By Joel “Dutch” Dortch
Roy owned and used a number of
saddles throughout his career. In the early years of his career, he
primarily used two different saddles that he borrowed or rented.
One was a typical stock saddle of the era, used most often with a
fleece covered breast strap. The other was a nice Bohlin silver
mounted saddle with round skirts and a matching martingale and
bridle, with leather covered stirrups adorned on the side with
In 1942 he purchased his signature
silver mounted saddle from Edward Bohlin, celebrated Saddlemaker
to the Stars. In the Bohlin catalog of that era it is
identified as the Dick Dickson, Jr. model. This unique saddle had
silver triangle and diamond shaped decorations with a matching
breast collar, bridle, and tapaderos. Roy used this saddle in most
of his films from 1942 on and in the 100 episodes of the TV series.
It is the saddle shown on Trigger in the photo. This saddle
sold in the Christies auction on July 14-15, for $386,500.00 and was
the highest selling item in the auction.
In the mid 1970’s, Roy ordered a
new Bohlin saddle to put up on Trigger in the museum. This
saddle was somewhat similar to his signature saddle but the fans
objected and wanted to see the actual original saddle on the mounted
rearing horse. Roy switched saddles and the new one was put on
display for many years in the saddle room of the museum. This
saddle sold in the High Noon auction in Mesa, AZ in January 2010 for
$103,000.00. In addition, Roy owned an attractive silver saddle
with round skirts that Bohlin made for Mrs. Buck Jones, wife of
old-time cowboy star, Buck Jones. This saddle sold at a High Noon
auction several years ago and is now on display in the National
Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum in Ft. Worth, TX.
In the late 1940’s, Roy ordered
another Bohlin silver mounted saddle. This saddle was used in a few
of his last feature films and some variety TV shows, parades and
personal appearances. This is my personal favorite Bohlin saddle
and was displayed in the museum on Trigger, Jr. This saddle sold in
the Christies auction for $242,500.00.
Around 1950, Roy purchased the
Music Saddle, one of the most elaborate silver mounted saddles of
all-time, for the record price of $50,000.00. This saddle was made
in the early 1930’s for a lady named Mrs. Music. The original cost
with all the matching accouterments was $20,000.00. It took 16
craftsmen six months to build this saddle. It was reportedly
adorned with 1,400 ounces of silver, 136 ounces of gold and hundreds
of rubies. Mrs. Music was a very small lady and this saddle had a
very small seat. She used this saddle for several years in the
annual Pasadena Rose Parade.
By 1950, Roy was huge in the
merchandising business with his name on hundreds of products
including toy guns and other toys, household items, comic books,
clothes and too many items to list here. Many department stores had
Roy Rogers departments, including Sears. This saddle was shipped in
a special display case from store to store all over the country and
put on display for a limited time in the Roy Rogers departments.
The saddle was delivered to the stores in an armored truck and armed
guards stood watch over it. This saddle generated a lot of
publicity and drew throngs of parents and their children to the
stores. It was a brilliant marketing gimmick that worked.
There are no known photos of Roy
riding on this saddle, probably because of the small seat and only
one known photo of it on one of Roy’s palomino horses. This
gorgeous saddle and all the related accouterments sold in the High
Noon auction a few years ago for $412,000.00.
During World War II, scientists
made great advancements in the use of plastics. An enterprising man
from Nebraska opened a saddle company that eventually located in
Lusk, WY, to make colorful saddles out of plastic. These saddles
attracted Roy’s attention and he owned at least 5 to 7 of them. He
liked them so much that he became a spokesman for the company. He
used these saddles primarily in public appearances throughout the
1950’s and 1960’s, although one does show up in the mud scene of the
feature film, Son of Paleface, with Roy, Bob Hope and Jane Russell.
If you got mud on it, you could hose it off!
The company was short lived and
only made 60 or so of the plastic saddles before going out of
business. Three of Roy’s plastic saddles sold in the Christies
auction. A red one that was on Buttermilk in the museum sold
for $104,500.00 and Roy’s well-used favorite red, white and blue
plastic saddle with eagles sold for $50,000.00. A blue one also
sold in the auction. The plastic Rose Parade saddle that was on
display in the museum for many years sold in the High Noon auction
in January 2010 for $75,000.00.
(images will open in new window)
Trigger, often referred to as The Old Man by movie and
television crews, showcasing the signature 1942 Bohlin saddle.
A classic pose of
Roy and Trigger
Palomino Horse Association and Stud Book Registry
September 16, 1943
Bill of Sale for Trigger from the Hudkins Brothers Stable
December 6, 1943
Receipt for Final Payment on Trigger
Certificate of Honorary Ownership of Trigger
Little Trigger giving Roy a kiss
Another pose of
Roy with Little Trigger
Glenn Randall with Trigger Jr. showcasing the
late 1940’s Bohlin saddle
Roy mounted on Trigger, Jr. with one of the
famous All Western, Inc. plastic saddles.
Roy putting the Liberty Horses through their paces
Roy mounted on Pal with the signature Bohlin
Roy with the Music Saddle and accouterments.
Roy shown on an
advertising brochure for All Western Plastics, Inc. saddles
All photos courtesy of the author’s collection.
All documents courtesy of Roy Rogers, Jr.
About the author: Joel “Dutch” Dortch is
Executive Director of the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation.
Dortch has been a life-long fan of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and
Trigger, ever since he saw the Roy Rogers Show, live and in
person, on the stage of the War Memorial Auditorium in December
1950, in his home town of Birmingham, AL when he was eight years
old. From 1998 through 2007, he produced the annual Roy Rogers and
Dale Evans Western Film Festival, in the Victorville/Apple Valley
area of Southern California, a fund raiser for the Happy Trails
Children’s Foundation. A life-long horseman, with an abiding
interest in the story of Trigger and all of Roy’s horses,
Dortch enjoys horses, Western movies, the sport of Cowboy Action
Shooting and the Western lifestyle.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans played a major
role in helping to establish the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation.
The foundation built the Cooper Home in Apple Valley, CA to provide
a safe haven for children in crisis, who have been severely abused,
abandoned or neglected. The foundation is proud to carry on the
important work with abused children who were so important to Roy and
Dale. The Happy Trails Children's Foundation is a non-profit,
tax-exempt charitable organization under the Internal Revenue Code,
Section 501 (C) (3). All donations are fully tax exempt to the
extent allowed by law.