Saddle Auction

Calgary stampede saddle
There’s only one more chance — OK, make that two — to avoid going bareback during the Calgary Stampede’s big hundred-year hoedown.

The Stampede’s Centennial Saddle program, launched last spring by the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse Committee, has proven a resounding success. In April 2011, the Western Performance Horse Committee commissioned the production of up to 100 identical Vic Bennett Custom All-Round Saddles, to be handcrafted exclusively for the Stampede’s Centennial edition from July 6 through 15.

Whether it was the Centennial cachet, the notion of a timeless keepsake, or the awareness of Sherwood Park, Alberta, based Bennett as a world-renowned craftsman, all 100 saddles have now been sold . . . nearly all 100, that is. These limited-edition saddles, which will never be reproduced, include their own number and certificate of authenticity, and will be signed by both Bennett and Michael Casey, the Stampede’s President and Chairman of the Board. And if you still want to be the original owner of a magnificent Bennett Stampede Centennial creation, you’ve got two chances left.

Saddle No. 12 will be the subject of an online auction, which begins Monday, April 2 and concludes Thursday, April 12. And saddle No. 1 will go up for grabs in mid-July as part of the Stampede’s annual Western Art Auction.

“There’s a core group of us who will savour this project for a long time,” says Hans Kollewyn, who chairs the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse Committee. “Initially, we thought there would be more buyers looking at these saddles as art pieces, which they surely are. But the way things have worked out, about half the saddles sold will be put into use, a few of them even into ranch work — which means a lot of people recognize the value and the utility of Vic Bennett’s saddles, and how well built they are.

“In the corporate world, and the riding fraternity, these saddles will keep the conversation about the Stampede’s centennial year going for a long, long time.”

To participate in the online auction of saddle No. 12, visit the Stampede’s Centennial Saddle page after 12 p.m. today and click on the link to begin bidding. Remember, the auction closes at noon sharp on Thursday, April 12.

As for saddle No. 1, it’ll go on the block Thursday, July 12 as part of the Stampede’s Western Art Auction at the BMO Centre’s Palomino Room, with renowned Alberta auctioneer Rob Bergevin handling proceedings. Visit http://www.westernshowcase.com/ for more details.

Bennett’s purpose-built specimens, or so-called “gift of the century” saddles, boast meticulous craftsmanship and painstaking detail. In fact, Karen Mix, a member of the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse Committee, believes that the Bennett name had everything to do with the success of the Centennial Saddle program.

“Vic Bennett is world-renowned, and I think we were so blessed that we got a saddlemaker of his caliber for this project,” she says. “We needed something unique, and custom-made. And because Vic agreed to go along with our project, to me, it was a success before we started.”

The Stampede’s Centennial Saddle has been mentioned far and wide — even earning a glowing review on CNNGo.com, CNN’s travel website, which rated the coveted creation among the world’s Top 10 travel souvenirs of 2012, christening it “true cowboy art.”

“I was in California recently (a cutting event at Paso Robles). People were asking me questions about the Centennial Saddle down there,” says Mix.

The Western Performance Horse Committee plans to use proceeds from the Centennial Saddle program to reward winners of the Team Cattle Penning Competition, the Cutting Horse Competition, and the Working Cow Horse Classic at the 2012 Stampede — as well as the Stampede’s Cutting Horse Futurity in October — with Centennial champion saddles of a different design.

“I know there are some competitors coming up from the U.S. because of these special saddles,” says Mix. “Really, it just brings added value to the event.”

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