Screen star Tom Selleck offers an exclusive look at his horses, his films, and the highs and lows of mixing Hollywood and the West.

Photographs by Cordero Studios,

Watching Tom Selleck saddle Spike, a Quarter Horse who wears his 22 years quite well, is a lot like seeing a couple of old friends sit down for a cup of coffee. Neither one pays much attention to the other. An occasional grunt or the sharp clearing of a throat punctuate ample stretches of empty silence. There might be a word or two as Selleck smoothes out the saddle blanket or heaves up his saddle.

“Unlike a lot of Quarter Horses, Spike is very narrow in the front, much more like the horses from the (post-Civil War) Quigley Down Under era,” Selleck says, referencing the 1990 Australian-themed western in which he played the title role of Matthew Quigley. Spike is the horse Selleck rode in the film.

“He’d have been a huge horse, height-wise, for that period. A tall actor, like me, should be on a horse probably 16 hands,” says the 6-foot-4-inch Selleck. “Otherwise, it looks like my feet are dragging the ground.”

It’s the typical off-the-cuff remark the veteran actor-producer will make on this picture-perfect California afternoon. As a student of western films, Selleck has become a repository for reams of minutiae pertaining to period tack, props and costuming, and it takes only a little prodding to get him to reveal a few of the insights he’s gleaned from working on some of the most revered western films of the last 25 years.

“In a period saddle, you ride a much longer stirrup, and you ride much more straight up than you would in a modern saddle,”he shares. “The saddle will force you into the correct posture, or you’re going to hurt yourself. One thing leads to another. You get the right saddle, you’ll probably sit it right … with time.”

After tightening the cinch, Selleck points out the new saddle he’s using, a handcrafted masterpiece by Jerry Croft of Deadwood, South Dakota.

“Jerry’s the guy I called when I wanted saddles for Matthew Quigley,” he explains. “I knew that if I played this lone cowboy, I wanted to see that silhouette of a period western saddle. I thought, ‘That says something for this fish out of water.’ So I talked to Jerry, and we came up with the right saddle with the right rigging, and that was the beginning of what’s been a really wonderful relationship.”

Croft has since made Selleck’s saddles for Last Stand at Saber River, Crossfire Trail and Monte Walsh.

A rare shy smile creeps across the actor’s face, then he confesses another detail. The saddle he’s using on Spike today is one of Croft’s newer models, dubbed the “Tom Selleck.”

Read the complete story in the July issue of Western Horseman

Erik O’Keefe is a Texas-based writer and the former editor of Cowboys and Indians magazine.


  1. Paul Kjelland Reply

    I am from Wisconsin,if you people ever need hay or any help at your ranch send me a text and I can come and help.i am also the chief and founder of the southern Wis mounted search and rescue patrol.i don’t think that this is the spot I should be writing in to reach the sellecks but if anyone wants to talk send me a mail.thanks

  2. Barbara Ann Gonzalez Reply

    I think Tom Selleck rides a horse beautifully and does an extraordinary job with his horsemanship.

  3. peter lundin Reply

    I would like to know if there is information about spike’s pedigree. The first time I saw him on the Quigley movie I knew that he was the type of horse that I would like to own. When I happened to watch the Saber River movie I recognized him instantly by his size, his gaits, his collected carriage and easy lope and the power he shows in the ease in carrying his rider. The white socks and lightening blaze set him off as a one in a million sorrel with heart and guts. I have been sorting through the million ever since.

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