” The Hennessy”
Pete came from Australia to study western saddle making and rodeo gear. Bob Schilds of B-B Blackfoot, Idaho was instrumental in this move, and Pete was welcomed at Bob’s shop and home and fully intended to study with him. However, a marriage in Texas cut short Pete’s plan and marriage was to be his first USA lesson. Pete rodeo’d briefly in Texas and happened to meet Bob Blackwood, the rodeo equipment maker best known for his good spurs. Bob asked Pete to come build bronc saddles and bareback riggin’s for him. Four years later Neal and Don Gay offered Pete a chance to make their “signature” rodeo gear and basically put Pete in business. Eventually Pete’s custom orders became a full time job and his quest for quality and custom proficiency led to constant demand. Champion cowboys that advised and chose to ride his riggin’s and definitely helped Pete to reach his level of expertise. These guys and many more, he is indebted to include the Logue Brothers (Bob & Chuck), Wayne Herman, Marvin Garrett and brother Mark, Bruce Ford, Larry Sandvick, and many more great bareback riders all who in one way or another, had a hand in Pete’s riggin’s thru the 80’s and 90’s.
As one of the first to build a hard-handhold now used on virtually all bareback riggings, Jim Houston of Omaha, Neb., was one of the innovators of the laid-back, wild spurring style of bareback ridding
and won two world championships in the event. Houston who was born Feb. 25th, 1941, had never seen a rodeo until he was 10 years old visiting his aunt in Wyoming. She took him to the Cheyenne Frontier Days and from that day, he never seriously considered any career other than being a professional cowboy. He was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 1979.
“The Ben’s Saddlery”
This old bareback riggin’ was picked up from Ben’s Saddlery in Wickenburg. He dug it out from under a work bench and I know nothing about it. It was probably built in the 50’s from the looks of the d-rings. The handle in this riggin’ has metal throughout including the bars. From what research I have been able to gather metal was being added to the handles much earlier than many thought. Most thought this did not start until the very late 60’s.
“The Dixon Riggin”
Pete Dixon was a rodeo cowboy, artist and cartoonist who in 1940 came out with a bareback riggin’ that became a legend through the 40’s and 50’s. It was one of the designs that cowboys just liked to ride and they became very collectible after the newer riggin’s came into existence. One of the things about Pete that was not as well known, was his art. Pete Dixon’s work was described by Gene Lamb as not being a cartoon but rather identified and accepted as ‘Dixon Drawin’s’. They are not cartoons or caricatures. “The bulls, horses and other animals may have human expressions, but they still look like what they are. All of Dixon Darwin’s are based on fact. Usually what Pete had seen or heard at a rodeo, sometimes from what the cowboys had suggested. Pete had no studio, he worked where he was, and on any material available. He would rough out the drawing in pencil then go over it with India Ink, and drop it in the mail to me whenever he though of it. Pete was a natural artist. He could and did work in oils and other medium, and other medium, and many hotel lobbies and taverns in California have his murals and paintings. He was a contesting rodeo cowboy, cattle buyer, ranch hand and manufacturer.”
“The Bud Cooper”
The Bud Cooper bareback riggin’ is one that was probably used in the late 30’s or early 40’s. Bud was a stock contractor from Montana and eventually sold out to Sutton Rodeo Co. The unusual D-rings on this riggin are the only ones I have been able to find like this, that is why I think this riggin’ was built and used sometime in the 30’s. A very interesting aspect of the handle is that it appears to have been covered with fiberglass or some other material to make the handle stiff as if it had steel in it. Pretty unusual for this time period.
“The Rowell Saddle Co.”
The research on this old riggin’ is just really starting. The Rowell’s Saddlery was started in 1941 by Harry Rowell. They apparently built very few riggin’s because the current owner’s family has been with the Rowell’s Saddlery since 1956 and was not aware of bareback riggings built by Rowell’s. However, Harry Rowell was very good friends with Pete Dixon and Pete often stayed with the Rowell family in the 40’s and 50’s. There will be more information to come.
“The Dan Roth Riggin”
This BB riggin’ is probably from the 50’s and is typical of many BB riggins’ made by various saddle shops around the country. Many did not have a makers mark on them so history is a problem. This riggin’ was loaned to the exhibit by Dan Roth, Flasher, North Dakota. He thinks it belonged to a cousin or uncle from Eagle Butte.
“Barstow w/ quick release”
This Barstow is still used by many younger riders today. This has a quick release that was used as early as the 1960’s but was outlawed by the PRCA. The PRCA has now allowed a quick release with a different location point.
“The Raymond Hulin, camp pendleton”
This great Hulin bareback riggin’ was donated by Jeremy Wolin, a former marine at Camp Pendleton Marine Base. The Ace Bowen arena on the base has had many famous cowboys pass through it’s gates over the years including Bruce Ford, Cody Custer, Coy Huffman, Chris Ledoux and many more. Raymond built many of the bareback riggin’s used here at Camp Pendleton. Raymond Hulin was a decorated Vietnam veteran that prior to his service had rodeoed and perfected the art of building a world class bareback rigging. After being discharged in 1968 Raymond returned to Texas to continue his rodeo career and building bareback rigging’s. In 1981 he was seriously injured in a rodeo accident that paralyzed him from the neck down. While the Dr’s said he wouldn’t, Raymond lived another 25 years with the help of a motorized wheel chair. His bareback riggin’s where considered some of the best there were for many years.
A great friend – July 25, 1943 – January 20, 1998. Bobby was a champion on many levels and one of the great innovators of rodeo equipment. Best known for his great riding spurs that he designed and custom built for over thirty years, he also built bareback riggings and bronc saddles as well as other standard rodeo equipment. He built custom spurs for President Ronald Reagan and Terry Bradshaw. He also made all the equipment used for the movie “Urban Cowboy”.
Somewhat of a celebrity himself, Bob appeared in films with Elvis Presley and Clint Black and several rodeo films performing stunt work and as an extra. While his accomplishments were many I feel the ones he may have revered the most were his affiliations with the various Christian Cowboy organizations including “Cowboys for Christ”. All of his rodeo equipment, while much of it is still being used, is considered very collectible. His admission to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame will insure that his accomplishments will be preserved
“The Jay Craig” This riggin’ probably from the 50″s I know nothing about except it was either owned by or made by Jay Craig and is covered with artwork, top and bottom. It was common to see equipment with a persons name carved in it to help prevent theft. The reworked D rings are also interesting. The D ring placement and shape was in contention then and continues to this day.
This is definitely one of the more interesting riggins I have. Not sure of the age but could easily date back to the 20’s or before. While the two-handed riggin’ was invented by Bill Huntington in 1913 and widely used in the 1920s, the three handled riggin’ has been written about in several rodeo history publications.
A friend from Australia said he learned to ride BB horses on one like this and it might be found around Wild West Shows like Gill Bros. They rode BB horses, stag steers and did some trick riding with them.
This was donated by Larry Sandvick of Wild Man Riggings. He didn’t have any information on it other than it was given to him by a customer, and he in turn donated it to the exhibit
“The Western Saddle Mfg. Co.” This BB riggin’ is one of the few older riggins’ in the collection with a “Makers Mark” on it.
“The Western Saddle Mfg. Co.” I am only guessing, but I would say this was probably made in the 30’s. Dating back to the turn of the century, Western Saddle, at 1651 Larimer St., in Denver was one of the bigger saddleries in the Rocky Mountain region, well into the 1940s.
They carried a complete western line but specialized in saddles, bridles, and chaps. According to their catalog, #40 (1930). “The Fame of the “Western” saddles has spread to practically every farm and ranch home in the entire West”. In addition to their own line, Western carried Crockett, Kelly Brothers, and Buermann bits and spurs.
“The Cotton” This BB riggin I would guess was used in the late 50’s or early and mid 60’s. It has a stiffer body than some of the earlier riggins and you will notice it has mildly dropped D ‘s. The handle has been many times and possibly replaced at some time and is currently tied down to accommodate a very young hand. I knew a BB rider by the name of Cotton Robinette in the 60’s and this might have belonged to him. This BB riggin also has been carved up with names to prevent theft.
“The Dan Young” This BB rigging possibly came from the late 40’s or 50’s. It has Dan Young carved in the body. The D’s are fairly unique on the riggin and you will notice the bars for the handle are sewed in between the layers of the body. I found this a lot on these older riggins. Everyone that built a riggin had their own style and design, resulting in many, many interesting pieces of equipment.
” The 50’s – 2 ” This BB rigging possibly came from the late 40’s or 50’s. The D’s are very unique and the body is roughout, but other than that just an off the shelf riggin. This riggin would has a different cut to the body, and with the different D’s, it probably would have allowed for more give in the front.
” The Buck & Knapp ” I have several of these riggings while only one has the makers mark. The body cut and the handle cut are exactly the same but using different D-rings and different handle attachments. In Business from 1941 until 1963 in Helena Mt., I expect the ones I have were made in the 40’s and 50’s. This rigging has been adorned with many pictures, brands and a couple of different names including the SS# of Jack Hargrove, born 1926. Very interesting rigging.
“The feed store riggin” These BB riggings were produced by several companies including companies like Herford Saddlery and sold at low cost for all the kids that wanted to try their luck in the arena. I think most of these came from the late 50’s and 60’s and can still be found today
“FIRST OF THE MODERN ERA” This little riggin’ is one of the early riggins’ that I consider starting to use some newer ideas. The body design was popular in the Northwest for a while and is starting to show the new cuts allowing it to pull toward the back and the D rings have been changed radically from earlier designs allowing it to pull from the back. One bar over and one under for the handle and some rawhide in the middle probably place this in the early to mid 70’s. Thanks to Mark Dennis for locating and donating this great riggin’.
” The Charley Beals ” The next BB rigging is probably the most widely used from the late 40’s to the early 70’s. Charley Beals produced the first high production, high quality BB rigging that was widely accepted by all the associations. This rigging had two pieces of rawhide in the middle of the handle. Charley Beals was admitted to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Rodeo Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City, in 2010. Charley Beals (1918-1994), Iowa, entered his first rodeo in 1936 and was hooked on the sport after that. In 1937, he received his card as a member of the Cowboy Turtles Association and began competing in all three riding competitions. Beals received several titles during his career, winning the bull riding at the Houston Rodeo in 1943 and 1948, bareback riding at the Tulsa Rodeo in 1947 and saddle bronc riding/all-around cowboy at the Wichita Rodeo in 1948. He also created the Charley Beals bareback rigging, used by every world champion bareback rider competing from 1946 to 1970.
” The Mereness ” This is one of my favorite additions to the exhibit, on loan from Bob Mereness. Bob currently lives in Walworth, Wi. Please read the letter from Bob as It is very interesting also. Bob Mereness: I had always had horses around during my growing up years, but while stationed in San Diego in the Marine Corps, became stationed with Chris Isaacs. Chris was from Mesa, Az. and had ridden bulls during high school. He started going weekends to a little “practice arena” at Spring Valley (Sweetwater Arena) run by Mort Colbert. Before long Chris had me going with him for a couple of years. I would go out on Saturday and Sunday and get on practice horses @ $2.50 each to be followed by a little “Jackpot” on Sunday afternoon. Sweetwater was a melting pot for Rodeo cowboys and I met up with Jean Poutous, Ronnie and Jack Rasco, Gary Crowther, Alvin Deal, Joe Hatfield,, Steve Giddings, Billy Wilcoxson, Bobby Ski, Stan Moser, Buff Billings and others who frequented the place on weekends. Later, on weekends, we would go to Rodeos in California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. Upon being discharged from the Marines in 1966, I moved back to the Midwest and throughout the late 60’s traveled with Tom Oar and Ronnie Martin. I quit rodeoing in about 1972. My first riggin at Sweetwater was a hand-me-down with a squishy hand hold that was “offset” right about 30 degrees. Ilater ordered this Charlie Beals Riggin brand new from Oklahoma through the mail in about 1964. I am not sure of the cost, but I think it was about something like $35.00. It served me well, but in the late “60”s guys were making stiffer hand holds and using aluminum (Jim Houston, Warren Reidhead and others) so I made mine more rigid by fiberglassing the hand hold. Everyone seemed to be doing a lot of experimenting with hand holds as well as placement of the “D” rings in those days. Bob Mereness
” The Houston Pipe ” This great Bareback rigging is on loan to the exhibit by world renowned rodeo photographer Jim Fain. This is a Jim Houston rigging that Jim had placed the new all aluminum handhold on. Original handhold is pictured. Jim said he never did ride the new handhold before he decided to give up his bareback riding and concentrate on rodeo photography. Jim shot the WNFR many times as well as most of the other major rodeos in the west and is still actively shooting a few pro rodeos as well as acting as a ski instructor in N. Utah
” The Bob Shield” This rigging is a Bob Shield, stamped B-B. Bob was from Blackfoot Idaho and rodeo’d from the mid 50’s 60’s and 70’s. He built bareback rigging thru the 60’s and 70’s and it was a very popular bareback rigging in the Northwest. His riggings were of the modern designs and this particular rigging has had the handle replaced with a Houston handle.
“The Jack Ward” Born May 21, 1948 in Caldwell, Kan., Jack Ward began his career as a bull rider by winning the 1969 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Assn. Championship. He qualified for his first NFR in bareback riding in 1972 and went on to make 11 appearances at the NFR. Those 11 trips gave him two world bareback championships and three NFR aggregate titles. During his riding career, Ward was known as the kind of cowboy who excelled when the competition was at it’s toughest. He served as the bareback riding director for the PRCA from 1977-1979 where he worked diligently to keep professionalism in the event a priority. Ward never traded in his riggin’ when he retired fro the arena; he just used it as a prototype for his rodeo equipment company. “My ultimate goal in life and in rodeo is to leave this earth and not have one enemy. I believe if I can do that, I’ll have been successful” Ward said.
“The Early Cross Handhold” Very little is know about this bareback riggin’ except it is one of the very early cross handholds and was probably built after 1924. Using a cross handhold instead of the traditional “in line” handhold used by most has come in and out of popularity through the 70’s and even into the 80’s.
“The 1944” The 1944 we have little information on except the date that is carved in it and the many names and initials carved in it. The bareback rigging rigging has a much longer body than most of this time period and really did not see many long bodies until the 70’s