Artisans of the West – John Mincer

John Mincer prides himself on his craft. But beyond that lies a deep-rooted respect for that which is sourced, made and appreciated at home.

John Mincer

Mincer Silversmiths
Fallon, Nevada
Silversmith

John Mincer prides himself on his craft. But beyond that lies a deep-rooted respect for that which is sourced, made and appreciated at home.

John Mincer was born and raised in Nevada’s Great Basin and is a third generation rancher. From early in his childhood he was schooled in the traditional cowboy tools that he now designs and manufactures, and he had the opportunity to learn from some of the best. Mincer cut his teeth engraving silver at a cow camp on the Stillwater Range in Nevada. He credits Chet Smith for providing he foundation that sent him on the path to forging a career in silversmithing and engraving.

He credits Chet Smith for providing he foundation that sent him on the path to forging a career in silversmithing and engraving.

With a long list of mentors to credit, including Dan Price and Hugh Weaver, it wasn’t until he met master engraver Franz Markit that he finally fell into his own unique style, that of unmistakable distinct depth and shadowing. He learned that the craft that he had been raised with could be transformed into nothing short of an art and to add a well-defined polish to his own work.

He learned that the craft that he had been raised with could be transformed into nothing short of an art.

Today, Mincer Silversmiths is dedicated to providing unique, high quality, handmade products for collectors, working cowboys and leather crafters across the globe. They strive to design and manufacture items that fit the needs of every individual, first and foremost being usable for everyday working conditions while at the same time being of heirloom quality. Something that they pride themselves on, every piece is produced and hand finished on the Mincer ranch, in the heart of the U.S.A.

~ Dainya Sapergia

Mincer Silversmiths

www.mincersilversmiths.com

Artisans of the West – Heather Baumgartner

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue.

Heather Baumgartner may have grown up in the heart of Saskatchewan’s prairie metropolis of Regina, but she always dreamt of becoming a cowgirl.

Heather Baumgartner

Spruce Grove, Alberta
Leather Crafter

Heather Baumgartner may have grown up in the heart of Saskatchewan’s prairie metropolis of Regina, but she always dreamt of becoming a cowgirl.

“From as early as I can remember, I was drawing horses and began riding with friends in high school.  It wasn’t until years later – in the early 90’s – that I got my first horse and began showing. It was the start of both my show career and my interest in the artistry of the leather craft,” says the striking craftswoman from Spruce Grove, Alberta.

The seed of Baumgartner’s burgeoning chap and leather crafting business really got started many years ago with a young girl who loved to sew.

In her home studio Baumgartner surrounds herself with western artistry and gains inspiration from both western artisans and the style of today’s fashion.

“As a kid I would sew my own clothes, and later in life I even made a few dress shirts for my husband. Then, about 15 years ago, a fellow down the road needed someone to sew chaps – so I built a few sets of basic chaps for his leather shop – it wasn’t until about four years ago that I decided to take up the artistry of leather making and focused on honing my skills in leather carving.”

From a small Tandy Leather Christmas gift, a number of classes with Ed Collard at the local leather shop and a few trips to classes to Wyoming and Arizona artisan workshops, Baumgartner taught herself the fundamentals. Then, with the help of folks like Don Butler, Andy Stevens, Doug Krause, Bob Park, Steve Mecum and local artisan Peter Swales, she started to refine her skills as a leather maker and established HB Leather on the farm she and her husband Darren own near Spruce Grove, Alberta.

“The biggest challenge is establishing a unique pattern – I like to design pieces that are both stylish and comfortable for the rider.”

In her humble way, she credits her fellow horsepeople for the flourishing demand for her chaps and leatherwork.

“Of course, the business grew from our connection to the performance horse industry. After a dozen years of showing cow horses, reiners and some ranch cutting horses you get to know some great people. It is through those connections and friendships that I’ve been able to continue to grow the business.”

In her humble way, she credits her fellow horsepeople for the flourishing demand for her chaps and leatherwork.

In her home studio Baumgartner surrounds herself with western artistry and gains inspiration from both western artisans and the style of today’s fashion.

“The biggest challenge is establishing a unique pattern – I like to design pieces that are both stylish and comfortable for the rider.”

One of her favourite styles is the use of “finger carving” that she’s worked into both the front and back of many chaps.

Studying the work of Sheridan-style leather makers from years past, testing her designs with countless drawings, and a lot of “test” leather pieces later she’s worked in a few favourites, such as incorporating a daisy into a few designs – “that received a lot of positive buzz!” One of her favourite styles is the use of “finger carving” that she’s worked into both the front and back of many chaps.

~ Ingrid Schulz

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to have the opportunity to showcase a piece of Heather’s work at the Western Horse Review booth this week at the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer. Be sure to come by and view our selection of western artisans work at the booth.

Artisans of the West – Dale Clearwater

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue.

Clearwater combines experience and style to the traditional craft horsemanship gear

Dale Clearwater

Hanley, Saskatchewan
Rawhide Braider

 The means of a cowboy created by a cowboy. Not only is Dale Clearwater a talented horse trainer and professional showman, but he’s also a renaissance craftsman.

Alongside his busy horse training business at Justabouta Ranch in Hanley Saskatchewan, Clearwater designs and creates traditional vaquero styled hackamores and romal reins.

Decorative and functional, Clearwater’s rawhide braiding exhibits that this cowboy has an innate talent under the surface. However, if not for the loss of a priceless piece of gear, Clearwater said he might never have been inspired to develop his creative talents.

“My mom bought a nice Jack Shepherd quirt. It was fancy. I used to have it on my saddle. I went through the bush one day and I lost it. I thought she would be pretty disappointed, so I bought some braiding books to build another one.”

In the years following, Clearwater said he began studying the talents of braiders such as Bryan Neubert and Luis Ortega. With a bit of ingenuity, he tied in his job as a working cowboy to his budding craftsmanship.

“I rode community pasture for awhile. A cow would die out in the pasture, I’d get my knife out and skin it then take the hide off and make rawhide out of it.” He notes that nowadays he purchases his rawhide from a Texas distributor, knowing it is chemically cleaned and has a refined quality.

For Clearwater, having the ability to design and create the proper feel to his own hackamores and romal reins allows for several training advantages.

Riding in hackamore he said, is all feel. “The horses have to get off a really soft touch, more of a signal rather than a pressure.”

Because of this sensitive feel he is developing in his horses, he has designed several styles of bosals. Clearwater’s hackamores offer variations in heel knot sizes (for weight) and cores (for suppleness). Clearwater uses old reata’s or poly ropes as cores and feels he can get a nice feel from them. The bodies are braided around the cores and can be made of either braided latigo leather or rawhide. With his collection of hackamores, Clearwater said he has the option of going to a horse and creating the feel he needs.

Like the vaqueros that originally devised this fine style of equipment, Clearwater’s horsemanship and cowboy lifestyle has inspired him to produce master quality for the modern professional horseman.

~ Deanna Buschert

See more about Dale Clearwater at Justabouta Ranch

Artisans of the West – Richard Brooks

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue 

Richard Brooks

 
Cayley, Alberta
Silversmith & Bit Maker
 

Richard Brooks has dedicated a good part of his life to learning the art of silversmithing. Only in the last seven years has he had the luxury of being able to carry out his passion full-time.

A set of authentic Richard Brooks spurs is a lifetime gift.

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do! My grandfather (Roy Brooks) was a silversmith and bit and spur maker from Cochrane. I used to sit and watch him in his shop when I was kid.”

Sterling men’s band. 14kt white gold ladies ring set. With .72ct diamond.

Those early childhood memories spawned a love for creating good quality, highly functional and innately beautiful products that can be marketed to collectors and working cowboys alike.

“One of my challenges is keeping the artistic side in balance with the functional side of my stuff. No matter how fancy they are, the have to work properly as well.”

Inspired by the old California-style bits, spurs and silverwork, every piece that comes out of Brooks’ shop is nothing short of stunning.

Inspired by the old California-style bits, spurs and silverwork, every piece that comes out of Brooks’ shop is nothing short of stunning. Custom orders for silver and rings are about two or three weeks delivery, whereas bits and spurs stand at about two months wait time. Everything is thought out and executed with precision in a Richard Brooks piece. The rein chains with his bridle bits are original and hand crafted, the saddle silver that he creates adds exponentially to the value of the saddle it is mounted on, his spurs are balanced and solid.

See more of Richard Brooks work online at his Facebook page, R Brooks Bits & Silver.

~ Dainya Sapergia

Artisans of the West – Scott Hardy

Scott Hardy, of Longview, Alberta is one of Canada’s most renowned silversmiths and founding member of the Traditional Cowboys Arts Association.

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue 

Hardy’s designs push the limits of his craft, but he stays true to the tradition of the art of silversmithing.

Some of the most fateful things happen in the most unlikely ways. For Traditional Cowboys Arts Association (TCAA) silversmith Scott Hardy, it all started with an advertisement in the paper.

“I had cowboyed in the mountains, shoed horses for years and welded, all trying to find a way to make a living so Leslie (Scott’s wife) and I could buy some land to raise cattle and horses. I came across an ad for a Continuing Education course at Mount Royal University in Calgary for beginning silversmithing. After completing the night course, I started creating pieces for family and friends in my basement and in 1981, I opened my silver shop.”

Now, over 30 years later, the rest is, indeed, history. Although he doesn’t travel to trade shows to exhibit and sell his work, he does attend the Traditional Cowboys Arts Association Exhibition and Sale held at the National Cowboy & Western Museum in Oklahoma City every October. Hardy’s work is displayed in a handful of galleries, and as with all artists that grow with the times, he gets a fair amount of traffic through his website.

Hardy’s pieces are all works of art, with a lead time of 2-3 months for each order.

“I am a founding member of the TCAA. Their mission statement is simple – the TCAA is dedicated to preserving and promoting the skills of saddle making, bit and spur making, silversmithing and rawhide braiding and the role of these traditional crafts in representing the cowboy culture of the North American West. Over the years, we have taught over 300 craftspeople in workshops, personally mentored over 235 craftspeople, have given out over $70,000 in scholarships and now host an Emerging Artist Competition and a fellowship. But the most important learning tool we have is our annual Exhibition and Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum every October. For this event, our members are required to bring their best works, creating pieces that push their artistic and technical abilities further than ever before.

This is important for many reasons; it inspires artists and craftspeople to move ahead with their own work and show the public buyers and collectors what can be achieved. It also makes the TCAA members strive each year to expand their abilities, which flows through to their everyday work. For me personally it has opened a world of knowledge. Western silversmithing is my passion, pleasure and profession.”

A founding member of the TCAA, Hardy’s work goes above and beyond what would be expected of a bit and spur maker.

After such a lengthy career in the industry, Hardy’s biggest challenge now is time. Although he is happy with his work, he humbly adds that he still feels he has a lot to learn and accomplish. Regardless, he feels a passion for what he does.

“Silver work always fascinated me. Growing up, there were always a lot of buckles and horse gear around, but what really amazed me was a silver tea service set my great Grandma had brought from England. It was hard to believe a person had created those pieces. It is important to carry on this art because it is the culture of the West; the equipment we use, the way we embellish them, the buckles we wear were all created in the North American West. They came from cultures all over the world, brought here and morphed into what worked best for us. The North American West, the way we work stock, the areas we cover in that work is truly unique in the world. We should be proud of that!”

See more of Scott Hardy’s work at www.scotthardy.com.

~ story by Dainya Sapergia

Gearing Up for the Trails

Published in the August 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.

Allan Johnson of Rocky Mountain Outfitting, Springbank, Alberta, offers this checklist of seven essential items to prepare you for the unexpected on a trail ride.

Horse Trail Riding Tips

1. First Aid Kit including such items as bandages, wraps, disinfectant, scissors, etc.

2. A good quality, multi-purpose knife. Look for one with a variety of built-in tools and always keep your blades sharp and in good repair.

3. Maps and GPS are important for mapping out where you are going. Inform someone back home of your planned route and when you expect to be off the trail. If you get lost, don’t take short cuts – stick to the trail.

4. Cell phone, carry one and be mindful of its range. If you plan to trail ride in isolated areas out of cell range, it may be wise to invest in a satellite phone.

5. Matches/Lighter come in handy if you need to start a fire (where permitted).

6. Saddle bags are essential. They will keep your stuff safe, dry and secure. Ensure to distribute the weight as evenly as possible. Your horse will thank you for it!

7. Rain gear: a ¾ length or longer oil skin slicker will keep you and your saddle dry. A waterproof hat also comes in handy.

Digital Evolution, German Martingales & More

You may have heard already that the May / June Western Horse Review is out! But if you're like me and you can't wait for your printed copy to arrive in the mail, did you know you can now access the digital magazine on your iPhone, iPad touch or iPad?

That's right!

The magazine is available in its entirety, page for page on iTunes. So be sure to check it out!

This month I had the pleasure of helping to put together several pieces. One of which was the article on Mounted Shooting which can be found in our RoundPen section.

Did you know there are in excess of 50 possible patterns for mounted shooting competition? Patterns can be pre-determined or may be drawn out of a hat on the day of the event. A competition typically consists of three to six patterns a day, with each pattern comprised of 10 balloons.

Within this same article, I also had the opportunity to interview “Outlaw Annie” – a World Champion Cowgirl in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) and an Overall World Champion in the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS). With a tenacity for the sport and a passion for Quarter Horses, flashy wardrobes and Colt firearms, Bianco Ellett was a perfect addition to this editorial.

Photo courtesy of Annie Bianco-Ellett.

Next up on my list was a piece with Al Dunning. With 37 World or Reserve World titles to his credit and expertise in reining, working cow horse and cutting, Dunning is one of the industry’s leading professionals. In the May / June issue, the Arizona trainer tells us why his signature German Martingale is one of the first pieces of equipment he reaches for in the tack room.

Photo by Cappy Jackson.

There are safety considerations to keep in mind when using a German martingale. For instance, when the horse raises its head above the desired point, the aid adds leverage to the bit in the horse’s mouth. If used improperly, adjusted too short for the individual, or the reins are pulled too tight, the force exerted on the mouth can be jarring. Hence, proper timing and softness of the rider’s hands is imperative. Even so, the German martingale can be an extremely useful tool in the right hands. Here is a little bit more why Dunning likes it so much:

 1. Made from Hermann Oak harness leather, this training aid features a neck strap that holds the martingale that is secured through the horse’s front legs and clipped to the cinch.

2. This martingale only allows for as much lateral movement as set by the rider via a clip on the reins – the degree of head position can be altered by attaching the ends up further along the rings on the reins. Dunning’s martingale allows for three different positions of varying head sets.

3.  A split fork formation is created with the cord line that comes up from the horse’s chest, then runs through the rings of the bit and attaches to rings on the reins.

4. This martingale can be used with split reins or a single rein style.

5. “This training aid is my favorite because it has a lot of ‘take’ when needed and a lot of ‘give’ as soon as the horse performs correctly.” – Al Dunning

Pic by Jenn Webster.

This issue also features top tips from barn and supply professionals for building your ultimate stable! Considerations like hay storage, natural lighting versus artificial lights and permit acquirement are all covered in this feature.

In the piece, I had a chance to speak with Robbie McKay, the owner of a unique Rona store in Black Diamond, AB. As an avid cow horse enthusiast and an acreage owner himself, McKay is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to planning and choosing supplies to build your next barn.

“When people come to us about horse keeping, I like to ask them questions like 'Where will you put your paddocks?' 'Where will you put your hay?' and 'How much time do you plan on spending in your barn?'” McKay says.

“The answers to these questions determine a lot about how a person should proceed with building a barn. I try to give people as much information as I can, ask them lots of questions and get them thinking about how they would visualize a barn on their ranch or acreage,” he states.

Pic by Jenn Webster.

In the health section, Dr. Chris Berezowski of Moore Equine South weighs in on Stage Three Labour in the mare. In this in-depth piece, Dr. Berezowski discusses meconium passage, placental care and routine post-foaling care. He also shares a great picture of a hippomane with us, which is completely normal to find after foaling and is thought to be an accumulation of minerals and proteins.

Be sure to check out the newest issue of Western Horse Review! With our unveiling of the Top 25 Youth in today's horse industry, an honest conversion with trainer's wife Elyse Thomson, and a close up look at equine myofascial release, this is another not-to-be-missed edition!

Brilliant Barn Solutions

Q & A – Mecate Explained

Published in the August 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.Mecate

Question: I have been away from horses and western riding for quite some time, now I am seeing more and more what appears to be a separate rope attached to the bridle (perhaps the noseband or bosal) and looped to one side of the front of the saddle (it does not appear to be a tie-down). Is there any other purpose for this additional rope, other than being useful if out on a trail ride and needing to tie up the horse for a while? Or is there some safety factor as an additional feature for stopping a young horse for example?

Answer: This is called a Mecate. It is attached to a hackamore or a bosal with the long end going back to the rider or saddle. If it is not attached solid to a bosal it may be a get down rope which acts as a lead as well. Many horsemen loop this lead through their belt loop,

so as to have both hands free when needed.

Stuart Derochie has been in the ranching and horse business all of his life. 30 years ago he opened the Frontier Western Shop in Claresholm, Alberta.