Learn the Art of Saddle Making

Any questions you have regarding the purchase of
my work E-mail me and I will respond as soon as
possible, usually within a few hours of your email

If you want to talk to me regarding my
 work or to place an order call
Toll Free 1-877-723-3534

~ Saddle Making School ~
Build a Western Saddle on the Tree of your choice

~ Braiding Course ~

Learn the art of Rawhide & Leather Braiding


1.  When should I get instruction? In the beginning it is  important to avoid
learning bad habits, to avoid trial and error, and most importantly to achieve early success.

Secondly; When you have been working for some time and
You want to improve your skill level,
You want to improve the look of your work.
You are needing to expand your knowledge in a particular aria.

2.When is the best time to take a course; Instruction dates are set when
most convenient for the student and Bob.

3. Accommodations; There is a variety of motels within 20 minutes of the shop

4. How many hours per day?
Saddle Making Course, 7 hours per day, 5 days per week for 3 weeks.
Braiding Course,  5 hours per day, 5 days per week for 3 weeks.
Working longer hours braiding tends to be less productive as you lose concentration.

5. Where are we located?   We are in the central interior of B.C. Canada around
300 miles east of Vancouver. We are about 2 1/2 hours east of the US border at Oravile, Washington

8. What criteria is needed to attend; My Saddle Making or Braiding courses
are for anyone with the desire to learn the craft of Saddle Making or Braiding.

9. What materials or tools should I bring; I supply all materials and tools
for the courses. I will take digital photos as you work and copy them to a CD for you to use as a
reference as you work in the future. You will need a note book.

10. How are the classes structured;      

Western Saddle Making Course

        Okanagan Saddlery’s  Saddle Making Course is for anyone with the desire
to learn the craft of Saddle Making. You will learn under the guidance of an
experienced Saddle Maker and be well on your way to acquiring the skills that
are necessary to begin a career in the trade of creating fine hand crafted saddles.

        The three-week program is held in a working saddlery. The Shop is well
equipped, brightly lit, and has a quiet, pleasant atmosphere. Classes are limited
to one student at a time to ensure you get the individual attention needed to build
your skill level. We will take you through each step in the process of making a
Western Saddle.  The student will design, cut, shape, and fit each individual piece,
under my direction using premium grade skirting leather and sheepskin. I will
explain each step as we go, and at the same time explain what happens if you use
different methods and short-cuts in your saddle making. In the course I put a lot of
emphases on fitting the saddle to the type of horses you ride so the horse will be
as comfortable as possible.  This makes a huge difference to the way the horse
will react to being ridden.

        I use a tree made of wood with a Rawhide cover or a Ultra hide cover, Ultra
hide is a very strong man made fiber that is unaffected by climate conditions and
warpage in damp conditions.

        The course is taught on a one on one bases, you will not be just one in a crowd
assembling a pre-cut and pre-designed saddle, the Course will revolve around your
particular needs. Whether you want to be a Professional Saddle Maker, or are
interested in making a saddle for your own use you will find this course very informative,
and you will come away with a new understanding of Horses and Saddles along with a
Saddle that you can be proud of in any company.

         The saddle will be built on the tree of the student’s choice, with an attractive
basket weave pattern stamped on the corners of the skirts.

         When you speak to other Companies regarding the courses they give you will
normally find that you will do your course on a tree that they specify and not on a tree
of your choice along with a pre-cut and pre-designed patterns that they supply. I teach
you how to make your own patterns so you can make patterns for different types of
saddles I put a lot of emphases on you being able to design and make saddles of other
types after you leave the course and are on your own. When you go to my web site you
will see that all the saddles are of different patterns and styles that suite the students
that made them, not just a set pattern that is convenient for me to use for teaching

          All the materials needed to build a saddle are included in the tuition fee. We will
provide the use of our shop tools. All you need to bring is a notebook and the desire to
learn the art of saddle building. I will photograph each stage of your saddle’s progress
and build a photo library on a CD for you to take home as a visual record of you lesson.

         Although the student will do 95% of the work and leave with a top quality saddle,
it must be understood that this is an introduction to saddle making. Only constant
practice and dedication can make you a craftsman.

Braiding Course

    Basic Braiding Course to be run over a 3 week period working  5 hours per
day 5 days per week.

          In the basic braiding course I take you through the cutting of rawhide and
leather thongs and there preparation prier to braiding this is something that most
people do not understand, even a most of people that have done a lot of braiding.
They think that the thongs just have to be cut to width, a very big mistake. Good
braiding can not be done with thongs that have not been properly prepared.

         Next we learn to do 4, 6, 8 & 12 strand round braid over a core without the
braid spiraling  (the braid must run in a straight line)  You will learn to do a rollback
and splice at the end of a braided piece in order to form a loop

         We will then learn to tie a foundation knot, learn to expand this foundation
knot in circumference so it will cover any size of circumference. Then learn to
expand the foundation knot lengthwise to any length that might be needed. After
this has been mastered you will learn to put different colored interweaves in your
knots. Then we will learn to do the ground work under the knot, that is to build the
foundation under the knot so the knot will stay in place on the work and have a
good appealing finished shape.

            We will make a braided eight-strand headstall using Kangaroo thongs with
horse-hair tassels that you will take home with you after you complete the course.

            We will be using Kangaroo lace for most of the course as it is far more
forgiving then Rawhide or other leathers, but we will use some Rawhide so you
can start to get a handle on the preparation and handling of Rawhide.

            I will supply all needed tools & leather to complete the course and can
supply you with your own tools after  the course if wanted

             After all this has been mastered you will be well on your way to becoming
a braider, but (only constant practice and dedication will make you a craftsman)

             I cannot guarantee you will master all aspects of the braiding course but I
will work with you as much as possible to ensure that you do.

” To see Some of the Saddles
My Students are Building “

Click Here

Testimonials from students

Dear Bob & Lila,

   It has been a week since I returned from my Advanced Western Saddle Making course and I have been reflecting what I learned in my three short weeks that I spent with you in Vernon. Above all the hospitality and friendship that you offered me made my course very enjoyable. What I found most impressive about your instruction Bob, was the in depth horse experience and saddlery knowledge that you shared. Making working gear that is safe and serviceable for a life time of use is the first principal that you strive to pass on. Your 40+ years of making gear has let you try all the different methods of saddle making and hone it down to a fine art that lasts day in and day out for the hardest working cowboy. Fine saddle making is a dying art, saddles that are beautiful to behold and take any amount of work. I have been privileged to learn from a master who learned his art through a lifetime of work dedicated to making each piece better than the last one.

  Hearing about your life growing up in the B.C. interior was a glimpse back in time Horses were a normal essential part of life. Hearing what you did as a packer, guide and logger high up in the mountains: taking horses down trails most people would fear to walk on; taking pack strings 120 miles a week, week after week; cowboying in rough terrain, out there alone, just you and the cows; logging in the bitter winters with teems of heavy horses doing all of the log skidding; riding stock horses who had an edge which would give you own personal rodeo before they got down to work. All of these experiences have given you a unique perspective on the necessity of good working gear. I have had the excellent experience of seeing how good safe horsemanship begins with properly made gear, designed and crafted to give long years of safe hardwearing, comfortable service to the horses back and the riders but.

   I will put all of the knowledge that I learned from this course onto carrying on the tradition of Western Saddle Making. My philosophy is that you have to learn from a master craftsman to become a master craftsman. I have a way to go to be called even a craftsman but you have given me a solid foundation on which to build.

  Thanks a million for sharing the trade!

       Sincerely, Rob

January 23/2001
To Bob Land

Bob, your saddle making course was a tremendous success. I enjoyed building a working saddle on an Association Tree, complete with matching saddle bags and breast strap. Your knowledge of all aspects of leather work and specifically traditional saddle making skills and your emphasis on high quality workmanship made the course a great learning experience for me. My plans are to continue building saddles and related tack on my own and return for an advanced course in the future.

Best regards, Bob

Bob and Lila,

Well, I came for Bob’s saddle making course and stayed for Lila’s cooking. I have to say that making a saddle was a lot more involved than I imagined. When I first got the idea in my head that I wanted to make a saddle, the books that I read made it seem very simple. I think the most fortunate thing that could have happened to me was to find you. After the first time I spoke with you in the shop, I knew that what many people call saddle making was simply putting leather on a tree and calling it a saddle.

All the important details of saddle making are not something you learn on your own, or at least not very quickly. To see how a saddle pulls down on a horse and how the skirts are strung to reduce shock on the horse’s back really made me realize how important it is to learn this craft under the eye of someone with more than just experience making saddles. Years of hard riding in a saddle give you a different perspective on what is really important to both the rider and the horse. It almost frightens me to think of what I might have built had I not come in contact with you. Your knowledge and experience has made this an invaluable learning experience. Your patience and ability to explain what needs to be done, why it is done a certain way, and why it is not effective when done other ways has made me confident that I can continue making saddles
which will both serve their function and have a nicely finished appearance.

I suppose when I started with the idea of making a saddle I had some kind of vision of what it would look like in the end I can honestly say that the saddle I turned out in your course exceeds all expectations of that vision. Standing in the shop looking at my finished saddle really astonished me; A rig which I know will not sore a horse, will outlast me in life, and looks as good as anything I have seen from people who have been making saddles as a career.

I will certainly not hesitate to recommend you to anyone who may be looking to make their first saddle thank you both very much



I have been working with leather on and off before and have wanted to build a saddle for quite some time. After seeing a brief article in ” Saddle Up” magazine I gave Bob a call and decided to take his saddle making course. Bob has many years of experience and I found his knowledge to be of great help. I have learned techniques for building top quality saddles that are comfortable to ride and will not sore a horse. Bob is truly a craftsman and I feel that this type of craftsmanship is getting hard to find. Therefore I feel fortunate to have trained under Bob.
Sincerely Rick

I would like to thank you and Lila for your hospitality while I was taking your saddle making course. People asked me why this “country boy” from Oklahoma would go all the way to western Canada to learn how to make saddles. The answer was easy. I wanted to learn from the best! As I researched the saddle making process, I realized how important it was for the saddle to fit the horse and I could tell from our telephone conversations how passionate you are about it. Your 40 years of saddle making and your lifetime spent in the saddle shows in your excellent saddle building methods. I know I will be able to make quality saddles that will make both the horse and rider happy.

The experience of taking your course will help me tremendously with my new saddle making business.
Thanks for everything,


The decision to learn how to make saddles was a lot easier than finding the right teacher. I researched courses and instructors for quite some time and I always came back to Bob at Okanagan Saddlery. After talking to him and visiting him at his shop I came to fully appreciate his knowledge, and experience. His emphasis on the traditional methods of saddle making and concern for the comfort of the horse and the safety of the rider puts his course far ahead of the others. The past three weeks have far exceeded my expectations and I came away knowing I made the right decision. There simply is no substitute for quality. I would like to thank Bob and Lila for their Friendship and hospitality. I would not hesitate to recommend Bob to anyone wanting to learn saddle making. I feel confident I can continue to make quality custom saddles.

Thanks Art

Until I came across Bob’s web site, whilst searching for second-hand tack on the net, I’d never thought about making my own saddle. The only leather craft I’d done was to repair an old ‘Mexican Special’, but never the less I called Bob and as luck would have it he could arrange a course during the time I was visiting my brother in Vernon. Bob was very helpful in arranging to get the type of tree that I preferred and over several weeks we chatted by email about the style of saddle I would be building. It was obvious then and throughout the course that his vast experience and knowledge was going to make the whole experience of building my
own ‘custom saddle’ something to cherish. Not only did I learn the basics of custom saddle making, Bob also taught me what to be wary of when looking at factory produced saddles and how much better a custom built saddle should be. This information will be invaluable when I start to market my own custom saddle making company back here England. I thoroughly recommend anyone who’s interested in doing a course to check out Okanagan Saddlery.

I’ll keep in touch, thanks again for an excellent course, Ian.

Dear Bob,

I just wanted to take the time and let you know how much I got out of your
leather braiding course, I know of several people that have been braiding for
years and the quality of their braid work does not compare to the braided work
that I accomplished thru your instruction.
Additionally, when I returned to the states I took a few days away from the
braiding. When I picked it back up, I remembered all of the knots and the
different phases of braiding that we covered. Everyone that has seen the braid
work that you taught me has raved of its beauty. It certainly proved to be an
excellent course and I would recommend it to anyone. Again Bob, many thanks
and please use me or this letter as a reference.