As I sat on my horse looking through my binoculars at a spectacular bull elk just above the treeline, every part of my body hurt except for my backside. It was the seventh day of a gruelling high-country hunt, and I gave thanks yet again for the weathered old saddle beneath me.
Throughout that week, the breathtaking mountain scenery and blue skies offered peace and warmth one minute, and violent cold the next. And the unforgiving mountain terrain made both man and animal work for every inch of ground gained. Dealing with Mother Nature’s changing moods and the long hours on the trail made me appreciate the few amenities I had, especially the saddle beneath me.
Over time, saddles lose their lustre, but make up for it in comfort that only time and use can provide. The leather weathers, and shows the stress from years of hunting trips deep into the mountains. When it rains, for example, you can take cover beneath a raincoat, but a saddle always faces the elements. And while you change out your horse every second day, your saddle never gets a break. Even after carrying you and your belongings all day, it goes on the ground near the campfire at night to serve as a pillow while you dream about majestic high-country bull elk. Then each morning, you wipe it clean of mountain frost and strap it to your horse for yet another day’s ride.
But when the hunt is finally over and it’s time to head back to base camp, I like to pay tribute to my old western saddle in the most fitting way I can—letting it have the honour of carrying my trophy while I lead the horse down the mountain on foot.
Alberta’s Wes David spends 75 days a year fishing, hunting or scouting, often in a saddle.