By JASON GROVES Las Cruces Sun-News
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Victor Hermanson doesn’t collect accolades or reviews based on his craft, even though he could.
Hermanson is a gifted saddle maker who resides on the outskirts of Las Cruces. Hermanson is self taught, and he would rather spend his time passing his knowledge to others than collecting industry accolades.
“There are things like that where you can enter competitions and get judged on saddles,” Hermanson told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “I really just like the idea of interacting with people and making a product that can better their life. Throughout the years, I’ve learned that if you ride horses and you have a bad horse or a bad saddle, it’s a pretty miserable experience.”
Customers seek out Hermanson for his 35 years of experience and his ability to fit the needs of competitive rodeo cowboys, ranchers and folks who want a high-end display piece.
“I don’t do it the same way as everyone else and sometimes my students don’t continue doing it the same way,” Hermanson said. “I do it the traditional way, but I lay in the leather ground seats where I carve it to fit the rider. My custom saddles are about the fit of the rider and the horse and the discipline.”
Hermanson, who grew up around horses on a Montana ranch, built his first saddle as a 12-year-old.
“I told my parents I wanted to build a saddle and they bought me a tanning kit,” Hermanson said. “I told them that it wasn’t good enough. It was just a toy. So they bought me a tree and some leather. I had a knife, and I built my first saddle on my bedroom floor.”
After serving in the Navy, Hermanson found himself in Bishop, California, where he established a school to teach others his method.
He moved to Las Cruces in 2005, where he worked out of a few locations before building a shop on his property near the Rio Grande in 2006.
He used to teach as many as 15 students at a time, though COVID-19 has forced him to reduce numbers.
“It’s pretty in depth and pretty intense,” said Wayne Wise, a professional rodeo announcer who took Hermanson’s seminar last November. “There is quite a learning curve from someone standing there helping you versus doing it on your own.”
Wise said he found Hermanson after a Google search for saddle makers. He drove from Texas to Las Cruces for Hermanson’s five-week seminar, staying on site in a bunk house for students.
Wise said he still reaches out to Hermanson as he begins to work on his first saddle.
“I have been in the leather business on the side for a long time and I wanted something to take it to another level,” Wise said.
“What I really wanted to get out of it was a basic idea of how to build a saddle. One of my main concerns was that I could never get the ground seat in right. People never see it, but it’s a very important part of a saddle.”
While Hermanson’s passion remains on teaching others, he remains busy building saddles.
His saddles range from a basic setup for $2,250 through $10,000, which was a saddle for a Western pleasure competition.
“It’s kind of like the fashion show of horse riding,” Hermanson said. “It was mostly high-end silver on it with gold inlay. You can get a lot higher than that, but nobody uses them.”
Hermanson was close to building a saddle for actor Robert Duvall, but never got the go ahead. He has built saddles for Roy Yates, who held the record for the longest slide in the reining discipline.
“All of the different disciplines require different things,” Hermanson said. “Team ropers don’t want a bunch of swing in their stirrups. They will stand up and shoot and they want to have more stability. For cutters, they want really narrow fenders, so they have to have more freedom of movement. Reiners want a seat where they can stay in the saddle.”
Even during a time where business has slowed, Hermanson will still talk potential customers out of a sale if their horsemanship skills aren’t up to par.
“A lot of times I will tell them not to put this much money into a saddle because you don’t need it right now,” Hermanson said. “They could have buyer’s remorse because they aren’t ready for it. You want to treat people with respect, but you also want to help that person get to the next level.”
Las Cruces custom saddle maker teaches unique skill
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