- Written by Sarah Sayles
- Published on April 04, 2011
Matt Rockwell could never have guessed it. Even with his lifetime on horseback and his stint in the military. But ten years ago, Rockwell and his wife Marianne (with their friends Dave and Cindy Crandall) discovered a sport that brought together two things they loved—horses and guns.
Here’s how it all started.
When Matt was young, he lived in Alaska where he worked on a ranch on Kodiak Island. After serving in the 82nd Airborne, he went back and guided bear hunters until a knee injury ended his guiding career.
Eventually he moved to Idaho where bought some property. It was here that he met his wife, who also owned a little place. After they married, they sold their small parcels and bought a bigger place in Oregon where they run some cattle and train some horses.
Sometime around 2001, Marianne took a leather tooling class. Matt had always wanted to learn to make a saddle, so he made a deal with Mike Buckner, a local saddle maker, to build a saddle with his help and Marianne tooled it.
“The next thing I knew, someone else wanted a saddle and it just grew from there.”
Over the next few years, Matt received scholarships from the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association and was able to work with several excellent teachers, such as Rick Bean and Chuck Storms.
As the Rockwells began to work leather, they also began mounted shooting. At first they made their own holsters. Then Matt decided he wanted to make himself a saddle he could use at the shoots and on the ranch. He went to a master tree-maker with a mounted shooting connection.
Bill Bean is our tree maker and both his kids (Roy & Dally Rose) are mounted shooters,” he says. “They both won their classes at the Worlds.” The two have collaborated on a tree with a modified Lewellen fork which is rotated forward to give a shooter more gun room, and also includes a flatter horn which won’t hook a gun belt. Matt says that, of course, they’ll build anything custom and have sold more of the old style saddles, even to mounted shooters.
“We’re trying to meet the need of the sport,” Matt, now a Mens Level 5 shooter, says. “We shoot on them, so we try them out in the arena. We have a saddle shop right there at the ranch, so we work in there when we’re not doing our other work. It’s kind of been taking over.
“It allows us to test our equipment in a work environment,” Matt says. Everything is made to the industry’s highest standard, and their fully equipped saddle shop today is completely stocked with their hand-made items. Saddle work has kept them very busy in the last years, and Marianne (L3) makes lots of the holsters they sell as well as chaps. Matt mainly works on saddles, but the couple work together through the design process, with Marianne taking on much of the more detailed work such as breast collars and headstalls.
If you want a Rockwell saddle, Matt says he can take the order over the phone, but it works best if a new client can come by the shop or even meet him at a shoot so they can sit on the saddle before he finishes it. You can find out more at www.rockwellsaddles.com.