If you’ve ever pined for a quality custom saddle made just for you, to your exact specifications, you’ve probably discovered that they don’t come cheap.
Quality custom saddles that use quality materials (i.e. wood tree, premium leather, stainless steel or brass hardware) and quality craftsmanship techniques with no shortcuts, and are created by an experienced and skilled saddlemaker will generally run from $2500 to $3500 for a base model. Prices of saddles from the top flight makers (Rick Bean, Cary Swarz, Dale Harwood, John Willemsma, Chas Weldon, to name a few) will be higher.
That’s a lot of money, but you might be surprised to discover that with the materials cost and construction time figured in, most saddlemakers make a very average living.
Materials will typically cost a maker around $1000 or more per saddle. There are additional shop overhead costs (rent, power, etc.). That will leave less than $1500-$2500 as the saddlemaker’s share. A well-crafted saddle will generally take 40 to 50 hours to complete, enabling a saddlemaker to make four to five saddles a month, if the orders are there. The best makers have waiting lists, with some (such as Dale Harwood) extending as much as ten years. But many working makers don’t have a full schedule.
So, while $2500 to $3500 is definitely a lot of money, a quality custom saddle is a very good value. You’re getting a lot for your money – a saddle built with the best materials and craftmanship and tailored to your specific preferences.
But we can’t all afford to plunk down that kind of money for a saddle. And, that’s why we talk often about looking to the used market to find one of these quality saddles at a much lower price. Now, when you buy a used custom saddle you won’t have the opportunity to have it built to your specifications, but you will be able to buy a top quality saddle for far below top quality price.
Look for used saddles from top makers such as Jeremiah Watt, George Holt, Robert Chavez, Cary Scwarz, Rick Bean, Steve Mecum, Keith Valley, John Willemsma, Chuck Stormes … to name some of the marquee makers.
Forest Shupe Posthumously Awarded the “Don King Award” Recognizing Lifetime Achievement and Contribution To the Craft of Saddlemaking.
Oklahoma City, OK, August 19, 2010 — The Western Saddle Guide announced today that legendary Guthrie, Oklahoma saddlemaker John “Long John” Willemsma is the recipient of the 2010 Academy of Western Artists’ “Saddlemaker of the Year” Award.
John Willemsma has been building high quality, custom western saddles for more than 30 years. In 1986 John opened LJâ€™s Saddlery in Guthrie, Oklahoma to design and build saddles that meetÂ the needs of both working cowboys and non-professional horsemen and women.
John has had the great fortune of being able to study under some of todayâ€™s greatest saddle craftsmen, including Don King, Dale Harwood and Chuck Stormes. Combining the knowledge he gained from these masters with his study of early saddleries, particularly Visalia, Hamley and Ray Holes, has enabled John to bring very high standards to each and every saddle he builds.
The Academy of Western Artists (AWA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting contemporary western artisans. 2010 marks the 15th year the AWA has awarded the “Saddlemaker of the Year.” The winner of the award is chosen by vote of top working saddlemakers. The pass recipients of this coveted award is a list of the finest custom western saddlemakers in the world.
2009Â Â Â Cary SchwarzÂ Â Â Â Â Â Salmon, Idaho
2008Â Â Â Pedro PeriniÂ Â Â Â Â Â Marysfield, California
2007Â Â Â George HoltÂ Â Â Â Â Â Dillon, Montana
2006 Â Â Â Steve mecumÂ Â Â Â Â Â Crowheart, Wyoming
2005Â Â Â Chas WeldonÂ Â Â Â Â Â Billings, Montana
2004Â Â Â Gaylord ThisselÂ Â Â Cottonwood , California
2003Â Â Â Eddie BrooksÂ Â Â Â Â Â Spring Creek, Nevada
2002Â Â Â Bill MaloyÂ Â Â Â Â Â Washoe Valley, Nevada
2001Â Â Â Dale HarwoodÂ Â Â Â Â Â Meridian, Idaho
2000Â Â Â Pete GorrellÂ Â Â Â Â Â Darby, Montana
1999Â Â Â Don ButlerÂ Â Â Â Â Â Sheridan, Wyoming
1998Â Â Â Chuck StormesÂ Â Â Alberta, Canada
1997Â Â Â Don KingÂ Â Â Â Â Â Sheridan, Wyoming
1996Â Â Â Bob MarrsÂ Â Â Â Â Â Amarillo, Texas
It was also announced that saddlemaker Forrest Shupe of Sonora, California was granted the Don King Saddlemaker Award, named for the legendary saddlemaker, historian, teacher, artist, and craftsman, Don King of Sheridan, Wyoming. This prestigious award is presented to a living saddlemaker as a recognition of a lifetime of outstanding work and contributions to the craft. Sadly, Mr. Shoupe passed away shortly after being chosen for this award. Forest Shoup began his saddlemaking career in 1954 and will be remembered as a master saddlemaker, teacher, and invoator. His fine saddles will be around for a long time as both using saddles and as valuable collectibles.
ABOUT THE ACADEMY OF WESTERN ARTISTS
The Academy of Western Artists (AWA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving cowboy and western heritage by recognizing and promoting contemporary western artisans and their craft. The annual AWA awards recognize excellence in:Â Cowboy & Western Music, Cowboy Poetry, Western Music Radio, DJ’s, Chuckwagon Cooks, Gear makers, Leather working, Saddlemaking, Spur Makers and other Western arts and artists.
ABOUT THE WESTERN SADDLE GUIDE
The Western Saddle Guide is a free, in-depth, online resource dedicated to everything there is to know about the western saddle.Â Coverage includes information on saddle types, fit, parts, accessories, brands, makers, care, history, and decoration, plus helpful tips and buying and how-to guides. The Western Saddle Guide can be found at www.WesternSaddleGuide.com