© Dawn Kish
SADDLE MAKERKaren Lamontagne
Ranch saddles, barrel-racing saddles, cutting saddles, roping saddles, reining saddles and endurance saddles. These are just some of the Western-style saddles Karen Lamontagne handcrafts at Riata Saddles, her shop in Wickenburg. Although she's been making saddles for more than 20 years, her foray into this world was more inadvertent than intentional. In 1991, Lamontagne began working at a local saddle shop, where she cleaned, repaired and built parts for saddles. "I hate to say it, but it was a job," she says. Her "job" eventually turned into a passion when she started creating custom pieces. These days, Lamontagne is the master of her own domain — and one of the few female saddle-makers in the country. She spends, on average, 50 to 60 hours building a single saddle, but she's spent upward of 100 hours on a custom piece. "The finished product is the best," she says. "Sometimes, saddles come together easily, and sometimes, they're a bear. I guess it's like childbirth — you forget the pain."
— Kathy Ritchie
Riata Saddles is located at 70 E. Apache Street in Wickenburg. For more information, call 928-684-4999.