At 50, Mortenson says his life is more balanced than it was for many years.
“I’m lucky. I have another great saddlemaker, Wes Mastic, working for me, and a lot of other great people working for me,” he says. “I used to be in the shop six or seven days a week, for almost 20 years. Now the store is open five days a week, and I’m able to get out. I’m giving some roping and riding lessons, training a few horses, and I’m able to take off and go to a branding. I don’t dread going to work. The diversity of it is good.”
He’s also donated time to The Horse Shelter in Santa Fe, and serves on the rescue facility’s board of directors. He has hosted events at his ranch, including a 100-day trainer’s challenge for the shelter (which he won on a rescued mare) and a children’s horse show, both held on National Day of the Cowboy.
“I like to do anything to promote horses in the community,” he says.
Mortenson also enjoys spending time with his son, who is becoming an accomplished roper and may also be following in his dad’s artistic footsteps.
“Now I have a little more time to spend with Wyatt, and that’s what I like to do now,” he says. “I’ve been working a lot to get the business going, but it’s nice to be able to step away and do other things. It’s sort of evolved to where I want it now.”
Mortenson appreciates the varied work that comes in (including a knife for Marlboro and a custom truck with extensive silver-tooled accents for Brooks & Dunn). One of his recent projects—a tooled leather belt and silver buckle—was photographed for a wrap for Tyson Foods semi-trailers that will be going to Professional Bull Riders events, which Tyson sponsors.
“It’s so diverse—we never know what’s coming in the door,” he says.
But the traditional cowboy prides himself on saddles and gear that ultimately get covered in dirt.
“It’s interesting to look for your stuff in the movies, but being at a branding and seeing several of my saddles makes me feel good,” he says. “I get a good feeling out of the things that are getting used constantly by people who are good hands.
“I think the combination of the art and being a trainer helps me make a quality saddle. Some people are great craftsmen but haven’t ridden much, and some may know what makes a good riding saddle but don’t have an artistic eye. I want to make a beautiful, functional piece of art.
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue.