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Q & A with Stan Headrick of Fabtron

We really enjoy catching up with our manufacturers. Recently Stan Headrick, head of Fabtron Saddles, sat down with us for a little interview. We thought you'd like a peek.
HORSE SADDLE SHOP: What is Fabtron's philosophy of business?
STAN HEADRICK: For more than 35 years, Fabtron, Inc. has been blessed with a reputation for ethical, responsible business practices. From the start, we instinctively knew that great companies are built on the principle of doing the right thing each and every day – and treating business partners, customers, and employees honestly, fairly and with respect.
If there is any one thing that serves as the backbone of our business philosophy, it is our Guiding Values. These values are composed of six tenets.
  • 1. Showing respect for our people
  • 2. Conducting business with integrity
  • 3. Taking responsibility for our actions
  • 4. Providing products of the highest quality
  • 5. Focusing on productivity at every level of business
  • 6. Pursuing and supporting innovation every day
Fabtron Inc. is still owned and operated by the Headrick family. Although we have grown tremendously for our founding days, our business dealings are still heavily influenced by our grass roots of learning from our industry.
HSS: What sets Fabtron apart from other saddle manufacturers?
HEADRICK: Fabtron sees and realizes that competition is a given in any marketplace – no matter how novel the product. Consumers have a lot of choices of brands and products from which to choose. From our philosophy, we are constantly working on Innovation of New Products that satisfies today’s customers needs and desires. This is accomplished by keeping a close eye on productivity and quality to bring the best products to customers at a marketable price – and backing that all up with customer service that strives to make our products and our entire business excel in the market place.
HSS: How did Fabtron get started in the saddle industry?
HEADRICK: Fabtron started in 1972 manufacturing Whips for the animal health and equine industry. Each year, growth with new products took Fabtron to being one of the largest suppliers of whips, girths, leads, nylon halters, strap goods, and other accessories in the industry. In 1992, Fabtron made another giant step in the equine market with the production of light-weight leather/cordura saddles. This involved the beginning of our leather operation for saddle tops and mating our already existing large cut and sew operation for Fenders and Skirts. We identified the market for leather/cordura saddles as being one to concentrate on and grow with quality products designed to fit today’s horses and provide riding comfort for the rider. The advantages of quality lightweight leather/cordura saddles vs. All-Leather saddles are numerous for trail riders, etc. We have excelled in this market partly because of our broad manufacturing base of a very wide range of products and manufacturing techniques.
HSS: How long does it take to make a Fabtron saddle?
HEADRICK: The manufacturing process of Fabtron saddles involves a number of stages. The production of the Cordura fenders and Skirts is completed in our large Cut and Sew operation. From the initial cutting of leather parts from top quality full hides, the leather operation takes all the cutting, preparation of components, and actual assembly of leather parts on the correct saddle tree. Finally, the complete leather saddle top and the Cordura fenders and skirt are mated to complete a top quality Fabtron Saddle. This procedure takes 1 to 2 weeks once the saddle enters production.
HSS: What is your most popular model?
HEADRICK: Over the years, Fabtron has designed and manufactured a number of very popular saddles. It is a progression of constantly listing to customers and designing products that fit today’s horses and riders. A “Popular” saddle is a result of manufacturing a product that fits the horse, is comfortable for the rider, and is what the consumer demands. We have a number of saddles that meet those requirements. The “Trail Roper”, “Lady Trail”, “Easy Rider”, and the most recent “Homesteader” styles all are some of the great saddles designed for various riders and are very popular.
HSS: How is a Fabtron saddle different than an imported saddle?
HEADRICK: Fabtron saddles are different for a number of reasons. First, all Fabtron Saddles are made in our factory in Maryville, Tennessee using top quality leather made for the saddle industry. All Fabtron saddles are made on saddle trees designed and made in America – built for strength, for fit, and comfort. Fabtron saddles are made for specific characteristics in a broad range of styles – not just a 1 or 2 saddle fits-all approach. Being an American manufacturer, Fabtron is much more versatile and much quicker to bring products to market – and improve products as needed.
HSS: What makes a low quality Cordura saddle?
HEADRICK: A good question to ask also is - what make a high quality Cordura saddle? One of the best ways is to set a “low quality” and a “high quality” saddle side by side and one can immediately actually see many differences. One can examine the quality of leather used to manufacture the saddle --- many saddles don’t even use leather but are totally man-made materials. Over a short period of time, one can check the hardware used in the construction – is it stainless steel that will not rust – or plated hardware that will rust. Fabtron even uses stainless steel screws in the production of our saddles. One needs to check the saddle tree. Is the tree made for demanding use or just something onto which a saddle is constructed made for initial selling vs. long term use. Finally, one needs to check the “FIT” of a saddle for both the horse and rider. Unless one has a good fitting saddle, total enjoyment of the riding adventure is sacrificed.
HSS: Any future projects you can share with the Horse Saddle Shop?
HEADRICK: Fabtron is constantly working on new products and developing new ideals. Some of the projects end up being new products and some only help increase ones knowledge of various products. One has to constantly work to improve products. Fabtron is constantly watching and listing for projects and new ideals that will help the Equine industry. Our goal is to try to help improve the riding experience which in turn helps the overall enjoyment of all equine activities.