Kent Saddlery History
Kent Saddlery was established in 1988, when we (Lyle and Helen) decided to make a big change from vegetable farming to saddlery. Lyle had developed a keen interest in leather work during the 1960's when as a ringer on Humbert River Station, he regularly repaired saddles and other leather gear. During the 17 years in which we farmed, Lyle always maintained an interest in leather work, and in our first little house he had a leather work bench set up in the living room. In 1988 we built the granite rock saddlery workshop, Lyle believing it was going to be just him making leather products and saddles. Helen returned to teaching for four years, and Lyle began full time saddlery training.
Original Saddlery Workshop
In 1991 we began travelling to the North and West of Australia, setting out with our Landcruiser, trailer, our four boys, Ben, Daniel, Jamie and Paul, and family pet dog "Jock". Our eldest daughter, Leah, was working in Toowoomba and stayed behind. Helen was pregnant with our youngest daughter Jessica, born in Derby, WA in August of that year.
Durham Downs, SW Qld 1994
We'd been told that horse work in the North was a thing of the past and that helicopters and motorbikes had taken over; so it was with some uncertainty we ventured into the Kimberley region of WA to look for work repairing saddles. We soon discovered that horse work was very much alive in the Kimberley, and we spent six months moving between several stations doing lots of saddle repairs.
As he dismantled and repaired the saddles, Lyle learned a lot about the different styles of saddles, and as a result, began to develop a style of fender stock saddle which he believed would be rugged, low maintenance, and comfortable for the rider, as well as good on the horses' backs.
Pearson Pedal Sewing Machine
Since then, the travelling component of our business has changed dramatically from repair work to promotion and sales of our saddles and gear. The mail order and online shop facilities continue to expand and are attracting a significant percentage of Kent Saddlery's overall sales.
During 2009, Lyle and Helen again visited over 100 cattle stations in an area covering the NT, Kimberleys, Qld Gulf and Channel Country. We appreciated the 2nd year of travel in the Supa Float/travelling shop; for its comfort, efficiency and reliability - in spite of losing the treads off six tyres! Our trips around the cattle stations of the north and west of Australia are always interesting and stimulating, and we invariably come home with fresh ideas following feedback received from our customers. With station ringers coming from all over Australia, we've found more and more that our saddles and gear are being spread far and wide. A saddle bought on a station could end up anywhere, as satisfied customers show them to their neighbours and friends. Consequently, we have sold into every Australian state and territory, and have also exported saddles overseas.
The Caldervale stockcamp shopping at our Supa Float during our 2009 trip.
We are grateful for the tremendous growth in our business since our first visits to the outback cattle stations, when we were welcomed with friendship and generous hospitality. Our annual ‘trip' continues to be the highlight, and we value the warm welcome extended to us.
Over the years, the original rock workshop became far too small, as the family returned from other employment to work in the saddlery. Kent Saddlery has expanded as a family business, and in 2010 our adult children and two spouses are involved. We welcomed Daniel and Sonia's baby boy Ethan in the world in April 2010, and Ben and Janelle's baby boy Chad in June 2009, and Naima, 4, Ena 2, and Jacob 2, are a vital part of every day life at Kent Saddlery. John Furness (Josh's Dad) continues to bring his book keeping expertise to the business, and Kim Davis (Sonia's sister) is a valuable packing and posting assistant and child carer. Jessica has been a saddlery worker (office and stitching) during a gap year in 2009, and is attending University in 2010. We've appreciated her contributions.
Naima, Jacob, Ena and Chad.
2009 marked the celebration of 21 years of Kent Saddlery. It was an amazing time, and we're thankful for the opportunity in 2010 to reach beyond our 'coming of age'. It's been a privilege to be a part of the fender saddle revolution in the Outback of Australia, and to experience the satisfaction of producing quality handcrafted products. However, more than anything it's about friendships with people we've met since we established Kent Saddlery. These valued friendships have blessed and enriched our lives. Thanks all of you for being a part of the Kent Saddlery journey.
Saddlery Workshop, 2009