Spirit of the Saddle

Lake Barrington Artist Donates Time and Talent to Create Art to Help Local Charity

It seemed a perfect match: Russ Riendeau and Partners for Progress.

Why? Russ created a remarkable montage of vintage leather & buckles, equestrian tack mounted on a richly stained ancient piece of deeply grained cedar. He sent a photo one day asking, “What do you think?” Admittedly, I'd put this aside as an onslaught of work-from-home emails piled up above his.

The artist is persistent. He caught me at a moment when I was taking a deep breath. “If you’re like me you’re super busy right now, so I’m just checking in,” Russ said. “I’m thinking I should give this away. Any ideas?”

Without hesitation I recommended Partners for Progress (PFP), the therapeutic equestrian center on Milton Road north of Hawthorn Woods. Russ replied, “Yeah, I know that place.” What a place it is, too. The PFP team provides a goal-based therapeutic riding program for children, adults and veterans with disabilities, delivering safe and effective intervention using skilled therapies and equine programs. Their therapeutic evaluations/assessments effectively match each client’s specific needs with best-fit programs.

Shown on the cover of this month’s SW Lake Lifestyle, Russ’ piece (“Spirit of the Saddle”) is now available through an online fundraising campaign PFP is conducting. To learn more, visit  PartnersForProgressNFP.org.

“I'd stumbled on a retired western saddle from the 1930s, made by Sears & Roebuck,” Russ explained. “I've worked with many other leathers and other salvaged materials, but never with vintage equestrian tack. As I curiously disassembled the saddle, I discovered not only the craftsmanship of the saddler, but also the raw, natural beauty and depth to the leather. So rich with history, I could sense how such intimate connections form with rider and equine.”  

The Artist Explains

Antique Equestrian Tack on Salvaged Cedar

Dimensions: 16"x 28”

“Each piece shown had a distinct form and function.”

“The elements, now assembled on ancient red cedar, represent the simplicity and beauty of the leather.”

“It’s the final celebration of respect and spirit that only a rider and their horse understand.”

Artist: Russ Riendeau (2020)

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