Haggis Trooper Saddle Repair #1 – Leather Pommel Hanger

My Haggis trooper saddle was damaged when my horse stepped backwards off a trail and we both went tumbling down a 50′ bank. It was a pretty spectacular wreck but we came out of it OK. I could tell my horse rolled over backwards because the “spoon” on the back of the saddle was bent down perfectly straight. I was able to just bend it back up. The only other damage was to one of the pieces of leather that wraps over the curved metal pommel bar. It’s a very old saddle and the leather was a bit dried out and cracked. It was still working fine but I figured I’d better fix it before any endurance rides.

I thought this repair would  be hard but it was actually quite easy. This is the before picture. You can see the large split. I will call this piece of leather the “hanger piece”. The seat on these saddles is suspended. The front of the seat is stitched to the (broken) piece of leather which wraps over a curved metal pommel bar. On the other end of the “hanger piece” three large holes are punched, through which leather strings tie it to the webbing that suspends the seat.

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The first step was to untie and unthread the leather strings attaching the hanger piece to the webbing contraption. Shown here partially untied:

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Now the “hanger piece” was easy to get at.  I then removed the two rows of stitches top-most in the photo below. The third (bottom) row is not sewn to the broken piece – it just holds down the rolled edge of the saddle so that was left as-is:

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Front view of saddle showing the in-tact side and broken side after I removed the “hanger piece”. You can see on the intact one how the “hanger piece” wraps around the bar and is tied to the webbing underneath the saddle with leather string.

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I went to the local boot shop and for $10, bought a scrap piece of high quality heavy leather the same thickness as the old piece. I believe it was “English bridle leather”. Very good quality, supple but strong. I traced around the old piece with a sharpie, and cut the new piece with a razor knife. Then soaked both old and new pieces of leather in warm water for 15 minutes (that was a GREAT TIP from the boot guy), towel-dried them slightly. The three larger holes were made with a leather punch. For the stitch-holes, I laid the old piece over the new piece and used my awl without thread to mark them by pushing the awl through slightly. (Clamps would be good to ensure the pieces stay in position, but I did OK just holding them). A magazine makes a good work surface if you are sitting on the floor doing this. After the holes were marked I separated the pieces and pushed the awl completely through at each stitch-hole mark I’d made. I also re-punched the holes in the saddle seat with the awl. You can also use a tiny drill/dremel for this. This made sewing a breeze!! Unfortunately I did not take a photo of the new piece after cutting, marking and punching.

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I then sewed the new “copy” piece back onto the saddle seat with my awl. Both pieces of leather are very thick but it was easy because I’d pre-punched the holes, and because the new piece of leather was slightly damp and pliable. I had taken lots of “before” pictures so was able to line it up exactly like the old one. After I did the first row, I noticed on my “before” photos that the original makers had done a few stitches beyond the new piece onto the saddle seat so I did that on the 2nd row, and later went back and added a few stitches to the first. I recommend lots of “before” pictures whenever doing any disassembly project.

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Completed stitching. It probably took 30-45 minutes at most.

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Then all I had to do was re-thread and tie the leather string underneath.

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Here are the tools I used. The magazine is actually one of the tools. I placed the leather on the magazine when using the awl to pre-punch holes. Not pictured is the leather punch used to make the three larger holes that the leather strings thread through.

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The saddle shop was going to charge me $75 an hour for this repair, and they had a 3-week backlog. They were also totally baffled by my unusual saddle. I should have known, as previously I had asked if they’d fix an halter-bridle and he said they don’t work on English gear (?!? Is it that different ?!?). So I was pretty sure they were going to make a big deal (a.k.a. $$$) out of a relatively simple job, and decided to just do it myself. I’m glad I DIYed it… an easy project to do while watching a movie, and at least $75 still in my pocket.

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