A cowboy is only as good as his horse and saddle. In fact, John Wayne once shut down the entire production on a film so he could go buy a saddle. That film happened to be one of the Duke’s most lauded creations – “True Grit.”
While working on the film, Wayne noticed his stuntman’s superb saddle. The Duke had the opportunity to test out the harness himself. And he quickly fell in love with both its design and craftsmanship. According to the official John Wayne website, the Duke briefly shut down the film’s production so he could go acquire his own saddle.
Colorado Saddlery had designed the saddle that the stuntman used. The Denver-based saddle shop had been handcrafting saddles since 1945. So, Wayne went to Denver to purchase his own for the film. He ended up being one of the most famous and influential clients to ever visit the shop. The Duke turned the small company into a well-known Hollywood brand.
“Wayne came to us seeking a saddle to be made for his movie, where he met with Pershing Van Scoyk,” owner Matt Wassam said. “He wanted an authentic cowboy saddle, which is what our brand is known for; high quality, authentic cowboy aesthetics, and functionality.”
Given Wayne’s size, he required a larger than normal saddle that was 2 inches bigger. Wayne insisted on a saddle that matched the cowboys of old. He always wanted to replicate the gunslingers and legends of the Old West.
“Wayne also liked the floral tooling crafted onto the model he chose, but most of all, he wanted his saddle to have the look and ride of a real cowboy,” Wassam continued.
John Wayne And His Horse
John Wayne always had an affinity for choosing certain elements within his films. For instance, he didn’t just pick the saddle. He also picked the horse that he rode too. Towards the end of his career, Wayne’s favorite horse was a chestnut quarter horse named Dollor.
Wayne contracted the horse out for several of his films including “The Cowboys,” “Big Jake,” “Rooster Coburn,” and even Wayne’s final film “The Shootist.”
As part of Wayne’s contract, he made sure that no other actor could ride the horse. He also wrote additional scenes into the script for his horse and made sure that the animal’s name was featured in “The Shootist” as well. The two formed a bond together, only broken by Wayne’s death.