I made what we wore, saddles, guns, & gear that more suited living outdoors and being in the saddle 60 hrs a week. I couldn’t buy what I thought would suit the real needs of living outdoors as in the 1890s. Myself and the young lady that accompanied me brought back the same 5 horses in better shape than they were before the trip. That was 1982 and the trip lives within us today.
After the 8 month trip I decided to start selling saddles like the one I made for the trip. Al Cunningham & Mary Veach of Branson,MO. built the 1st few saddles for me. They were okay but I experimented on a way to keep the leather skirts from the eventual fatigue that takes place. That is when the 1st ORTHO-FLEX SADDLE was born. It became popular very quickly and I patented the idea. The 1st version and patent was fantastic in it’s performance on the horse. A year or two in service and I had to replace the panels in 150 skirts because they fractured. I had molded them to the basic shape of a horse. Once attached front and rear to the saddletree, they fractured after extended use.
I found you can’t bend compound curves in opposite directions without fracture at the mountings. More patents to make the system last and I started selling to Ropers like Dennis Capple. I called a gentleman by the name of Dee Pickett to see if he was interested in trying the OrthoFlex Roper in 1993. He didn’t think it would work but said he’d try it. By this time OrthoFlex was a multi-million dollar a year business & growing. I had a new sales rep, Frank Johnson, that grew up Roping in Texas. I sent Frank with my Schwabe 3ton CABOVER custom hauler & living quarters trailer to Chicken Dinner Rd., Caldwell, ID. to see Dee Pickett. 2 times World Champion All Round Cowboy.
On the way, Frank stopped at Western Horseman Magazine in Colorado Springs, CO. He and Staff roped for an afternoon on their stock. They used the OrthoFlex Roper with no pad at all. That was for demonstration purposes & they were impressed. Over the next two years, Dee Pickett put 350 serious ropers and most of the top ropers in the OrthoFlex system because it kept their horses performing!