Bob Brenner says he would not have had an interest in saddle-making if it was not for a girl.
"Girls get you into all types of problems," he laughed. "I was in the banking industry in Denver and I traveled around various banks and I met a young lady in one of the banks. She was a cashier and she was a barrel racer. Her father ran a dude string. I was in Denver and they were up there in Bailey, Colorado. So on the weekends, I didn't want to stay in Denver so I'd go up there. That's basically how it started."
Brenner says one day he noticed a horn on a saddle needed to be restitched.
"Her father looked at me and said, 'Well can’t you do that?' 'I’m a computer guy,'" he said. "I got a book on how to hand stitch. I got two needles and an awl and some thread and I stitched it up."
Two years later he decided to make his first saddle. Her father once again put on the pressure.
"He said, 'Well, why can’t you do that?'," said Brenner. "So I took one home, tore it apart, and that winter I built 20 of them by hand."
When asked if he married the woman, Brenner laughed and said, "No."
That love may have faded but his passion for saddle-making did not. Now, 45 years later, he's nearing 1000 custom saddles made at his saddle shop, Pikes Peak Saddlery. Each one takes about three months to make.
"You may work on a saddle for half an hour but then you have to let it sit because you wet the leather, you shape the leather, and then you have to let it dry," he said.
It takes patience and perseverance, qualities that help the 79-year-old connect with the veterans he now volunteers to teach his craft.
"A lot of times they can talk to me when they can’t talk to other people," Brenner said. "They know that I’m not going to judge them."
Brenner is a Vietnam War Army Combat Veteran. The former Army Captain does not talk about the war with anyone but the men he helps.
"I've been there so you’re sort of part of a club so to speak," Brenner said.
J.D. Richardson spent 12 years in the military.
"I served in the Air Force as a SERE specialist," Richardson said. "(It stands for) Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. So we teach everyone from air crewmembers to special operations folks how to live off the land and deal with the bad guys."
On his last jump from an airplane, Richardson shattered his neck and was medically retired. Since then, Brenner has helped him master his hobby as a wooden stirrup maker.
"Stirrup making not many people do it," Richardson said. "I think there are three other people in the country who do it and I’m just one of those guys."
Richardson also works with the Remount Foundation to connect other vets with Brenner.
"The Remount Foundation helps veterans and warriors through equine assistance therapy," he said.
"I knew the sergeant down there and one day he just sent a guy up," said Brenner. "He says, 'Hey we need this.' So he came up and that sort of started it and I would work with guys."
That was 18 years ago. Since then Brenner has made an agreement with his customers: the vets come first, custom orders second.
"I was a Vietnam veteran and I thought, no way was I going to see these guys treated that way," Brenner said.
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