Travels of the Wondai saddler


Erle Levey

Life’s journey can take you down many roads – a few of them dusty, a few of them resulting in useless ends. But with persistence and a spirit of journey they will additionally take you to the place you are supposed to be.

David and Tania Earle have travelled down many roads and their journey has led them to Wondai.

It’s as in the event that they had been at all times going to settle within the South Burnett city.

David is a saddle maker and leather-based employee whereas Tania helps with the advertising and marketing. But she additionally has her personal enterprise, serving to ladies regain order of their life.

This may vary from cleansing, organising and training – to rebuilding their confidence via horse driving.

David and Tania each come from rural backgrounds – he was born in Maryborough and he or she was born in Toowoomba however grew up in Townsville.

Whereas David began out mustering and doing horse work for folks round Maryborough, Tania’s father was regional inspector for the Lands Division for 20 years at Townsville.

In consequence they obtained to know all of the cattle station homeowners in Northern Queensland.

Amongst them was the Atkinson household, who had been attributed to growing the Droughtmaster breed of cattle because of their suitability to the tropical circumstances.

Early within the Nineteen Thirties the Atkinson household purchased two cross-bred bulls, descended from a Bos indicus (Zebu or Brahman) into their herd.

By 1957 Lamont (Monty) Atkinson had produced this new breed, typically purple in color, extremely proof against ticks and tolerant of drought circumstances whereas yielding a very good high quality beef carcass.

This background with horses and cattle – mixed with a string of circumstances – noticed David and Tania go away Maryborough final March and head for Wondai.

They needed a property to run their livestock. As soon as that was taken care of, one factor led to a different which noticed them set up David Earle Customized Saddles, Gunbelts and Holsters three months later.

There, in Haly St, they customized match and design hand-made Australian fender saddles – in addition to roping, western and the Wade saddles favoured for livestock dealing with. 

Every saddle is crafted to suit the rider, in addition to the horse.

David has been a saddler for almost 30 years now, and prides himself in producing objects which can be purposeful.

“We had been dwelling in Maryborough and noticed a spot for lease,” Tania mentioned. “It was 125 acres near city.

“We had been trying to head west because of a variety of circumstances in our lives.

“Dave was working as a driller all through Queensland. He would come dwelling and do saddles, gun belts and holsters that had been on order.

“As I had began working my approach out of paid employment, he did too.

“He needed me to assist construct up his gross sales in saddles … it obtained to some extent the place we had 9 saddles on order in addition to eight gun belts and holsters on the board.

“He couldn’t hold doing all the things.”

Working as a driller then coming dwelling to work on the saddles, David mentioned he wasn’t getting any downtime.

Then he suffered from Covid and couldn’t get clearance to proceed his drilling work on the time.

“So we determined to return and take a look at this place,” he mentioned.

“We opened the store in June final yr. It had been sitting vacant the entire time we’d lived right here.

“It’s good. One store off the freeway and on the important intersection on the town.

“The shopfront was already right here. It’s been a lot of various things; engineers, mechanics, upholsterers, crane rent, a second-hand joint.”

The vast majority of inventory within the store is by native artisans and craftspeople, and is being bought on consignment.

“One thing we’ve needed to do from the time we lived in Maryborough was to provide folks the chance – with the stuff they make at dwelling – to have publicity to promote it,” Tania mentioned.

“When David will get time we can be placing a few of his craft in there too.”

You can’t assist however really feel the ambiance of the store the second you stroll within the door – the timber flooring, the galvanised iron partitions, the shafts of sunshine coming via the home windows and the open door on the again to interrupt up the shadows.

David’s leatherwork instruments grasp from a coach wheel suspended above the workbench – very similar to a chandelier would in a luxurious dwelling.

Belts grasp within the workshop, together with memorabilia from life within the bush reminiscent of bridles, harnesses and a bullock-team driver’s whip.

Out the entrance are saddle racks from a craftsman in Tiaro.

By displaying his gear, David is ready to use the racks to indicate his saddles.

“You’ve obtained to have neighborhood spirit,” he mentioned.

“Since we opened the doorways we’ve supported the RSL, the present society … we’re at all times prepared to assist whichever approach we will.”

Saddle gross sales come primarily from orders, Tania mentioned.

“Our goal market is ladies my age who’re returning to the saddle after so a few years off.

“In any other case they’ve had a fall, and are not assured … even with their saddle.”

For David, saddles needs to be designed as an funding. You must take care of them.

“We don’t do cookie-cutter saddles,” Tania mentioned.

“We do pelvic mapping.”

Meaning having a dialogue with the shopper about their wants for a saddle, then charting how they sit and their motion.

“We ask a sequence of questions – we don’t do off-the-shelf,” Tania added.

“If you would like it in a brief area of time, you might be greater than welcome to go to a giant saddlery store and purchase it as a result of that’s not what we’re about.”

Speaking with David and Tania, if there’s one factor Covid has taught us it’s to understand what’s on provide, the work and ability that has gone right into a product somewhat than comfort for comfort sake.

David at all times likes to make one thing the rider is snug in.

“I used to muster for a dwelling. I do know what it’s like to take a seat in a saddle for 12 hours then get out of it and never be capable to stroll as a result of the saddle didn’t match me proper.

“However that was all that was obtainable on the time.

“By the years of figuring out how I need to construct saddles, I made a decision to make mine in a different way.

“I haven’t seen the rest just like the seats I’m placing in. There are folks doing shut … however I do a full internet seat and nonetheless have a hand-hold.”

The tree – or base – is what the remainder of the saddle is constructed on.

David makes use of a wooden/fibreglass tree or a wooden rawhide-covered one.

He then builds on high with leather-based to form the seat, then makes use of foam.

The webbing is for consolation.

“Really, I discovered this wooden/fibreglass tree is gentle, versatile, and there’s a little bit of motion if wanted.

“You possibly can drive a nail or a screw into it and it takes.”

Testomony to their lives in nation Australia, David’s grandfather labored on the renovations to the Birdsville Hospital.

His nice aunt represented Australia on the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in equestrian.

As for himself, David began mucking round with leather-based on the age of 19.

What he loves is the very fact it’s a pure product, that’s obtained depth and feeling.

“It may be forgiving, relying on what you’re doing with it.

“No two items are the identical, no two saddles, no two holsters.

“I’ve labored for saddlers all the way in which as much as Charters Towers. Then I went into mining and now I’m working for myself, doing saddles.

“The response from the neighborhood has been nice. We’re getting identified.”

Saddle orders can come from throughout.

There have been some latest gross sales to an equestrian park close to Orange, New South Wales.

“The proprietor had a foul fall, and misplaced her confidence,” Tania mentioned.

“She noticed the deep seat on Dave’s saddles and that made her really feel assured.

“Our pelvic mapping finds your steadiness level and that makes you extra snug and extra assured.

“You might be proper there together with your horse.

“Dave moulds the seat for ‘CBC’ – consolation and steadiness equals confidence.”

An increasing number of locals are attending to know the saddlery is on the town, Tania mentioned.

“We’re wanting this store to place Wondai and the South Burnett on the map.

“It’s so undiscovered.

“Folks must get out of their again door and uncover what’s on provide.

“We need to get folks out right here to find the South Burnett, and whereas they’re right here do a course, do a workshop.

“There can be a course each month – whip making in February, belt making, saddle making and we’ve been requested to do bridles.”

The couple are additionally selling the very fact folks can organise their very own workshops.

There may be an NDIS shopper who is available in for leatherwork and there are faculty vacation packages.

“Dave is a born instructor,” Tania mentioned. “The youngsters simply like it. He will get them used to working with leather-based.”

A key to good leatherwork is the standard of the product and the consistency.

“The method of tanning is far the identical however I don’t need variation,” David mentioned, “… not thick one finish and skinny the opposite, not sloppy.”

Saying that, he could make a belt in quarter-hour – not carved however to the usual of RM Williams or Thomas Cook dinner with brass or metal buckle.

His gun belts for holding shotgun cartridges or bullets are one other side of the enterprise, together with gun holsters.

Some have even been utilized in western motion pictures, reminiscent of these streaming companies.

“There’s a sport in Australia – single motion capturing (SASS) – or cowboy motion capturing,” David mentioned. “It’s the place there’s a single cock of the gun somewhat than automated firing.

“Members can use all three weapons – a six gun, a single-action rifle and a double-barrel shotgun.

“Most gun golf equipment can shoot SASS.”

It was the seek for someplace to maintain their cattle and horses that led David and Tania to Wondai.

They’ve 4 horses and 13 heifers in the meanwhile.

The cattle are a mixture of Brahman and a few Droughtmasters, they usually have simply put a Bazadaise bull over them.

The Bazadaise originate from the Bordeaux area of southern France, with a herd e-book established in 1895.

They had been launched into Australia in 1991 and vary in color from charcoal or darkish gray to gentle gray.

In addition to excessive development charges and feed effectivity, and high-yielding carcasses, they’ve confirmed their skill to endure and thrive within the various Australian weather conditions from the cooler temperate local weather of Tasmania to the new, arid plains of the Northern Territory.

There are additionally some new Pink Angus and Black Angus heifers.

The horses are used for path work – a station-bred mare, a thoroughbred, a quarterhorse cross Andalusian, and a miniature horse.

“If it wasn’t for them we most likely wouldn’t be out right here,” Tania mentioned, “so we’ve loads to thank them for.

“We would have liked a spot for them.”

Each David and Tania have been concerned in some iconic horse rides through the years.

In 2011, David was amongst those that took 40 riders from Nanango – alongside components of alongside Australia’s Nationwide Path – to have a good time 150 years of Maryborough.

Tania tells me in regards to the 1988 re-enactment of the mail run from Ingham to Valley of Lagoons Station.

On the age of 76, Fred Williams – a legend of the bush – took half within the re-enactment of the run he undertook in 1934.

There have been 140 riders participating.

The property was owned by Monty Atkinson however the Sheahan household run it now, with Dan Sheahan having written the Slim Dusty ballad The Pub With No Beer.

Tania’s enterprise ReFinding You Skilled Organising is about serving to ladies regain order of their life.

A part of it’s placing horses with individuals who have been abused or been via tough occasions.

“It’s about rehabilitating … therapeutic via horses, rising their confidence in themselves once more, to really feel once more. Particularly if they’re coming from abuse.

“A horse is your biggest reflection of your self. And the best instructor of who you might be or who you are supposed to be.

“Horses have unbelievable notion.

“Should you can take a girl who has no concept of who she is due to the life that has occurred to her, and you’ll take her out and get her to expertise that relationship and that connection you get from a horse – one you gained’t get from another animal. That’s life altering.

“You grow to be one – you understand one another’s ideas, emotions. That’s what you get when you find yourself actually related to your horse.

“If you enable that to occur.”

David and Tania present how dwelling your ardour can have a really optimistic impression on a neighborhood.

They take nice delight within the high quality of their work, and the city they reside in.

This shines via in what they do with their animals and folks day by day.