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Doing Their Part to Eliminate Saddle Sores

March 10, 1994|WENDY MILLER | Wendy Miller is editor of Ventura County Life

We are definitely living in horse country.

According to Jeff Alexander, owner of the TO Corral and a member of the Conejo Open Space Trails Advisory Committee, there are 2,500 horses in the Conejo Valley alone, and he estimates that there may be as many as 30,000 countywide.

Where there are horses, there are saddles. And, sadly, where there are saddles, there are saddle sores.

Fortunately, here in Ventura County, where a good saddle can make all the difference to a cowboy who'd actually like to sit down when he gets home, saddle makers take great pride in their work.

It's painstaking and potentially painful work as staff writer Pancho Doll discovered while researching this week's cover story. When cutting hide, saddle makers sometimes slice their own as well as the cow's. They also sew themselves, puncture themselves and even glue themselves back together.

And that's the fun part, at least for 81-year-old George Randall of Ojai, a longstanding saddle maker whose most distinguished work, according to his clients and colleagues, are braided rawhide bosals (used instead of a bit), reins and riatas (rawhide lariat).

Making a bosal, he told Doll, is tedious work that he does with little more than a pocketknife and a pair of locking pliers. To make the string, he takes a prepared hide, starts at the outside edge and cuts a strip the width of a shoestring, round and round, until he reaches the center.

But Randall isn't complaining. According to Doll, he seems to be quite attached to his craft, and even to the animals who gave their lives to be horse accessories.

"During my visit with the saddle maker," Doll said, "he pointed to a fine bosal he had made and said, 'That's from a little old gray Brahma that up and died on me. That must have been in '55.' "

And that's no bull.

Elsewhere in Ventura County Life, both Earthwatch columnist Richard Kahlenberg and Josef Woodard, who writes on architecture in his monthly Structures column, take a look at the changing face of downtown Fillmore after the quake.

And while they are rebuilding in Fillmore, they'll be re-enacting at Lake Casitas in Ojai, as several hundred volunteers and assorted other Civil War buffs exchange musket fire and historical anecdotes as the Yankees and the Confederates once again slog it out.

I'm sure a good saddle could make all the difference.

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