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Story #96Keith Valley Saddle Co.Jackson Hole, WY

I think it’s every cowboy’s dream to make their own saddle.

In the scenic valley of the Teton Mountain Range and the Snake River sits Jackson Hole Wyo., home to Keith Valley Saddle Co. The small business, named after its owner Keith Valley, makes custom, hand-tooled leather saddles for riders who want the utmost comfort not only for themselves, but for their horses. Each saddle Valley makes by hand is fit specifically for the client and their horse, taking into consideration how the horse moves and how the rider sits, creating a fluid communication between the two. 

Valley’s interest in saddles started at the young age of seven, when he pored over books of artist Charlie Russell’s work and fell in love with cowboy art. As he got older, he started making his own saddles, and in 1999 moved to Montana to learn from some of the top saddle makers in the region. Says Valley, “It took three years to break the ice with the local saddle makers where they let me in the shop and shared information. People started seeing that this is a dying trade, and realized we should share what we’re losing.”

In 2004, Valley relocated to Jackson, partially so that he wasn’t competing with the makers he learned from, and also because there weren’t any saddle makers there. The town draws many tourists who regularly stop by Valley’s downtown location to admire his work. In addition to saddles, Valley does interior work, handbags and more. 

Due to the time-consuming nature of working with leather and the incredible detail of Valley’s saddles, he estimates that he makes about 13 saddles a year. He credits his wife with being his motivation, and his horse for keeping him sane after long hours at the workbench. “When I ride, that’s the reward for me, the communication with the horse. It feels almost magical.”

Looking ahead, Valley is wary of his business growing to the point of being pushed into a factory production situation. “I want to stay unique in making my own, and making them for as long as I can.” He is open to hiring an apprentice to keep the trade alive, and give him more time to ride. Says Valley, “I think it would take away the fun if I can’t ride my horse.”

 

Photos by Christina Clusiau

  • ​Small business owner Keith Valley trains and rides his horse with one of his handcrafted saddles in the Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, WY​. (photo by: Christina Clusiau)

  • ​Keith Valley’s interest in saddles began at the young age of seven, when he discovered the work of Charlie Russell, known for his cowboy art. Valley incorporates that inspiration into his saddles, through traditional silver engraving and cowboy-inspired designs.

  • Keith Valley and his horse in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Valley is wary of his business getting too large and taking up too much of his time, saying “I think it’d take away the fun if I can’t ride my horse.”

  • A close-up of one of Keith Valley’s handmade custom leather saddles on his horse. Valley always loved horses and riding, but felt that the factory-made saddles most people use were uncomfortable for both the horse and the rider.

  • Keith Valley says that his wife motivates him, and his horse keeps him sane. “That’s the reward for me, the communication with the horse. It feels almost magical.”

  • Keith Valley works on one of his hand-tooled leather designs at his shop in Jackson, Wyo. Due to the detail of his engravings and the time-consuming nature of working with leather, Valley produces about 13 custom saddles per year.

  • Saddle soap, used for cleaning and polishing leather saddles, on a shelf at the Keith Valley Saddle Co. shop.

  • “Leather has to be worked when it’s ready,” says Keith Valley, owner of Keith Valley Saddle Co. “Once you get the moisture content right, leather works a lot like clay. And once it gets too dry, it’s unworkable. So you have to get it right on time.”

  • Keith Valley works on a saddle in his Jackson shop. Due to its central location in downtown Jackson, his shop draws a lot of tourists who come in to check out his work.

  • A selection of tools used for leather engraving at Keith Valley Saddle Co.’s shop.

  • Keith Valley at work in his shop, which is located right off of the main square in downtown Jackson, Wyo. “We produce custom saddles for the discerning horseman,” says Valley. “The one that really wants to feel as much of their horse as possible.”

  • After spending five years in Montana learning from some of the region’s top saddle makers, Keith Valley relocated to Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 2004. “There weren’t any saddle makers in Jackson,” he says. “[Local saddle stores] import their saddles from as far as Mexico.”

Business Details

Proprietor: Keith Valley
PO Box 6451 Jackson Hole, WY 83002
PH: 307-690-1088 / Website
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