The Kak

More often referred to as a Saddle but Kak or Wood I have heard it called in the past depending on where or who you are riding for or with. I haven’t ran into many cowboys or cowgirls that work full time at the art of COWBOYING that aren’t riding a hand built Kak.

I picked mine up from Dale Harwood’s, Trails end Saddle Shop in Idaho Falls, Idaho the fall of 1977. Our first daughter was born that fall and as the story goes I got the saddle, my bride got a new couch and we both got the baby girl. Getting the baby girl was a great idea and so was the saddle. The couch was nice too but all of these years later we don’t have the couch anymore but we still have the saddle and the girl. She’s no longer a baby but a grown, married woman with a family of her own and I heard a rumor that her first grandchild is due this summer. I’ve still got the saddle too or Wood or Kak; whatever you want to call it.

 My Harwood sitting on my Ezzie mare bringing cows out of Nevada a few years ago.


My saddle is built on a 3B tree and although Dale had a young guy working for him at the time that built it he did so under the watchful eye of Dale. It has served me well through the years and I have drug calves to the branding fire from Montana to California and several States in between. I have also lost count of how many colts it has been on for their first time under a saddle.

Originally I rode oxbow stirrups and while they are great for riding colts they are not great for 30 below weather. I use 4 inch bell stirrups nowadays. I don’t throw a leg over colts as often as I use to so not much need for the oxbows. The 4 inchers are easier on my feet and arches. Not so prone to cut the circulation off to my toes either.

I’ve repaired several saddles through the years but this is the first one that I have built.

This is on a Wade tree and built for my oldest son. My plans are to make 6 saddles, one for each of my kids so 5 more to go. It took me awhile to do this one as I had a lot of figuring to do to get it done. I’m not the least bit unhappy with it for my first saddle but there is always room for improvement. Looking forward to tossing this one on a horse and dragging calves to a branding fire this spring.

About the same time I got my saddle from Dale his friend Ray Hunt started doing Horsemanship Clinics helping folks understand the nature and mechanics of horses. Anyone that could afford to wanted a saddle just like Rays and built by the same guy, that being Dale. It wasn’t long until Dales customer list grew beyond a year or 2 waiting period and people started buying others slots on his waiting list in order to get a saddle from Dale; in many ways he has been looked upon as the ‘Dean or Master’ of saddle making. I’m sure that there are a lot of great saddle makers out there but Dales name  is still mentioned with a certain amount of reverence; I have always been proud to have known him personally and call him my friend. He took a great deal  of pride in making saddles for the working cowboy and cowgirl.

One of the years that I was doing a 4 month wintertime tour of duty at JR’s feedlot at Grandview Idaho I happened to be on my day off when a couple of young hands were looking over my Kak making fun of it as I was the oldest Pen Rider on the crew, I suppose they had nothing better to do, when they noticed the name of the maker they stopped talking for a second, then one of them said “Dale Harwoods Trails End Saddle Shop”, it was a statement said with a great deal of surprise. One of my good friends piped up and said, “yeah that’s what them old timers ride”.  I didn’t ask for their names as I wasn’t at all concerned with their opinion on just about any subject matter, especially Kak’s. As a matter of note this ‘Old Timer’ was in his late forties at the time and starting the feedlots Colts.              

 I have known folks that have gone out and bought saddles that they thought were exactly like what Dale was building but they were for the most part unsuccessful imitations of a great product. If you are making a living on the back of a horse, how your saddle fits you and the horse is important. The long days that come with the cowboy life style will wear even the toughest of riders and horses out; an ill fitting saddle is a bad idea.

Not that long ago after a day of work on the Rock Pile, as we were driving in to where our separate vehicles were parked, it was a bit of a challenge for everyone to stay awake. The youngest of our crew that day was siting in the front seat wedged between his dad and I, a good part of the pickup ride this young cowhands head nodded back and forth between us. Whether you are 22 or 72 it is big days on the Rock Pile so proper equipment is a must.

A good Kak is proper equipment.


















Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *