Do you know what “rough-out” means? Is it similar to suede? Why is it used in some western saddles, and why do some people appreciate it? Let us have a look at rough-out.
Saddle skirting, or hefty hides, are used to make leather saddles. Skirting is available in a variety of weights (thickness) and grades (quality). Heavy-wear surfaces like fenders, stirrup leathers, and seats get the thickest skirting.
The grain side, which is smooth, and the flesh side, which is rough, are the two sides of skirting. As the finished side, a saddle can be created with either side facing out.
The grain side of most saddles is exposed. This smooth side, which can be carved and imprinted, gives a more exquisite appearance.
A rough-out saddle is one that has the flesh, or rough, side facing out. A saddle can be roughed out completely or partially. The most typical rough-out elements are fenders, seat jockeys, and seats.
The appeal of rough-out is that it gives the rider more grip and stick, yet the roughness wears down over time and the leather might become smooth. Rough-out saddles are frequent among riders who ride for a career where function takes precedence over appearance (working cowboys, horse trainers).
Suede and rough-out are not interchangeable terms. Suede is a significantly thinner leather that is usually formed from the inner splits of a leather side. Suede is sometimes used as a seat covering in western saddles. The suede, however, will be put over the seat skirting rather than replacing it. Suede does not hold up well to wear and is not commonly featured on higher-end saddles.