I’ll always remember that dream. I loved it.

    I was definitely enamored by those silver and black parade saddles too, and when I attended a few horse shows with a neighbor, I got a closeup look at them. Yeah, I would have liked to own one, then. And they are gorgeous just as art, which is what I would haveit for, if I was ever rich enough to buy one.

    As far a piece of western memorabilia give me a pearl-handled colt 45.

    You are so lucky to live off grid, and have horses!!!

    1. Savanna–we could have hung out together for sure! A pearl handled Colt .45 would be a treasure!

  10. I still enjoy watching the Rose Parade. The mounted groups are always so beautifully turned out.
    I would love to have a white deerskin dress with beading and quill work with leggings and moccasins to match. Quill work is becoming a lost art.

    1. What a lovely thing to want! I retired from teaching at a school with 80% Native American population. The bead and leather work phenomenal!

  11. Thank you for a great post! My husband owns two belt buckles that once belonged to John Wayne. What a great cowboy he played!

    1. Melanie–that is so cool! I’m a big John Wayne fan and a touch jealous. 🙂

  12. I’m very late getting here but oh, the parade saddles!! When I was a kid my uncle bought his kids a palomino horse with a full dress parade saddle. We thought it was pretty ridiculous to put all that stuff on a horse. But he knew nothing about horses and his kids were afraid of the horse plus they had no place to keep it. We lived on a small farm and my father was great with animals, thus we got “Sugar Baby” and his parade saddle. What we didn’t know was that this horse was champion barrel racer. That horse was way out of our league but he gave us great memories a lot of laughs about all the times he outsmarted us.

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