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Harness making fills a niche

The Livery Stable receives a steady flow of year-round orders

If you think business might be slow for a professional harness maker in the year 2016, you would be wrong. Brad Funk of Langham, Sask. established The Livery Stable in 1988 and continues to enjoy a steady flow of orders that keeps him busy year round. His craft fills a strong niche market.

“My mainstay is new harness, which I build myself and sell to basically the four western provinces. I’ve actually had calls from as far away as Newfoundland. “I try to put out a quality product. I don’t spend any money on advertising — the work that goes out the door is my advertising,” he says.

The demand for harnesses comes from a variety of horse enthusiasts from hobby farms to large beef cattle operators using horses to feed their herds. Funk builds most of his harnesses from leather, but has also worked with nylon. “A leather harness, if it’s looked after properly, will last a lifetime. I’ve worked on harnesses that were 100 years old,” he says. Nylon is a good alternative in that it’s much lighter, but it won’t last as long.

The workshop at The Livery Stable is fully equipped with heavy-duty sewing machines, hand tools, and other equipment needed to turn out the product. Funk purchases his harness leather from the Amish in Ontario, and some leather from an outlet in Saskatoon.

“I do the difficult parts first, such as the back pads and the traces, then I’ve got the remnants from that to do the smaller pieces. I keep the best leather for the straps. Because leather is so outrageously expensive, you cannot waste it,” he says.

Brad Funk working on a piece.

Brad Funk working on a piece.
photo: Edna Manning

Harness making is exacting work that requires skill, time, and attention to detail, and although the work can be tedious, Funk takes pride in a job well done and a good finished product.

Funk and his two teams of Percherons provide ride service to fill another niche in and around the Saskatoon area. “We’re very busy during the winter, particularly in December doing sleigh rides for school groups and church functions. In January the winter festivals in the small towns keep us busy,” he says. When he gets swamped with bookings, he calls on his friend Ken Crush to help out.

Funk grew up in Mayfair, Saskatchewan. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father worked as a professional cowboy at a community pasture. He got into leatherwork after his parents purchased a leather crafting kit for him when he was a teenager.

“I had horses growing up and I’ve always loved working with them,” he says. Over the years he’s been a welder and a truck driver, owned some taxis and ran a gas station. About 28 years ago he and his wife closed down the gas station and he opened The Livery Stable. “This has blossomed bigger than I thought it would,” Funk said.

“You don’t get to retire when you’re a harness maker.”

For more information, contact Brad Funk at The Livery Stable at 306-283-4580 or 306-262-4580. You can also write him at Box 560, Langham, Sask. S0K 2L0.

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