The History of the Double H Ranch Cable Rigging
As a youngster in the 1960’s working as a dude wrangler and hunting guide, Mark Howes first played with the idea of using a cord to set the position of rigging and to replace the rigging on pack saddles. In the 70’s he went into the business of saddle making, and using his experience on the pack saddles, refined the cord rigging.
It was in 1976 that the Double H Ranch Saddle Shop was formed. Mark spent these years testing and using various cords for his new rigging, finally narrowing his choices to a heavy nylon cord. At this time, the trees on the market were all wood and rawhide. One particular problem kept rising up; securing the ends of the cord to the tree. At a point in these early stages of development a friend, Don King, told Mark about a saddle company called Hamley. In the 1920’s they used a similar “cable” rigging, but had the same problems due to the lack of technology and stopped exploring the concept. Convinced the idea was solid, Mark was determined to continue to experiment with the basic design.
A fortuitous meeting occurred in 1986 with a customer, Curt Banks, who worked for an industrial supply company, Mark found what he was looking for. Banks sold a coated air-craft cable that Mark fitted into the saddle. Using the new cable, Mark put in a continuous loop onto the tree thus creating an adjustable rigging, suiting each particular horse’s confirmation. Banks had ordered a wild horse racing saddle and he and his team went on to become champions on the new saddle made with Mark’s rigging.
Access to quality wood and good rawhide was becoming more difficult, so Mark started to experiment with a man made spray coating that was stronger than rawhide. He was also casting parts of the tree out of plastics and foams. His objective was to create a tree that would be the same every time it was made making the job of the saddle maker easier and more efficient. Mark then decided to create his own saddle tree company.
In 1994, with the help of his oldest son, Shawn Howes, they began to design and cast a composite tree that could be moulded with the cable. Casting all the parts of the tree together was more practical, and created a stronger saddle tree. They discovered that the cable could be placed directly into the mould before casting, thus eliminating the problems of attaching the cable to the tree. This was the solution Mark was looking for; a smooth, clean, functional saddle tree design that would be the same each time it was cast and a strong anchor for the cable. This was the birth of the Laporte Saddle Tree and the Poly-Tuff Tree with the Double H Ranch Cable Rigging.
A short four years later in 1998Mark and Shawn had a pretty good product, well tested in the field on working ranches. They refined the casting process of the trees which speeded up production and marketing. The reputation of the successful Laporte Saddle Tree spread, and in 2001, impressed with the popularity of the tree, Hitching Post Supply, a high standard catalogue and leader in “tools of the tradition” asked if they could put the Poly-Tuff Tree in their 2002 catalogue. Mark and Shawn quickly agreed, and this promotion helped the Laporte Saddle Tree and Double H Ranch Saddle Shop to become the successful business they are today.
As a saddle maker, Mark continues to look to the future for new directions and ideas; as well as refining old
ideas for saddle making and saddle trees. Recently his youngest son, Heath Howes, started another saddle tree business called the Chicago Stockyard Saddle Tree, which will focus on trail riders in the equine industry. Mark,
Shawn, and Heath continue to test new kinds of plastics for trees and a variety of cowboy gear that will enhance the riders experience and ease the work of cowboys and stockmen alike.
In 2000 Mark received a call from Bob Wattus, an Australian saddle treemaker from Grafton New South Wales. Bob was very interested in starting an Australian connection with the saddle tree business. Over the next two years of phone calls, reams of paper through the fax, and photos via e-mail, a friendship developed, and in 2002 Mark and his wife Linda set out to meet Bob and his wife Robyn. With a little organizational help from Lyle and Helen Kent, Mark and Linda visited several cattle stations in the Northern Territory, and The Kimberley region of WA.
Mark and Linda Howes would like to thank Bob and Robyn Wattus for the opportunity to visit the Outback. They would also like to thank Lyle and Helen Kent for introducing them to station life as well as promoting the Double H Ranch Cable Rigging.