Make a Play-quality Western Saddle
from a plastic Toy saddle

This play-quality Western saddle is perfect for a younger kid who wants more realistic tack when she plays with her model horses, but doesn't show them (yet), or a beginning tack maker.

It is a fun project that is not highly focused on little details, but the saddle still looks good in the end.

You need

  1. plastic or rubber saddle
  2. tissue paper or paper towels
  3. felt scraps
  4. stretch fabric for the seat (optional)
  5. leather scraps
  6. tacky glue or model airplane glue
  7. scissors
  8. acrylic paint
  9. Diamond Glaze
  10. paint brush
upcycle a plastic saddle into a leather saddle

1.  Start by finding an unrealistic saddle. The saddle in the photos is a Classic Breyer sized rubber toy. You can find saddles like this in lots on Ebay. 

On the saddle shown above, the cinch is too far forward, the stirrups are too far back, the fenders aren't long enough, and I don't like the color.

The cinch buckle was also broken. One of the problems with plastic or rubber saddles is that the straps and buckles break, so a leather saddle will be more durable.

2. Cut off the cinch and fenders where they touch the skirt with a pair of small scissors. Save the fenders with the stirrups.

 3. Put a piece of tissue paper on top of the saddle and trace the features (front jockeys, back jockey and skirt). These will be patterns for cutting the leather.
Hint - make the patterns a little bigger than they are on the saddle. Any extra leather can be trimmed later.

4. I used the paper patterns to cut felt samples. The samples are to test fit (so you don't waste leather if the patterns aren't perfect on the first try).

Small Green pieces = side jockeys

Yellow = back jockey

     Red = skirt

Long Green = fenders

The exact sizes and shapes of your patterns maybe different from mine. That's OK! Your saddle is probably built slightly different from mine. Remember this is a play quality Western saddle.

5. Paint the saddle with acrylic paint in your choice of color. Allow to dry. Coat horn with Diamond Glaze and allow to dry.

You could also use clear nail polish.

6. Glue the fenders on the saddle.

They should be near the front of the skirt and hang straight when on your horse.

Optional step: If you'd like a covered seat, now is the time to add it. Cut a piece of fabric larger than you'll need.

Cut a straight edge to place against the horn. Mold the fabric around the seat and glue.

Don't add glue to the parts of the seat that will be visible. Put the glue in the seam of the seat and jockeys on the rubber seat.

When the glue is dried, trim off the extra fabric.

Note: in the photos at right, the fabric seat is not shown to make the construction order clearer to see.

7. Test fit your felt pieces.

It's better if the skirt is a bit large (you'll trim that later).

When your happy with the fit, use the felt to cut the leather pieces.

Glue the skirt to the saddle.

Glue the back jockey on the skirt behind the seat.

Glue the front jockeys down, covering the edge of the back jockeys and wrapping around the horn.

8. The glue is dry and it's time to trim the extra leather off the skirt.

Try to make the curves even. Go slow. Remember you can always trim more but if you trim too much you'll have to replace the damaged piece.

Here's a view from the back. The skirt is slightly larger than the rubber so the rubber won't show when it's on the horse.

9. Cut the rubber fenders off the stirrups.

Wrap the leather fender around the stirrup so the extra leather will be against the horse's belly and glue.

If you've made a fabric saddle, you can add matching stirrup treads.

Other ideas for a Play Quality Western saddle

For a Western Pleasure saddle, cut corner plates out of the shiny metal safety seals that come on top of jars of peanut butter. Glue them to the back corners of the skirt and back jockey.

For an All-purpose Western saddle, cut four saddle strings and glue them to the corners of the back jockey, two on each corner. Glue a sticker on top of the strings.
A Parade saddle could have glitter, shiny metal, or plastic gems on it.

Upcycle a cheap rubber saddle into a nice leather saddle

Hints for Making Your Play-Quality
Western saddle

This is a great project for scrap leather, fleece, vinyl or even felt. Don't use expensive leather for play quality Western saddles and tack.

Fabric scissors makes cutting leather easier. If you don't have fabric scissors, you can use curved finger nail scissors.

If you make a mistake, you can always strip off the error or even start over again. The results don't need to be show quality.

Sometimes a rubber saddle doesn't fit the horse's back as well as it could. Try making a saddle pad.

Play-quality Western Saddles can be used in Western Pleasure, Western Dressage, and Ranch Scenes.

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