Keith Seidel recently completed a true "Mother Hubbard" saddle for the Annual Boot & Saddle Makers Trade Show in Witchita Falls, Texas and took home 3 awards; Best of Show, Best Floral Tooling, and Best Floral Worksmanship. The following article appeared in the Cody Enterprise on Nov. 23, 2011.
Cody man's Saddle sweeps awards in Wichita FallsCody saddle maker Keith Seidel has been producing saddles for more than 30 years. So when he takes one of his finished products to a saddlery competition, he has the confidence it'll hold its own. "I don't go to play; I go to win," Seidel said. "And most times, I go with a saddle that's almost perfect." This year, the Mother Hubbard saddle Seidel entered in the Boot and Saddle Makers Trade Show in Wichita Falls, Texas, was just that. Seidel's peers in the industry voted the saddle the best in all three categories- Best Floral Tooling, Floral Workmanship, and Best of Show. "It's a show for the saddle makers," Seidel said. "There's no cost and no judges. When you show up they give everyone a ballot sheet, so its the people's choice. For me, that really means something." Winning all three awards put Seidel in some ellite company in the industry. Only two other saddle makers have won all three awards at the show. Sheridan-based Don Butler and Texan Troy West have done it too, but Seidel is the only one to do it more than once. He took home three belt buckles from the Wichita Falls show in 2004 as well. "Those awards are some of the hardest to win," he said. "It felt pretty good."
The saddle that Seidel entered was different than anything he's done before. The swell, skirts and rigging are all one piece of leather, an idea that started evolving in his head about 10 years ago. "A customer challenged me to do it, and at that point, I didn't think it could be done," he said about the one-piece configuration. "That was really the catalyst that got the ball rolling." Seidel designed the recent version of the saddle for a customer two years ago. And when he started working on it, he put in more than 400 hours in about 30 days. "My wife was a widow that month," he joked. The intensive process of making the saddle wasn't the easiest either. "There's always something that you don't see coming when you're designing a saddle," Seidel said. "When I started making this one, I had a few head-scratch moments when I was like 'Oh man, I didn't plan on that.'" One of those curve balls was fitting the cantle. One side went in without a hitch, he said, but getting the other side to fit was the hard part. it took him nearly four hours to get it all together. "I thought I'd never get the piece in," he said. He also had to be inventive with the quick change on the stirrup fenders. Essentially, he had to design the entire piece. The saddle's 26-pound weight, which was unexpected, also sets it apart. Most western saddles average 34-38 pounds, he said.
Seidel has been working with leather since he was 12, and after finishing school in 1983, he traveled extensively throughout the western U.S. to work in saddle shops. He's owned Seidel's Saddlery in Cody for the last 18 years. "Over the years, I've learned to build what people will buy," he aid. And considering the price of his latest project, that's a great instinct to have. The saddle, which also features an alligator skin seat, has a price tag of $28,000. Seidel will be looking to find a buyer in Las Vegas at the National Finals Rodeo in early December. "I've always been driven by the sale of a project," he said. "So we'll see."