Lillian Chaudhary at Heritage Tack & Saddlery had worked with both astride saddles and sidesaddles for over 30 years. Her expertise in the field of saddle design and construction was recognized globally. In addition to her work with the saddles themselves, she had also given many lectures and conducted clinics in which she shared her knowledge with those seeking to build a strong foundation in the elegant art of riding aside. She will be greatly missed.
When her older sister got tickets to the 1950 Pacific Livestock Exposition for the family in Portland, OR, she had no way of knowing what an impact and influence it would be on 3 year old Lillian. Seeing the pageantry and procession of the parade of America's breeds dazzled the little girl and made an impression that would fuel her passion for horses for decades to come. As a pre-teen, she played with model horses and built barns and corrals for them as well as saddles and tack. Though she didn't have a horse of her own, she befriended the local veterinarian who taught her much about riding and training horses. She went on to exercise and train the horses of friends and neighbors.
In the summer of 1962, 15 year old Lillian's first real project was an old stock saddle that she bought with babysitting money. It was dirty and neglected. The teen cleaned and conditioned the leather and restitched the horn cover. During a drive with her driver's training instructor, she spied a dirty old sidesaddle on the front porch of a junk shop in Canby, OR. Fascinated with it, she bought the sidesaddle for $5. After scrubbing it down and assessing the damage, young Lillian took the sidesaddle to several saddle makers in the area who all refused to work on it. The one who appeared to be willing told her he would charge $1200 - well out of range for a 15 year old. A wise woman, Lillian's mother told her, "If no one will do it for you, then do it yourself. Look at how it was put together when you take it apart and then replace the bad parts and put it back together the same way." She followed her mother's direction, repaired the old sidesaddle and rode the sidesaddle for several years.
In adulthood, Lillian married and had four children. Four children with different personalities and interests, but all shared her love of animals and gentle approach to people and pets. When circumstances brought her family to a 2 acre "ranchette" set up for horses, Lillian was determined to create a home where her children would experience the fun and joy of living in that environment. The menagerie grew from dogs and cats, to include a Shetland pony, a Welsh pony, a Quarter horse/Thoroughbred cross, and a rescued Arabian, as well as chickens, ducks, rabbits, a ewe, a goat, a one legged pigeon and a peacock named Prince. The vet referred to Lillian's home as "Resurrection Acres." In order to help defray the costs, Lillian had begun doing leather work again. She would pick up saddles that needed repair at tack swaps, and when the work was done, sell them to pay for feed, vaccinations, farrier and vet bills. Once people in the local horse community learned what she could do, they began bringing their items for her to repair. The kids in the neighborhood called her Mrs. MacGyver, because they were convinced she could fix anything.
That approach carried into her saddle repair work as she would find creative ways to repair antique sidesaddles while maintaining their integrity. As Lillian gained experience working on sidesaddles, more information also became available. Lillian was introduced to the California Side Saddle Organization, World Sidesaddle Federation and International Side Saddle Organization, and the network to share information and research grew exponentially as well as the market for her services. The work had always come by word of mouth and the more people were happy with her work, the wider Lillian's name spread until her customers began to come from not only out of state, but outside of the US as well.
In her later years, in addition to working on English and Western astride saddles, Lillian focused more on repairs and restorations of sidesaddles due to the lack of new trees to build new, custom sidesaddles upon. Ever persistent, she was corresponding with tree makers, hoping to find the ones who would be willing to make custom sidesaddle trees. Clinics and seminars had been well attended, however, the consistent request was to write a book to document all she had learned. In between replacing billets and re-flocking panels, it was hoped that she would begin putting on paper the tidbits which she carried around in her head so that it could be shared with those who are interested in learning more about the elegant art of riding aside and the saddles which make it so enjoyable. Unfortunately, with her unexpected passing on July 2nd, 2014, all of it came to a halt.
Lillian's children recognize what a void has been left with their mother's passing - not only in her family, but in the equestrian community as well. Anita, Lillian's second daughter, remains available as a contact for those with inquiries of any sort.
The best way to honor her memory is to reflect her spirit of generosity, compassion and kindness.
Achievements and Awards
World Sidesaddle Federation
Certified Judge Instructor - 1992
International Side Saddle Organization
Member of the Year - 2005
Hall of Fame - 2005