Back in 2018, Voice Of America published an article that claimed saddle makers were a dying breed in the American West. Fast forward a couple of years, and it seems they spoke way too soon. Here in Montana, we love our country/cowboy lifestyle, and we love our horses. Not only that, but we have quite a few saddle makers who produce quality custom saddles by hand even for such celebrities of the western world as Buck Brannaman, Curt Pate, and Tom Selleck. So, here's a list of 10 Montana saddle makers (in no particular order) worth checking out.
- Frecker's Saddlery. Located in Dillon, Montana it's operated by Kent Frecker. Kent's been in the saddle making business since 1981, and he had the honor of working with Dale Harwood for a spell. He's made saddles for a list of customers that reads like a Who's Who of the western world, and shipped his saddles across the US, Canada, and the remaining 6 continents.
- Ben Swanke Saddlery. Ever since Ben made his first saddle at the age of 14, he couldn't think of doing anything else for a living. Located in Billings, Montana, Swanke Saddlery has been Ben's full-service business for over 30 years, producing more than 1500 saddles.
- Cole Custom Saddles near Bozeman, Montana, is a relatively new kid on the block as it first opened its doors in 2004. Sam Cole and his wife, Cathy, work together to assure the quality, fit, and comfort that a good saddle requires.
- Bitterroot Saddle Company in Hamilton, Montana. Bob Trezona, owner of the Bitterroot Saddle Co. joined the game of saddle making relatively late in life, after his injuries sustained during service in Vietnam war prevented him from doing other jobs he worked to support his family. Today, his workmanship is so well known that he has enough saddle orders to carry him through a couple of years.
- Bos Saddlery, also in Hamilton, is a rare woman-owned and operated saddle making business. Luana Bos actually apprenticed with Bob Trezona and has been working in this craft since 2010, having built more than a dozen custom saddles.
- Word of Mouth Leather. Located in Livingston, Montana, Word of Mouth Leather is owned and operated by Reid Flatten. Reid grew up as a ranch kid and was more or less self-taught in leather work, until he went to saddle making school in 2004. He opened his current business in 2007.
- Witt's Custom Saddlery. Located in Laurel, Montana and owned by Mike Witt, Witt's has been making custom saddles for more than 30 years.
- Grizzly Saddlery in Great Falls, Montana. Owner, Jeff Gollehon, fell in love with saddle making as a young boy, and hasn't looked back since. He's been making saddles for more than 30 years, and has been the owner of Grizzly Saddlery since 1990.
- Ericksen Saddlery. Located in Ennis, Montana - the heart of Madison Valley, Ericksen's is known for its Mountain Saddle. Owner and saddle maker, E.P. "Rick" Ericksen has been making saddles for nearly 50 years.
- Montana Horseman in Belgrade, Montana. This is not an individual saddle maker or a family owned saddle shop, but an honest to goodness saddle making school. Founded by Dale and Norma Moore, this is a place where an aspiring saddle maker can learn the ins and outs of the craft.
And bonus, number eleven, Sting Saddlery in Lewistown, Montana. We've personally met the owners, Sterling and Addie, and can tell you that you'll both get some awesome custom leather work done there, and you'll also be treated like a friend.
Aren't you inspired to go order a custom saddle now that you've seen the saddle making talent we have here in Montana? Wherever in the world you are, I bet there are some saddle makers in your neck of the woods. Go check them out, and if you can, buy your next saddle from a small, custom saddle shop. Do your part in preserving this great craft.
Don't have a horse, but still want to get some leather goodies for yourself? There's plenty of deer leather fringe in Buckaroo Bling online shop to choose from: earrings for you or for your cowgirl boots, necklaces, and bracelets. Take a peek!