A few miles outside of Spring Valley, Dave Genadek runs a small business called About The Horse, Inc. He primarily makes saddles, and he takes his vocation very seriously. As the company name would suggest, Dave focuses on making saddles that fit the individual horse’s anatomy, as well as the rider’s individual requests.
On a recent snowy morning, Dave took a brief respite to describe his work and his life. When asked how he got started in the field, Dave said, “I had a jewelry class in eighth grade, and I started working with some leather. I enjoyed it… so I went to a saddle school in Nebraska, and from there Texas, Ohio, and Arizona learning the trade.”
“I specialize in how to properly fit a saddle,” Dave added, “I’m both an English and a Western saddle maker. I’ve been doing the saddle thing for 35 years. This company is about 24 years old.” He explained that, “I’m considered a master saddlemaker now, but there’s no official board that sanctions that.”
Dave shared that there are two basic methods of saddlemaking: factory and custom. A custom saddle is made to the individual specifications of the horse and rider, whereas factory saddles are more of a one-size-fits-all approach. Dave stated, “I’ve always tried to be right in the middle of those two things. So we use a lot of production techniques, to keep the costs down, but we offer a lot of customization.” On average, he said his saddles are $1,000-2,000 less than a fully custom saddle.
Although he said he is “only” making between 50 and 100 saddles per year nowadays, Dave quipped, “That keeps me more than busy. I’ve had a lot of employees in the past. Right now, it’s primarily just me, but I do a lot of outsourcing.” He explained that, for example, the wood frames (“trees”) of his saddles are made by Lynn Mattson of Peterson.
Dave explained that he doesn’t advertise his business, because word-of-mouth has been the method by which prospective customers hear about him. When someone contacts him about making a saddle, Dave said that his first concern is “Is this a match? Is what you want, what I do?” He added, “I’m not for beginner people. Most of the people who buy from us are more serious riders.”
Once a customer and Dave reach an agreement on making a saddle, he said, “The process that we go through is, I’ll have people make a tracing of their (horse’s) back, and then they send me that tracing and I build (a replica of) the back.” From there, he begins the building of a saddle. When asked how long the entire process takes, Dave said, “It’s been taking me about seven months. It’s slowed down a little bit. I used to try to do them within six weeks.”
Dave’s business is truly a labor of love, as he explained, “I usually work 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week.” He said the tasks on any given day may vary greatly, and the variety is what he likes. He said the spring and fall are his busiest seasons, because when the weather is pleasant, more people are thinking about riding, and that’s when most orders come in. But through the winter, he is playing catch-up on orders. Besides working in his shop, he also continues to travel widely within the USA, giving seminars on how to properly fit a saddle.
Because of his strong focus on equine anatomy and health, Dave partners with Elizabeth Graves and chiropractic veterinarian Barb Weiss. Dave said he believes the horse’s health and posture must be known and addressed before designing a saddle, because otherwise it’s like trying to make a shoe to fit a broken foot.
Although there are very few saddlemakers in the area, Dave said, “We do have a leather guild that meets here, on the second Sunday of every month.” He added that his market is truly global, with his saddles being sold to customers throughout the USA, as well as England, Australia, Germany, and Japan.
Dave’s company website (aboutthehorse.com) states it is “A saddle manufacturer promoting excellence in horsemanship through knowledge.” Anyone interested in learning more is encouraged to browse the website or contact Dave to answer any questions.