Ingram Creek Saddlery more than just saddles
Ingram Creek Saddlery is another new business in the West Boundary, though the owners, Margaret Ann and Bob Bugeaud have lived here for over 20 years.
Their business card simply lists custom saddle making and tack repair as their stock in trade.
It's when you visit their website and look at the pictures of their work that you come to realize that the list of what they are capable of turning out goes far beyond the making and repair of saddles.
"If you can think it, we can make it!" they say.
Bob and Margaret Ann ran down the list of products they have made. It includes laptop computer cases, shaving kits, chaps (for both horse and Harley), knife cases, cell phone cases, basically anything that can be made out of leather,
They have been in this business for the past 18 months. But already their reputation for good craftsmanship is winning them new customers based on recommendation and reputation
"I always wanted to make a saddle," says Margaret Ann. "So I got in touch with Master Saddlemaker Bob Land of Okanagan Saddlery in Vernon and took a three week course, made a saddle for myself, and got so interested in itthat we just sort of carried on."
"Since then we have taken more courses and learned more complicated things," said Bob. "I am going back to his school this year to learn to make English saddles; there is a lot more handwork to English saddles.
Everything is done by hand at Ingram Creek. Everything is hand cut and that means there are no two saddles exactly the same. Margaret Ann said that some saddle makers use clickers, a cookie cutter type of tool, which stamps out each piece of the saddle exactly the same as the last. The advantage of hand cut leather is each piece is cut to fit that particular tree (the base of a saddle). There are actually four layers of leather on their saddle seat and Ingram Creek uses only leather, instead of a metal strainer, found in a lot of other saddles.
"We try to get the customer over in between layers," said Margaret Ann, "and they can sit in it and tell us where adjustments are needed such as a high spot that feels uncomfortable and needs to be shaved down."
"If we have access to the horse we can take a couple of trees over to see which fits the horse better. Alternatively, if the customer wants a saddle made for a specific horse that is hard to fit with a standard saddle then Ingram Creek can do that too.
"The disadvantage to that is, you have a saddle that doesn't fit a wide array of horses," cautions Bob. "But if you buy a saddle that has an average tree, semi quarter horse bars, for example, then you don't have as big a problem."
At the moment Ingram Creek makes only Western saddles and variations thereof; though they are capable of making repairs to any type.
Most of their business since they started has been in saddle repair rather than saddle making; though they have made eight saddles to date and have four others in hand at the moment.
They realize that not everybody has $3500 to invest in a saddle so when people ask if their saddle can be repaired Margaret Ann and Bob turn the question back on the customer.
"Do you like that saddle? If you do, then you should put the $300 or $1,200 or whatever into fixing it up," they question.
As far as prices go Margaret Ann and Bob said there are base prices for everything; the final price depends on how customized you want it. for instancce, the base price on a western saddle is $3,300; the most expensive one they have made so far was $5,200.
"It is the same as buying a car,"says Bob. "The more accessories you add the more it costs."
Margaret Ann explains that the cost for materials such as the leather, tree, and all the parts for a saddle cost upwards of $1,400 and then you add theone hundred plus hours of labour.
The pair work together; they spend time each and every day working and planning projects. Bob points out that because they hand cut their leather they can design the shape of the part to work with the tooling design.
They have become good friends with their Instructor, Land.
"He's a pretty good friend," says Bob. "I think he wants to come down here and fish in the daytime and teach us how to make English saddles at night."
Check out Ingram Creek Saddlery online at ingramcreeksaddlery.ca; or get in touch at 250-449-2364 or 250-449-1982; or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Taken from The Boundary Creek Times Mountaineer, Thursday, April 15, 2010