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Roy's Saddles

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 silver conchas.

            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.

 Photo Captions (images will open in new window)

  1. Trigger, often referred to as The Old Man by movie and television crews, showcasing the signature 1942 Bohlin saddle.

  2. A classic pose of Roy and Trigger

  3. The Palomino Horse Association and Stud Book Registry

  4. September 16, 1943 Bill of Sale for Trigger from the Hudkins Brothers Stable

  5. December 6, 1943 Receipt for Final Payment on Trigger

  6. A Certificate of Honorary Ownership of Trigger

  7. Little Trigger giving Roy a kiss

  8. Another pose of Roy with Little Trigger

  9. Trainer Glenn Randall with Trigger Jr. showcasing the late 1940’s Bohlin saddle

  10. Roy mounted on Trigger, Jr. with one of the famous All Western, Inc. plastic saddles.

  11. Roy putting the Liberty Horses through their paces

  12. Roy mounted on Pal with the signature Bohlin saddle.

  13. Roy with the Music Saddle  and accouterments.

  14. 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. 

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