Colt Baldwin: The Craft of Saddle Making

Colt Baldwin with wife, Cheyenne, and son, Case. (Photo courtesy Tony Avila, Avil’Art)

The saddle has served as an essential tool for cowboys and cowgirls for hundreds of years, providing
both comfort and security for horse and rider as they go about their daily tasks, from herding cattle to
building fences. The time-honored tradition of saddle making is an art that has been passed down through the generations. Colt Baldwin, of Gainesville, Texas, continues this tradition, a gift of knowledge he received from his high school agriculture teacher, Chris Uselton. The teacher took Baldwin under his wing, teaching him the ins and outs of taking a piece of leather and turning it into a custom-made, beautiful tool that a rider can use day in and day out.
Learning the Craft
Baldwin grew up in Gainesville with roots deep in the north Texas town. His grandfather raised Brangus
bulls, while his father owned and raised horses while working at Peterbilt. The saddle maker also is
employed by Peterbilt, where he has worked 11 years while growing his business and expanding his craft along the way.
Uselton had once worked for Jack and Bruce Chaney, who shared their expertise of saddle making. He
made good use of that knowledge and crafted saddles for years before making the move into teaching.
When Baldwin became his student, Uselton began instructing him on metal projects, such as spurs and
bits, which they began showing as ag mechanics projects.
“I don’t know if he thought I was good enough, or that I wanted to try enough, but he thought it would
be cool to do a saddle next as a project because he had never seen anyone do that,” Baldwin recalled. “My senior year, we finally finished and showed the saddle, and won a ton of awards at San Antonio and San Angelo, all the big shows. Now, students win all kinds of things like scholarships, but at the time, it was a new thing, and they didn’t even know where to put us. We still won a bunch, but it wasn’t really set up for that kind of stuff.”
Baldwin’s school was not equipped with the proper tools for saddle making, so Uselton allowed his student to work from his house and use his own personal tool collection.

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