- Associated Press - Saturday, June 17, 2017

DENBIGH, N.D. (AP) - When the District 5 trustees of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame decided to have a saddle made for their fundraising project for the Hall of Fame, they asked area saddle maker Shawn Kramer.

Kramer, owner of Sandhills Saddlery at Denbigh, is one of few saddle makers in North Dakota.

The N.D. Cowboy Hall of Fame saddle is one of two saddles Kramer has been commissioned to make. He also was commissioned to make a saddle for the Velva Saddle Club about two years ago. He has also donated saddles to the Make A Wish Foundation.

The N.D. Cowboy Hall of Fame saddle will be a one-of-a-kind saddle with NDCHF conchos in two places on it. Farstad Oil Company based in Minot has donated the saddle for the fundraising project.

To complete a custom saddle with intricate work takes extensive time.

Kramer said a completely plain saddle will take about 70 hours to make. “But something like this,” he said, indicating the NDCHF saddle, “you’ll have well over 200 in it.”

Jack Kramer, 20, second oldest son of Shawn and Melissa Kramer, designed and did all the tooling for the NDCHF saddle. “It’s kind of a collaboration,” Shawn told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/2suGbaf ). Jack learned the art from his dad.

“Sandhills Saddlery used to be just me but now it’s more me and him because he does the majority of the tooling,” Shawn said.

A full-time saddle maker, Shawn said he attended a school to learn the trade art. “I was healing from a rodeo injury and while I was waiting to go back to that I went to a saddle-making school in Menoken taught by Gary Maher. That was 24 years ago,” he said.

After completing the school, he got right into the business. Initially, it was a “school of hard knocks kind of,” he said. He said he made a lot of mistakes when he started. At first, he gave away some saddles “just to get some out there to get my name out there. He also did a lot of repair work, and still does, and made a lot of chaps.

Leather for the saddles is expensive but it is not hard to obtain, Kramer said. He orders it from a company in Billings, Montana.

A number of saddles in his shop are in various degrees of work.

He said the majority of his customers come to him through his website but he’s getting a lot of business from Facebook as well. “Probably 70 percent of my business is either repeat or referral - that’s where the majority of my business comes from,” Kramer said. He said most of his customers are from out of state.

“Because most of it is out of state, most of my orders are taken on the phone or through email. If someone is local or close enough, it’s preferable that they would come in because I like to meet them face to face but most of my business is done over the phone,” he said.

Kramer has a backlog for his saddle-making business. “I have probably between a two or three-year backlog now,” he said.

His base price for a saddle is $3,800. “The price goes up from there,” he said.

He has done some unique saddles - one for a paraplegic and another disabled person. The saddles had a seat with a back and a seat belt.

When people request a saddle be made, he said some know exactly what they want and others do not. He said the NDCHF group gave him some basic guidelines and left the rest up to him. He said he enjoys using his creativity when making a saddle.

“The pressure is on,” he said. “I don’t really have that much left.”

What’s the most fun he has with making saddles?

“It’s the people I deal with and just the look on somebody’s face when they come to pick up their dream saddle that they always wanted to get. Because this is a luxury item it’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” Kramer said. “If you take care of them, they should last a hundred years. A lot of guys are buying them to be an heirloom that they are going to pass down.”

“It’s also the fact that Jack is probably more proficient at design and tooling now than I am. That was actually one of my goals when he got into it was that he would surpass me in talent and, in my opinion, he has.”

The NDCHF saddle will be displayed at various events including at the NDCHF booth at the State Fair in Minot and the Y’s Men’s Rodeo Badlands Circuit Finals, also in Minot.


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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