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Saddle Making - Kansas Folk Art

Bill Gomer, Master Artist

Arnie Miller, Apprentice

The western saddle is a tool, an item of equipment essential to the work of the cowboy. Through history saddle designs have varied as much as the horsemen who have used them—from the high-fronted and backed jousting saddles of the medieval knight to the flat English hunt saddle to the open-seated American cavalry saddle, to mention a few. The saddle of the American cowboy has also undergone many changes since the post-Civil War trail drives began.

Many skilled saddle makers have worked in Kansas and continue to do so. Sometimes a saddle maker will be associated with a large company, such as the Shipley Company that was located near the stockyard in Kansas City. Sometimes a western store will not only sell but also make saddles. The Shepler's store in Wichita, for instance, employed a saddle maker named Kelly for many years, and John McBeth, former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association champion saddle bronc rider, offered custom-made saddles at his western store in Burden.

From Celebrate Kansas Folk Arts © KSHS 1993

Entry: Saddle Making - Kansas Folk Art

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2011

Date Modified: May 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.