A look at the saddle that was ridden and made famous by Teddy Roosevelt.
By Dick Spencer III, written January 1958
Saddle once owned and used by Teddy Roosevelt is still in active use on a small ranch near Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is one of the prized possessions of Dr. Robert M. Stabler, professor of zoology at Colorado College.
The years of use have left little mark on the saddle, since Doc takes excellent care of the saddle when it is not in use. The large tooled initials, T R, are plainly visible on the cantle, as is the famous shield-shaped stamp of the maker, J.S. Collins, Cheyenne.
In the book Roosevelt in the Bad Lands, published in 1921, this saddle is pictured prominently in the frontispiece and also in a photograph of Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, taken by Teddy, himself. Dr. Stabler and his father used to ride with the President when they lived in Washington, D.C., and after Roosevelt left the White House Doc’s father visited the groom at the White House stables to see if some souvenir of the former president’s riding gear might be purchased.
That’s when they got the saddle, and the Stabler family still has the receipt, dated May 5, 1910, and signed by the groom, Richard Davidge: Doc’s father, Albert Stabler, bought the saddle for $40. In 1912, during the “Bull Moose” campaign, Albert sent a picture of the saddle and a note saying “I am going to ride this saddle at the head of thy inaugural parade March fourth! ”
Albert Stabler was a Quaker, not without a sense of humor–and he greatly enjoyed the reply he received from Teddy. On his Oyster Bay, Long Island, card the presidential candidate scrawled “Hearty thanks to thee, friend.” Although Teddy got more votes than the Republican candidate, the split caused by the Bull Moose in the Republican party left him with fewer votes than Wilson, and he lost out in the election.
Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919, but his name will always be associated with the west, rough riders, and horses. He was among the first five elected to the Cowboy Hall of Fame, and Doc Stabler thinks that someday this saddle should end up on display in this institution.