We want to be the heart of Australia – our handcrafted bespoke products
interwoven with the stories of horse people Australia-wide.
My name is Mathew Murray and I’m Head Saddle Maker at Riverina Saddlery, which I opened in 2011 with the support of my wife, Lyn.
I grew up on a family cattle property in northern NSW where horses were a day-to-day way of life and I got into leather work because I wanted to make my best mate a pocket knife pouch when I was 10 years old. My parents were quite supportive and when I started to pull apart farm saddlery – much to Dad’s horror – so that I could try and put it back together again, they took me down to a local harness maker, Jim Hall, to get some pointers. I worked with Jim on weekends and holidays right up to his death in 1997 and I will always be grateful for the opportunities he gave me at such a young age.
When I was 14 I decided I needed a saddle so I endeavored to make my own. It took almost a year to complete and wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I started. Nonetheless, I used it for a number of years and kept building saddles when the opportunities arose.
When I attended Emerald Agricultural College I met Steve Geary, one of the instructors, who was also making saddles in his spare time. He helped me with the patterns and basic designs for my first Fender saddle and the College work experience program sent me to Dan Baker, a Western saddle maker in Brisbane, for two weeks to learn more. After this, I started making Fender saddles in my holidays and selling them to other students at the College.
After College I worked a variety of jobs, always tinkering with saddlery in my spare time. In 2005 I decided to try and make saddles commercially as a side-line to my contract mustering so I set up base in a shed at a horse school in Proserpine, North Queensland. Not long after, I was contacted to build a saddle for Greg Hoare, a popular North Queensland identity who became a good mate and was always a great advocate of my saddles. I soon had orders for many other saddles and was asked to make the trophy saddle for the Weetalaba Campdraft, which is just one of the many horse events that we continue to sponsor today.
In 2010 I met my future wife and in 2011 got engaged and moved to Wagga Wagga, NSW, where she was teaching. I spent a Wagga winter making saddles in our backyard shed. Between the freezing temperatures and my wife coming home from work to find a growing number of the Wagga horse community in the backyard, we realised we needed to take the leap in order to make my passion for saddlery a viable business.
We contacted retiring local saddler, Garry Hiscock, and organised to move his old bus – an icon on Copland St – and shop-fitted the back part of his building. With very little capital, we built most of our display racks ourselves and spent a great deal of time hauling our gear to all sorts of horse events, from Campdrafts in Tumut to Polocrosse in Ballarat, to boost our customer base. I must admit, in the early days, I would take business cards on my bike rides and drop one in the mailbox of any property that had a horse in the adjoining paddock.
Since moving into our premises we have continued to expand both our business and our family. We are the only saddlery in south-western NSW to do repairs and manufacture our own saddles and we now have three wonderful kids, Elizabeth, Daniel and Abigail, who are our whole world. While it is time-consuming and often frustrating in this age of cheap, imported goods, to craft our products by hand, we believe that our customers deserve to be able to choose stylish, durable, Australian-made products and will strive to meet the growing need for Mathew Murray products Australia-wide.