The History of the Wade Saddle
Clifford Wade, whose family came west on the
Oregon Trail, had a saddle, made by an unknown maker, that
his dad brought with him from the east. Tom Dorrance, who
lived in Wallowa County, Oregon, cowboyed with Clifford
and admired Clifford’s livestock handling ability and the
saddle Clifford rode that he had inherited from his dad.
According to Dale Harwood, noted Idaho saddle
maker, in 1939, Tom Dorrance took Clifford’s saddle to Hamley
& Company Saddle Shop in Pendleton, Oregon. He had a new
saddle made on a saddle tree copied from the tree in Clifford’s
In 1940, Tom Dorrance was not satisfied
with the fit of this saddle. He went back to Hamley’s and
worked with Walt Youngman, head tree maker at Hamley’s,
and they made some modifications in the saddle tree.
At that time, Hamley’s made both saddle trees and saddles
at their shop. Dorrance continued riding this improved saddle
throughout his long career as the premier horse psychologist.
Hamley’s made more of these trees that Tom Dorrance
and Walt Youngman had designed. They wanted to call them
Dorrance trees, but Tom wanted the tree named after Clifford
Wade from whom they had copied the original. Hamley & Company
made a few saddles on the Wade trees. They were mostly scattered
around northern Nevada, eastern Oregon, and southern Idaho,
but had limited popularity.
In 1961, Dale Harwood
opened a saddle shop in southern Idaho. Harwood had
buckarooed on ranches all over northern Nevada and Oregon.
He started making saddles for working buckaroos.
In 1962, Ray Hunt had Dale Harwood
build him a saddle on a Wade tree. Harwood credits Ray
Hunt with popularizing the Wade style of saddle by riding
one in the many horse clinics Hunt conducted throughout
the United States, Canada, and overseas.
are several reasons why Wade saddles remain popular today.
The saddle sets low on a horse, giving a horse better
leverage while holding heavy livestock that has been roped.
The horn is low and out of the way when roping. The horn
has a prominent lip to make dallying with your rope easier.
Working buckaroos really like the saddle because of the
way it fits a horse, never moving whether riding in steep
mountains, or on the flats.
Dorrance’s original saddle, shown on the right, was
built on the first Wade tree. He wore it out and recovered
it himself. It is currently owned by Jim and Luke
Neubert, sons of Bryan Neubert, horse clinician from Alturas,
California. The saddle was given to Bryan’s sons as a gift
by Tom Dorrance in 1989.
Photo courtesy of Bryan
Tom Dorrance’s saddle copied
by Hamley & Company from Clifford Wade’s saddle and then
reworked by Dorrance and Walt Youngman. Currently owned
by Jim and Luke Neubert.
A version of this article appeared in the July 2004 issue
of Western Horseman Magazine.