Jul 18

Growing Traditions by the Miles

It is a joy to see the increasing interest in natural fiber cinches and girths!  We have been quite pleased with the response to ArtCords workshops, school programs, multimedia presentations, and adding of horse clinics that there has hardly been a chance for the lawn to grow under our feet the past few months.

DA-CSMA_13winterSeminarThe 2013 venues began with Darin participating in the Colorado Saddle Makers Association – Winter Seminar in Moab, Utah.  It is always enlightening to spend time with those in the CSMA as they are so helpful and interested in learning and sharing from their own experience.  One of the highlights of the weekend was the chance for folks to touch and feel the World’s Largest Mohair Cinch.  Darin continued the finishing work on the Ornate Vaquero and Breast Collar set which had been constructed with participation of several CSMA members during 2012 Seminars beginning with twisting the cords from small yarns on a hand-operated rope machine.

04JB-AZ2013

Jay shows a traditional Navajo cinch which employs extensive weaving techniques differing widely in method from the more common ‘cord’ cinches.

On the way to teach cinch making workshops at the Southwest Leather Trade Show in Wickenburg, Arizona, Darin was invited to stop in to visit Jay’s Navajo-Churro Lamb & Wool camp.  It is always a pleasure to meet another cinch maker and discuss various fibers and techniques.  Jay shared how he first made the 17 strand tied cinch and then asked his grandmother to teach him the traditional Navajo Cinch style, which he now teaches to others to carry on the tradition.

In the process of conducting workshops for the Leather Crafters Journal in Wickenburg, Darin had the honor of sharing his methods of cinch making with yet another Navajo weaver. The workshops are always an opportunity for participants to not only learn from the instructor, but also pick up little details from each other as each individual approaches the project with varying experience and perspectives. Instructors often observe that teaching advances their own aptitude as well as broadening their awareness of additional techniques or methods they otherwise may not have considered.DA-WkbrgAZSchoolProg01

In addition to providing workshops for the Leather Show attendees, Darin was blessed with the invitation to be introduced to the students and faculty of the Wickenburg Christian Academy the first morning of the workshops, and asked say a few words about cinches and how they relate to the horse and rider.  The introduction had been so warmly accepted that the principal scheduled Darin to open the Thursday morning student assembly with a rope making demonstration illustration biblical principles and a devotional thought which students and staff responded to with joy-felt appreciation.

Jesse Smith Saddlery

Jesse Smith Saddlery

Learning of Equine activities in the Pheonix area that were promoted as ‘Must Visit’ venues, Darin stopped in to learn more and met great folks at both Winter Range and the Arabian Horse Event.

World's Largest Mohair Cinch in an Arizona snow storm.

World’s Largest Mohair Cinch in an Arizona snow storm.

Following a couple of days in the Pheonix area, Darin made his way to Tuscon to meet up with fellow CSMA member and long-time friend, Jesse Smith who provides a saddle school out of his shop in Southeastern Colorado.  Imagine the surprise to find substantial snow on the ground and in the cactus and palm trees of Arizona!  The photo ops could not be missed…
Returning home to Arkansas, Darin attended to cinch, supplies, and educational materials orders from existing and new clients as well as making preparations for trips to Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming.  Elaine returned to Arkansas in the midst of preparations with glowing report of her mothers improved health. Testimony to the benefits of plant-based diet, exercise, and an encouraging environment of friends and family.
In brief the travel to the NW USA included an alumni gathering of high school graduates from the school where Darin learned the cinch making, followed by a few days to meet with family in Washington culminating in a custom project review and planning session with horse trainers on a girth comfort and pain study.  The resulting benefits to horse and rider, from the collaboration, which began months before, is now known as the Girth Shield Project and is providing a substantial leap in performance for horses which are being outfitted with the most ergonomically design cinch solution known as the patented “Girth Shield.”  Darin is honored to be the exclusive licensee of the concept for natural cord cinches and girths.

DSCF6943While Elaine remained in Arkansas to continue her training to become a certified therapeutic riding instructor, Darin headed to the 20th annual Sheridan Leather Workers Trade Show. Sheridan has been the longest running venue for Darin to share the ropes of cinch making, hosted each year by the Leather Crafters Journal.  Attendance for the cinch workshops increased dramatically this year as word spreads about the progressive approach and ArtCords methods for recognizing how to improve design for functionality and comfort .  The Friday workshop attendees were unexpectedly graced with a visit by clinician Buck Brannaman who placed an order for new custom cinches with Darin and kindly stepped in to photos with the Big Mohair Cinch as a backdrop.

DSCF6941

Buck Brannaman’s visit to the ArtCords cinch workshop in Sheridan, Wyoming

The second venue in Wyoming was hosted by Central Wyoming Community College.  First visit of the cinch workshops to a community or new location may have a relatively few attendees, however the experience gained and realization of how much more there is to discover has prompted the attendees and college representative to request ArtCords Public Education workshops and presentations more than once a year.  Efforts are already in motion to meet this and other similar requests.

Between the above travels have also been the periodic personal training of students who schedule to take advantage of the ArtCords studio, complete with rope-walk and various tools and looms for a well rounded experience with various aspects of the cinch and cord-making trades.  Many of the students who contact the ArtCords team with excitement about the prospects of learning the cinch and/or rope making, come from all walks of life and levels of experience.  It has especially been a real honor to share the traditions with a number of clients who are physically challenged, yet find the cinch making techniques therapeutic and enjoyable to pursue.

4th of July booth visitor trying out the new ergonomically adjustable cinch loom.

4th of July booth visitor trying out the new ergonomically adjustable cinch loom.

July 4, provided the opportunity to share rope making at a booth during the 100 year celebration for the town of Gentry, Arkansas where ArtCords is based.  Fitting opportunity to share the ropes on the 21 year anniversary of Darin’s personal involvement with cinch making public education which commenced at a Rodeo in 1992 in Wyoming.

July 7 the Alexanders participated in the Heritage Days Festival at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Compnay in Mansfield, Missouri.  Due to schedule conflicts for a couple of years, the couple had been unable to attend the festivals where they have often provided the popular rope making in association with the cinch education and demonstrations. They very much appreciated reconnecting with the vendors they met before, becoming acquainted with new vendors and those who visited the Bakersville Pioneer Village.  Many of the folks who engaged in conversation were from other states, even 1000 miles or more.

We look forward to meeting you along life’s journey!  Till next time, “Happy Trails!”


Dec 16

Videos: For the Equine’s Sake – Episode 1

Part 1:

Interview with Farrier/Cinch Maker, Lloyd Britton
Back-story and Lloyd’s perspective on making comfortable/healthy cinches for horses and mules.

Part 2:

Visual and discussion of cinch relating to Saddling-up for optimum comfort and function.

This episode and future production is made possible through the support of viewers like you. Partner with us to benefit horses, mules, and the general pubic around the world. Investing in the ArtCords Public Education endeavors today ensures continued improvements in the research and understanding of natural fiber cinches/girths of tomorrow. Due to the vast disconnect between girth/cinch use and bottom barrel price pressures providing very minimal return to invest in science and education, we greatly appreciate the generosity of those who catch the vision. Support folks like you provide goes far to assist our ongoing scientific inquiry through collaborative dialogue with veterinarians, saddle makers, trainers, and youth organizations. We also provide public presentations, interactive demonstrations geared for youth of all ages, cinch/girth video projects for makers, while developing informational articles and guides to enhance consumer education. Join our endeavors and help sponsor our projects today:
Click Here!

Thank you! We appreciate your generous consideration.

Aug 17

Darin Alexander speaks at “National Heirloom Exposition”

Darin Alexander - World's Largest Cinch

Darin hangs out in his World’s Largest Cinch comfortably used as the Original Cowboy Hammock

September 11-13, 2012 in Santa Rosa, California at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

The scope of educational speakers has been expanded at this year’s Expo to include the Animal Sciences and Homesteading related topics. Darin Alexander is listed as a featured presenter September 12th at 2 pm in the Homestead Hall. Emphasis over the past twenty plus years on natural animal fibers for use in cinches by Darin and other makers brings the ArtCords’ theme into the Expo as a great match. After all, there have been a growing number of reports surfacing of individuals who are still using the same mohair cinch purchased over 50 years ago. With appropriate care you can see the dollars saved as a refreshing return on investment!

Check out this video about the 2011 National Heirloom Exposition:
Click Here for the highest quality video (external site)

In keeping with the revival of heirloom quality, Darin is scheduled to share a powerpoint presentation touching on the fibers which have been used in the past for cinches and various aspects of what value there is in making your own items. Images of historic and contemporary cinches will be shared along with a variety of ways the techniques can be applied for function and aesthetics from clothing to home decor.

World's Largest Cinch - Pryor, OK

The ArtCords, LLC booth at Pryor’s annual Cowboy Trade Days in Oklahoma. Summer of 2012

Fiber professionals around the world have deemed quality cinch cord of 100% natural animal fibers “impossible” on a commercial production level to meet growing demand citing today’s yarn mill equipment limitations and what they call “cost-prohibitive slow speeds” necessary to produce quality. Thus a return to the hand-plied cords is required to meet the Equine market needs. Re-discovery of refined rope-making techniques to optimize materials for end-use have resulted in a growing number of Darin’s students learning the ropes of appropriate comfort and durability in Equine gear.  Employing softer animal fibers that are selected for comfortable feel against human skin has resulted in amazing behavior improvements in horses and mules.

The ArtCords booth at venues such as the National Heirloom Exposition, provide visitors with an opportunity to gain first-hand exposure to various types of cord and fibers being used today.  Feeling the difference between cords sold ‘as mohair’ or other natural fibers next to those which are known to be natural fibers is one of the ways ArtCords has been working for consumer protection.  If the consumer is more aware of the options available in the Equine industry and how to avoid a waste of money on cheap items which are known to cause discomfort to the horse and mule, there will be more money in the consumer’s pocket in the long-run with happier and healthier horses and mules.

Join the development of ArtCords’ Custom Communities by support our efforts today!

Bakers Creek Heirloom Seed spring Festival 2009. Founder Jere Gettle smiles for the camera after
Darin Alexander presented heirloom bean seeds brought to America c. 1863 from Germany.

 

Dec 23

Seasonal Themes for Cinches

Cinch and Breast Collar set by Darin Alexander in 2006

Have you ever considered how the traditional techniques of cinch making could be employed to create a seasonal theme? For many of us cinch makers such possibilities are great opportunities to stretch our creativity and further refine our proficiency of technique.

While many have asked,”why make cinches by hand, aren’t they made by machine?!” The truth is quite the opposite… the complexity of cinch making is such that no machine has yet been developed to automate the cinch making process. The reasons for such inquiries and fact that such a machine does not exist will be best discussed at another time… we just want folks to be clear that a good part of the value of ornate cinch making is that they require human creativity and practice to gain the skills.

Upon closer inspection of different cinches you may begin to notice that various techniques are used.  There are many possibilities for such variations. On the one hand you have those who only make a cinch the way they were originally taught because it is the only way they know. On the other hand, there is a growing movement of principle based craftsmanship which shifts focus from cheap functionality to the more refined forms of optimal comfort of horse or mule.  This extra effort of refinement has introduced a new era of more elegant flair and graceful form providing folks with a visual invitation to consider the comfort and health relating to cinches.

At age 79 Richard Cervantes has returned to the art of cord cinch making which he learned as a youth.

There is a growing number of folks making the connection between softer cinches of 100% animal fibers and improved behavior of horse and mule.  With the industrial trend away from natural animal fibers due largely to more labor intensive and slower processes required to make the cinch cords, folks are going to great lengths in searching for real mohair and alpaca cinches.  A growing number of consumers are discovering that learning to make quality cinches is an available option.  Learning to make your own cinches is especially attractive given the considerations of cinch width and length which can be optimized when one is familiar with their own preference of rigging positions and variations of horse or mule confirmation.

Among those who have already learned the trade, there are a good number of us who learned the ropes of cinch making as youth. One such maker, returning to cinch making at age 79, shared with us how he remembers the “goat hair” cinch cords first being plied up from smaller yarns that were also used to make mecates. One of the standard style cinchas, which he made on a regular basis as a youngster, had a white body with red and blue detailing. Upon getting back into cinch making, he has found it enjoyable to fashion items with cinch design out of any materials easily accessible for use as wall hangings and smaller ones for key-chains.

Mini mohair cinches made by Pop for the 2010 Capital Christmas tree

A Minnesota native, widely traveled with his talents as a rope twirler, musician, and cowboy humorist, took up the ropes of cinch making following participation in a class I taught at the 2006 “Cowboy Songs” symposium in Cody, Wyoming. His subsequent purchase of our DVDs is the only other cinch training he obtained, providing a good foundation for custom cinches he offers.

A theme highlight of Pop Wagner’s cinch making was the making of Christmas tree ornaments for the Capital Christmas tree in 2010. The ornaments were quite welcome as fitting the emphasis on Wyoming since the Big Tree was delivered to Washington D.C. from Jackson Hole vicinity of northwest Wyoming.

Mohair Cinch Making enthusiast, Pop Wagner, first learned the art of cord cinches from Darin Alexander in 2006.

For those who have an interest in cinch making there are a few ways to get started:  (owning a horse or mule is not required!)

    • Study various cinches and learn through trial and error on your own.
    • Purchase Mr. Alexander’s Cinch Making 101 DVD from our authorized dealer, Eclectic Horseman… Good information for anyone involved with horseback riding since we discuss considerations for choosing materials and function/use of cinches. My personal teaching style is to share obscure reasons intertwined in various techniques and offer pointers on how to avoid painful mistakes.

Pariotic Suspenders made by Darin Alexander on July 4, 1998 in Cody, Wyoming

You may also be interested to learn that the cinch techniques are not limited to cinches only.  Experiment and become more proficient with cinch making techniques through use of the methods for any number of other items which can be created out of cords. The sky is hardly the limit when contemplating possible ways to employ these cowboy cordage techniques.   Seasonal and patriotic color schemes can be fashioned into such things as suspenders, belts, and hat bands too!

Textured Patriotic Colors by Darin

The beauty of classes, video and personal training is how you gain a point of reference, often saving you much time and frustration of trying to figure things out by trial and error.  Another benefit of quality instruction is that we share suggestions and pointers on ways to focus or expand your personal direction.  It could be that as the number of quality cinch makers grow, the more opportunity for collaborative efforts and availability of improved or new items.

So from us to you, here is wishing the best of the holiday season and food for your 2012 creativity thoughts…

A sampling of ornate designs by Darin Alexander

      This site and the ongoing provision of public educational opportunities through ArtCords are a direct result of the generous gesture of visitors like you. We appreciate your participate in our efforts for the Equine’s sake.

Thank you for telling others of our educational efforts!

Dec 04

Mohair Cinch Making around the Globe

Cowboy

Darin’s cousin Troy near the family ranch in Wyoming

With the growing recognition of mohair and alpaca cinches being much more comfortable and healthy for horses and mules, the demand for quality, custom made cinches is on the rise.  Interestingly, the art of cinch making, while not a new thing since folks have been making and using cinches for hundreds of years, has recently become  more visible and respected as an honored cowboy tradition.  Much of this new-found appreciation can be attributed to the growing number of documentary films ranging from the historic cowboy traditions of specific cultural groups to those documenting cowboys found on every continent of the world.  Of course the vast number of horsemanship clinics and emphasis on natural horsemanship techniques designed to improve the level of communication with horses and mules by careful observation and training with a kinder, gentler attitude toward our four legged friends is a blessed relief over the rough
and tumble methods of the past century.

As folks make new and exciting discoveries in their understanding of improved communication with a trusted steed, it stands to reason that something as simple as the cinch could hold the key to improved behavior and rider safety.  The following testimony leaves little doubt that some horses and mules likely wish they were “Mr. Ed” since people don’t seem to understand what they may be trying to say:

English visitor to Australia

English tourist to Western Australia “He was pretty interested in the mohair girth and thought it was fantastic that we took such care of our horses by using those girths as opposed to synthetic ones.” Photo by Tahita Lang

 

(September 20, 2011 e-mail quoted is from Western Australian horse trainers)

“We recieved this e-mail just a second ago and I couldn’t copy and send it fast enough to you!

All through winter (mild though it is compared to yours) we have been kept busy with our tourist-based trail riding business – all the horses in the trail string have their own fitted saddle and mohair girth! We get many comments on how beautiful our horses look and how nicely they move (the connection between that and our student’s email below is not to be sneezed at!).

Anyway, I am just so happy to have been able to send you some feedback from people other than us. This email was completely unsolicited…

    “…By the way, I am having much success with the mohair girth that Sasha fitted and Tahita ordered for me a few months back. The difference in my horse is quite astounding, he does move more freely, forward is much less of an issue, and saddling has changed into a more pleasant process. He no longer looks miserable and blank eyed, grabbing his girth and granding his teeth on it, throwing it around, or tensing himself up when being girthed, taking baby steps away from me. He is relaxed and engaged, girth tightens up in less stages, and he stands solid. He was trying for years to tell me his girth was a problem, I was too thick to see it. I hope you see a difference in him in October. – Regards, Jodie.”

All the best to you both, Tahita”

Angora Goats

Group of Angora Goats near Cody, Wyoming Photo by Darin Alexander

Needless to say, the folks in Australia have been some of the most supportive and committed to using top quality mohair cords for their horses.  In fact, there are now several saddle makers that we know of who have folks making mohair cinches from the cords Darin hand-plies in his home-based studio in NW Arkansas, USA.  An explanation given, by several Australians, for going to the extra effort of acquiring quality mohair cinch cords from ArtCords, is that, while there is a thriving mohair market with vast paddocks of angora goats in Australia, the mills for processing the fiber had moved to other countries.  The majority of finished cord cinches imported in Australia by retail outlets contain little if any real mohair, a tough sell in a country where folks are so familiar with the feel and know how to tell the difference.

Pat Retzlaff

Pat Retzlaff shows a cord girth more suited for coastal riding in Mozambique, Africa

Surprisingly, an interesting story surfaced when folks from Mozambique, Africa contacted the ArtCords Studio seeking real mohair cords… “We have been making our string girths for sometime and find them more suitable for beach conditions. We have very little rubbing. I have only used synthetic cord up to now and found them very resilient and last well. However they don’t seem to have the friction qualities i.e. they tend to slip a bit the yarn is a bit hard. Hence our interest in using your mohair. We have been trying for some time to get Mohair from South Africa who are the largest producers in the world but they do not seem to make a suitable product so that is why we have contacted you.” 

While it is true that any number of materials have been used for the purpose of holding saddle, with rider, on the backs of animals for centuries, the properties of mohair are especially suited for the job.  It should be noted that very little scientific documentation seems to be available to substantiate most marketing blurbs used to sell natural or synthetic cords in cinches, however, personal experience and long-term observation can be quite compelling.  With the vast number excellent experiences being spoken of by folks using cord cinches known to actually contain 70% or more of mohair, there is plenty of reason for consumers to be more vigilant about avoiding those deals that seem “too-good-to-be-true” more times than not, such bargains may simply be there because the producer has not provided a clear expectation of what “suggested retail price” means.  There are items produced with such confidence that it is made clear to sellers that if they are found to use misleading marketing or undersell the market value of the suppliers items, they will no longer have the privileged of selling the products again.  Such terms and conditions go a long way to protect consumers while ensuring the return on investment to cover materials and labor increases without compromising quality.

Wide Roper

Custom Width Roper of 5 inches near buckles for Saddle Maker clients who could find nothing off-the-shelf that would work for the combination of their saddles and horses’ conformation.

The current market seems to have a unique angle on the other ‘side of the coin.’ Some of us who are passionate about what we know is best for horse and mule, have run into those retailers who express the idea that they simply ‘must’ under-sell their competition at all cost.  The insist on doing so even if it means selling items very near or below the wholesale price, “just to make the sale” even when the items are obviously more refined and costly to produce.  In many cases such devaluing seems to be more a mater of quick ‘cash’ rather than working for it through confident communication of value and explanation of  an items superior features. Maybe it is more a matter of embarrassment, after all, if they actually explained the difference between what they choose to offer, folks might realize how cheap the low-end items really are and demand the more expensive products on a regular basis.

Consider for a moment what it feels like for each quality craftsman to be told by purchasers that the items they are pouring sweat and tears into are absolutely fantastic and then, almost in the same breath after indicating how many hundreds of items they plan to order, to hear them turn right around and dictate use of the cheapest materials and specific short-cuts expected with an emphasis on “no more than $1.00 profit margin per item”!?  The obvious question then should be,”And what were you saying about appreciating the quality of craftsmanship?”  How can they miss the connection that dictating all the bottom barrel specifications eliminates the possibility of products which folks will be truly pleased with, return to purchase, selecting a more expensive option on the next visit or at least recommend the store to others?

Riverton, Wyo

Darin shares the principles of custom cinch making at the 2007 Wind River Christian Cowboy Gathering in Riverton, Wyoming. Photo by Elaine Alexander

The good news is that the tide is changing in the realm of cinches, as education increases the awareness of misleading marketing practices and mislabeled products, especially when it comes to use of the word “mohair”, folks are also recognizing that a low price on something that looks pretty good is likely to be a flag of caution.  After all, who wants a product that must be made by hand, if the worker has a quota to fill which prevents them from backing up and correcting a mistake when doing so would drop them well below minimum wage?   Those custom cinch makers who do take time to carefully review and re-do potential problem areas of a cinch to ensure a more comfortable fit and appropriate contribution to long-term health of the Equine, can easily take 5 to 7 times longer to make the same cinch as a factory worker.  Add any number of ornamentation or upgrade options and you are easily looking at more than 10 times longer than those cinches made by a full-time factory cinch maker. When a custom cinch maker selects top quality cinch cords that are hand-plied from single yarns, the man-hours in the resulting cinch may increase between 2 and 5 hours depending on the diameter and length of the custom cords purchased.

Next time you determine the need for a new cinch or girth, please remind yourself how much you pay the auto mechanic or the plumber.  As you can see, while it may be a cinch, true quality is not likely to be a piece of cake!

For more information on mohair and cinches be sure to visit other pages on this site and the following links:

  • ArtCords.org/support” – The official update on ArtCords by Darin Alexander
  • Horsemanship courses in Australia:  HorsesandHorseman.com
  • International vacation and holiday destinations for horsemanship: Mozambique and  Australia 

    (Please note that the Africa and Australia links are opportunities to see Darin’s hand-plied cords in action)

 

A few of the International Cinch Makers who are contributing to a revival in cinch making as a cowboy art 

 

 

Dec 04

ArtCords LLC – Official Home

 

Inspiring others to refined skills for the comfort and health of horse and mule.

English visitor to Australia

English tourist to Western Australia “He was pretty interested in the mohair girth and thought it was fantastic that we took such care of our horses by using those girths as opposed to synthetic ones.” Photo by Tahita Lang

One of the most encouraging e-mails we have received to date.  The sender writes from Western Australia:

“We received this e-mail just a second ago and I couldn’t copy and send it fast enough to you!

All through winter (mild though it is compared to yours) we have been kept busy with our tourist-based trail riding business – all the horses in the trail string have their own fitted saddle and mohair girth! We get many comments on how beautiful our horses look and how nicely they move (the connection between that and our student’s email below is not to be sneezed at!).

Anyway, I am just so happy to have been able to send you some feedback from people other than us. This email was completely unsolicited…

“…By the way, I am having much success with the mohair girth that Sasha fitted and Tahita ordered for me a few months back. The difference in my horse is quite astounding, he does move more freely, forward is much less of an issue, and saddling has changed into a more pleasant process. He no longer looks miserable and blank eyed, grabbing his girth and grinding his teeth on it, throwing it around, or tensing himself up when being girthed, taking baby steps away from me. He is relaxed and engaged, girth tightens up in less stages, and he stands solid. He was trying for years to tell me his girth was a problem, I was too thick to see it. I hope you see a difference in him in October. – Regards, Jodie.”

All the best to you both, Tahita”

(Update Nov 2016) The above story is very similar to hundreds we have heard from customers and students around the globe as a testimony that improvements to Equine health and comfort are realistic and achievable when sufficient analysis and skill are applied. For many years I had maintained the ArtCords, LLC Official online store providing project ideas, downloads, supplies, and finished products as the primary form of income to further the cinch education. My greatest desire has always been to see an increase in and availability of quality materials and supplies, especially accurately labeled cordage and detailing yarns for independent crafts-folk. Personal experience with natural animal fibers has convinced me that period and contemporary cinch designs, ropes, and other cordage creations will last for two decades and more when reasonable consideration is given to each step from raw fiber to finished article.

Darin's late Cousin Jeanie Greet-Jeffers at the Wyoming ranch she grew up on.

Darin’s late Cousin, Jeanie Greet-Jeffers moving cattle on the Wyoming ranch where she grew up.

The many makers and consumers who have witnessed censorship in social media combined with soaring expense and diminishing quality of commercially available supplies, recognize how stories of creativity and options for long-term financial savings have been suppressed in particular situations. Strangely the censorship seems to occur primarily against those with heart-felt dedication of offering more sustainable price-points while sharing thoughtful revelations from personal experiences. Those who search far enough are likely to find few if any situations where natural fiber cordage and cinch materials/supplies are being held to international standards of wholesale/retail price calculations. The growing number of individuals approaching me with practical questions in recent years on design and materials issues, including veterinarians, have expressed a firm belief that cinch research would prove a valuable benefit to the Equine industry, has encouraged consideration of the likelihood that alternative funding support for key Agrarian Skills Research & Public Education endeavors is out there.

Your generosity is appreciated as we continue to receive requests  that I share these unique experiences and perspectives with wider audiences. Current and future opportunities include invitations from Equine researchers who wish to add the cinch study to ongoing saddle research as well as my work to bring obscure methods of organic soil healing into established plant trials for a multi-year study. Admittedly, more people seem interested in eating well rather than riding horses, and I have been discovering that many of those interested in the fiber and Equine industries may also appreciate learning about successful methods for growing food and ornamental plants. To this end, I offer a number of presentation and demonstration formats to meet your group or organization focus.

Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you!

Kindest regards ~ Darin Alexander

Ornate cinches1

Examples of custom, made-to-order cinches with top Right corner showing hand-plied cords made in the ArtCords’ studio

Nov 25

Ornate Cinches?!

An introduction to the vast possibilities of cinch making…  What an awesome opportunity to share the joys this Art of Cord ‘hand-crafting’ can provide!  Our hope is that what is shared on the pages of this site will inspire and encourage each visitor to see cinches and many other agrarian skills in a whole new light.

Ornate Straight Cinches

Custom cinches with cords hand-twisted on spinning wheels from special made, single yarns

For those who may be unfamiliar with the process of cinch making, we’d like to take this opportunity to clear-up the idea that cinches are made by machines.  In fact, ALL cinches made with cords of any type, are still made with the effort of human brains directing the fingers.  Those cheap cinches that are “factory” made still require the sweat and tears of some worker who most often sees very little return for the dedicated effort.

It is worth noting that when machine made cords appropriate for cinches can be obtained, and a worker remains focused on one part of the cinch or only learns a simple style that allows for increased efficiency, they can whip them out in a hurry.  However, due to the emphasis on quantity to make a wage, little if any incentive is present to back up and correctly re-work mistakes.  The nature of working with the cords themselves can be quite a science.  Variations in processing the fiber through several steps to produce the cords can create undesirable results when focus is purely placed upon rapidly completing a quota.

Hand Making Cinch

First Cinch

Thankfully a growing range of options for today’s consumer to select from has been available from time-to-time allowing reference points for materials use and design.
While the cheap cinches seem to have a place for those who only care about price, the more discriminating consumer is looking beyond the published “value” and taking greater care in considering what will be best for the Equine.  After all, we can list plenty of reasons to avoid clothing we find uncomfortable, so why not think how our four-legged companions might describe the feel of what we choose for them to ‘wear’?!

Now that softer fibers such as Alpaca and Young Angora Goat hair have become available periodically, a good number of folks are trying them out.  Some have even made startling observations about how rapid their Equine’s behavior has improved and even how higher grades of real mohair cord cinches result in the saddle remaining in position better even without tightening the cinch as much as with cheaper cords.

Understandably, many have fallen prey to marketing blurbs which are often coined by folks who have little understanding of what is at stake.  Had they taken some time to do a little research on the items they chose to make available, especially becoming familiar with the science behind different types of fiber used in cinches, sales might be on the increased for them at prices that would help bolster the industry by providing more incentive for producing quality that can pay for improvements. Could it be that  folks might share their joy with their friends about how a retailer actually took the time to explain the cinch options to them identifying the reasons for investing in true, quality materials and craftsmanship?!

Darin Alexander meets Ray Hunt

Many of us who are making ornate cinches have felt it important to revive an art that had become lost in the shadow of our Equine’s belly.  Just because you can’t see much of it, doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.  As Ray Hunt explained when I had a chance to ask him opinion of the most ornate cinch I had yet designed, “The attention to detail is evident…” Hoping he would tell me it would be good for use, I pressed for more of an answer.  He simply reminded me,”You have to keep an eye on it, let the horse tell you!”

By creating cinches that are obvious works of art with careful attention and deeper understanding of the science, we are encouraging folks to take a second look that the cinch.  Just because some folks in the industry have chosen to devalue the cinch and ‘cheapify’ them to a point where 100% acrylic has been passed off as a “Mohair” cinch, doesn’t mean that the rest of us don’t care.  If nothing else, such mislabeling has motivated us to redouble our educational efforts to encourage folks to give Real Mohair a reasonable try.

One of the most wonderful aspects of reviving this art of cinch making has been the interest expressed by youth, of all ages, yes, even those who, in spite of physical age, have realized youthful vigor upon learning the ropes of cinch making. In fact, we have spoken with one fellow who will soon be celebrating 80 years. He has rather recently picked up cinch making that he learned as a  youngster in the 1940s.  He expressed approval when we inquired if he would agree to an interview and we plan to include some of that video in the future.  :)

 

Some of Darin’s early Work

As we develop this topic further, we simply invite you to consider the various possibilities and tell others of what you are learning here.  We look forward to hearing what your thoughts are as well.

We invite you to consider the cinch more carefully “For the Equine’s Sake!”

Thank you for sharing our passion with others.