Custom Saddle Pads: Behind the Scenes with Woods’ Western
It’s fashion month at GoHorseShow and we’re talking style in and out of the show pen. When it’s time to show, we all know that our horse is probably our best accessory. So, it only makes sense that we’d outfit them as well as we outfit ourselves.
For more than forty years, Babe and Dan Woods of Woods’ Western have been helping riders do just that with their custom saddle blankets.
For Babe, the business started out of the kindness of her heart. “I started with show apparel and chaps. I was showing and working with a trainer and I started sewing and making things for people in the barn. It really grew from there.”
Plus, Babe say she worked at a western apparel store where people would often ask for the kind of custom looks they saw in the show ring.
That whirl turned into a successful custom clothing business. A decade later Babe says that Dan got involved in the business, too. “We were living in Idaho and we knew there was a demand for custom pads. We knew a gal who wove and so we gave it a try,” says Babe.
Later, the couple moved to California. “I found out about a weaver’s guild and started the hunt for someone to work with. Everyone we talked with recommended the same person. Beryl came to work with us and now, sneaking up on thirty years later, the rest is history.”
Today, Beryl and her son, Skylar, both weave blankets for Woods’ Western. Babe says the pair are the key behind the quality of their blankets. “Beryl strives to make our blankets not only gorgeous, but of very high standards by using the best yarns and huge, hardwood looms.” She adds, “Both Beryl and Skylar are extremely creative in uniting their weaving skills with blanket design.”
When it comes time for a customer to choose a blanket to complement their outfit, Babe says there are many ways to reach the desired result. “We keep a lot of blankets in stock, but I really enjoy the custom aspect.”
For her, the best scenario occurs when customers come to design an outfit and pad together. She believes that following that process typically leads to better results than trying to match a blanket to an outfit after the fact.
“A great deal of time and pride go into matching colors with show apparel. When we do something custom, we can be sure it will match well because the colors will be even. You can be sure you’ll have the same blue in your jacket as in your pad,” says Babe.
At Woods’ Western, the process goes a little like this: “Once you have your colors lined up, then the design comes into play. I feel the colors used in the blanket should mimic the same amounts as the colors used in what you are matching. For example, if there is a small amount of red in the garment, then there should only be a small amount in the blanket. Once we know what colors will be dominant and which will be accents, it’s time to put the design together.”
A point of pride for Babe is the fact that, “Our custom blankets, no matter how many colors, are the same price as our stock blankets. Blankets range from two to six colors. I know that instant gratification is nice, and many people want to pick out a pad to match an outfit they already have. But, I’m always the first one to say, how much nicer would a custom blanket be? When you’re able to match color and design—then you really have an outfit.”
While the colors and design at Woods’ Western are custom, so too are the sizes. “Our stock size is 34” down the back and 42” up and over. Just like the colors, the sizes can be changed to fit a shorter or longer backed horse, or one that doesn’t really need that 42” because of horse size or saddle size.”
Many might believe that custom orders take months to complete. Hence the draw toward stock blankets. But, Woods says custom orders are typically complete in five weeks. Interested in ordering a custom blanket, but live on the opposite side of the country?
“We’re always happy to send yarn samples,” says Babe. “That’s a much better way of getting a correct match. Computer monitors all show colors a little differently. You might look at the screen and say that’s the right shade of turquoise, but in reality there can be six different shades of turquoise. So, holding that yarn next to your outfit is really the best way to go.”
When it’s time to choose that perfect outfit, Babe advises riders to stick with classics that never go out of style. She says, “Trends will always be with us, and I think the horse show world will continue to mimic what’s happening in street fashion. For me, those are the looks that will come and go out of style more quickly.”
So, if you’re looking for a look that will last Babe suggests sticking with classic designs and colors that aren’t too over the top. “Black, gray, white, and silver are always great choices. And, it’s hard to go wrong with a black base.”
At the end of the day, Babe believes that comfort is the key to a winning ride. “If a person is comfortable in what they are wearing, it will make a big difference in their performance in the show ring.”