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Ronnie Reed auction reunites Connolly saddle with family who made it

Posted at 9:28 PM, Feb 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-23 16:17:47-05

BILLINGS — A collection of vintage western memorabilia including saddles, spurs, and horse tack were sold at the Ron Reed Memorial Western Collectibles Auction in Billings Saturday.

Reno Babcock called the auction where items of the late Ron "Ronnie" Reed's extensive western collection were sold.

"The fun part about the auction was all of his friends that came out. He had a very strong positive influence in the livestock industry. And it was well supported on line and here in the auction house," Babcock said.

Reed passed away Jan. 2, 2019. Reed spent 30 years in a career with the state of Montana as a Brand inspector and sworn inspector. He was also a founder of the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and donated $500,000 over his lifetime to the hall of fame's scholarship program.

The collection had 203 items up for auction.

“There were a lot of really neat pieces. His personal saddles, spurs and bits that he had built for himself," Babcock said.

Included in the collection were several photographs showing vintage Montana rodeo moments captured by Ralph Doubleday.

Rodeo rider captured by Ralph Doubleday

Longtime Billings residents may recognize the Doubleday photographs. Many of them used to hang in the Buffalo Bar that used to be on South 27th Street before the bar moved into the Rex on Montana Avenue.

“The photographs are rich with Montana history," Babcock said.

More than a few of Reed's saddles were up for auction. The saddle that brought Kim Connolly to the auction bared her family name.

“The saddle I just purchased was my son’s great great grandfather that built it," Connolly said.

Pat Connolly's maker mark on the saddle bought by Kim Connolly.

Kim is wife to Andy Connolly. Andy is the son of Pat Connolly, one of the two brothers that started Connolly Saddlery in 1912. The Billings-based business has since been sold out of the Connolly family and goes by the name Connolly Western Wear and Tack.

The saddle that Kim bid on was built sometime in the 1930's, she said it's in good enough shape to ride today.


“Connolly saddles are huge all around the world. They are very well known for their craftsmanship, it’s amazing. And I think it’s also really cool that the family did it together. It was a family business for years," Connolly said.

Kim Connoley is planning to give the saddle to her 13-year-old son. A bidding war brought the saddle’s price up to $1,350, a small price to pay for a piece of family history.

“I just wanted to have a saddle for my son, so he can pass it down to his kids and their grandchildren, things like that. I think history is important, and family heirlooms, that’s something that you need to have. I think it’s important for kids to understand history and get to know a part of their family," Connolly said.

The Connolly saddle received the highest bid of the entire auction.