With RSF Historical Society’s Inn sale, local reunited with 60-year-old saddle

Buck Bennett with his saddle and stand from The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
(Buck Bennett)

Rancho Santa Fe resident Buck Bennett was recently reunited with the first saddle he ever bought as a 15-year-old back in 1964.

The saddle had been on display at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe for many years and was part of the bounty up for grabs at the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society’s Upscale Tag Sale that featured former Inn furniture and decor donated by new owner Steve Hermann.

“I was thrilled that they were willing to give it back to me, it was very generous,” Bennett said.

Bennett and his wife Kay, Rancho Santa Fe residents for 40 years, often dined at The Inn. Over lunch one day with former owner John Kratzer, a horseback riding buddy, they got to talking about a blank space near the check-in desk that was in need of a little something. In exchange for Kratzer picking up the lunch tab, Bennett donated his old saddle to add a historical equestrian flair.

Bennett donated the saddle with a little aluminum stand but The Inn gave it a home on a gorgeous wooden rack with The Inn’s logo, where it sat for years.

While the sale items were being set up in April in the former Pier One space in Del Mar, RSF Historical Society President Cutter Clotfelter discovered the saddle and the silver nameplate displaying Bennett’s name. He contacted Bennett and offered to return it to the original owner.

“They gave me the saddle, I bought the rack,” said Bennett, who now has it displayed at the entry to his home.

Buck Bennett's grandson Braxton on his old saddle.
(Buck Bennett)

Bennett considers himself a rare breed, passionate about keeping up the Western lifestyle. He grew up on a cattle farm in the San Joaquin Valley, “That’s where my love of horses came from”, and he keeps several horses at his home. While raising his family in the Ranch, his two children were very involved in 4H and they had a “menagerie” of animals on the property. The kids showed steers all over the Western U.S. —his daughter loved lambs and he still has so much pride reflecting on his little girl from Rancho Santa Fe showing at the nationals in Denver.

Bennett is part of several horse riding groups, including The Rancheros Visitadores, a group of more than 700 cowboys who meets up annually for a 60-mile ride in Solvang. Along with a group of 15 to 20 equestrians, he is part of a group that rides on the weekends throughout Rancho Santa Fe, around the golf club and through the open spaces—sometimes they ride all the way to Hernandez Hideaway in Escondido to have tacos for lunch.

Something he loves most about Rancho Santa Fe is the trail system, giving a hat tip to the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company back in the 1920s: “They did a wonderful job…the land planning was just magnificent.”

With the saddle back in the family home, recently his six-year-old grandson Braxton gave it a try. Bennett is thrilled that Braxton is keeping the family tradition alive, living on Bennett’s son’s thoroughbred farm in Bonsall, riding a big horse just like grandpa.