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.
Dale ClearwaterHanley, 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