Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Art of Western Cinch Making

The quiet of the winter season leaves ranchers with time to pursue other endeavors. After the feeding chores are taken care of morning and night, ranchers may turn to their shops to complete maintenance projects; they may take to their computers to oversee ranch operation records and tax work; or they may pursue artwork, leather making, writing, or other areas of interest.

This winter Pete has taken up western cinch making. The cinch has been in use for nearly 3000 years. Although saddles, made of simple animal hide or cloth, made their appearance sometime between 2000 and 4000 B.C., the cinch didn’t make an appearance until around 700 B.C. in the Middle East when Assyrian warriors added straps to their decorative saddle cloths. While many contemporary western cinches are made of polyester, nylon, or neo-prene, Pete makes his with mohair.

Mohair is grown by the Angora goat, a breed thought to originate from the mountains of Tibet. Today, South Africa is the largest producer of mohair and the United States the second largest, with Texas producing the majority of that mohair. Its texture resembles human hair and is used for carpet, clothing, wigs, and even climbing skins for the skis of back-country skiers. Unlike nylon or neo-prene cinches, mohair cinches have the advantage of being flexible, durable, and more comfortable for the horse because they are breathable.

The cinches can be either braided or woven, or both in a variety of styles and widths and include either brass or silver buckles and d-rings. The designs can be simple or elaborate and while the traditional color is a natural tan, today it’s possible to buy dyed mohair in a wide variety of colors. Cinches come in a variety of styles including a standard 17 strand all-round cinch, a 27 strand roper cinch, a 29 strand double-layer cutting cinch, and a 21 strand vaquero style cinch. They can be made with different styles and shapes of buckles. Depending on the size of the horse, the cinch will also come in various lengths to suit size and build of the horse.

Pete has drawn on the traditional designs of old-time cowboys and California vaqueros to create his cinches. They include diamond shapes and the influence of Native American symbols. While many of the designs are decorative, some of them are integral in providing strength, helping keep the cinch flat, or attaching hardware. This winter he also custom designed a cinch for our son. He included our son's brand, the spear quarter circle on both ends of the cinch with a contrasting center band in the center.

During coming periods of quiet on the ranch whether that’s next winter season or a warm quiet night when the chores are done and he isn’t drawn to the roping arena or round pen, Pete looks forward to more cinch making. He anticipates making and selling a few custom cinches for those who appreciate the art and quality of the western mohair cinch.

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