Bill Black Custom Braiding
I interviewed Bill on September 11, 2018 at the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity.
bill black-0096Bill Black Custom Braiding. Horse Hair and Rawhide. Plush, Oregon
Bill had been steadily working on his hackamores the last two days, and it drew me in. I wanted to learn more about the man and his craft.
We started the interview with me asking Bill how he got started with braiding. He responded, “Well the town gear on them stick horses I was riding weren’t strong enough! My brother, Tim and I got started in 1965, when we were in 2nd or 3rd grade.” (Today, his brother lives in Colorado and teaches 4H kids.)
Bill said, “My dad [Jeff] along with Tom Hughes, were braiders. My dad taught me how to do a 4 string braid, which is round. My dad and Tom would braid one 60 foot reata, then cut it in half so that each would have 30 feet, which was long for Colorado cowboys.”
Later it was Howard Munsell who taught Bill how to braid 7 (flat) and 8 (square) strings. Bill says that he and his brother would take leather scraps given to them from Munsell and combine them with Cottonwood leaves to create their own tiny hackamores for their small toy horses. Munsell furthered their knowledge by teaching them how to sew and make cowboy knots.
bill black-0101Bill Black hand braiding while in his booth at the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity.
Today, Bills calling card are his Hackamores. He is a true craftsman and doesn’t take any shortcuts. He starts with skinning and processing the hides himself. His ranching friends call him when they have a cow or calf go down to come and get the hide. To keep them calling he expressed that he will go out in 30 degree below weather, or a hot day in summer to retrieve them.
Dean Tobias of Idaho taught Bill how to work rawhide. Bill shared, “While we were on a trip down in Arizona, I bought my first two hides, two fat greasy ones for $5 a piece. Dean told me that it would take me 10 hides to learn. I am still learning, so I guess I haven’t gotten to that 10th hide yet.”
Bill started with making rawhide reins, and today is very well known for his hackamores. He said he had to learn what a good feel was for them and started off with more of a soft hackamore. He learned that that was not what is best for a soft horse. He states the softer the hackamore, the heavier the hand. Also, he learned to shorten them up, as if they are too long he expressed, “…they will take the hide off the horses nose just following the cow boss back to camp.” I asked what does he call his style today and he replied, “an Authority Hackamore.” As that is the term his cowboy friend, Bobby Ingersolm, would use when Bill would ask him how his hackamores felt, each time he would come to visit…Ingersolm would reply, “needs more authority, Bill.” Meaning they were still too soft.
Bill considers himself a brush cowboy, being that he has ridden mostly in Northern Nevada, along with time in Eastern Oregon and some time in Idaho. He stated, “They typically like the hackamore on the softer side. But those who ride in the arena, reining and cow horse, like them harder. Bill said he is trying to educate the brush cowboys on the benefit of his ‘authority hackamore.’ He believes it to make the riders hands softer for a softer horse.
Though Bill's prime work is custom hackamores, he also makes Kangaroo (romel) reins.
I asked, “How long does it typically take you to make one hackamore?”
He replied, “about 15 hours.” Then he added, “I have made around 3,000 hackamores over the last 40 years.”
In his booth is a gorgeous headstall and reins. When I asked about them, he said it took approximately 1500 hours for him to build the set. They are very intricate and beautifully detailed.
bill black-0108Bill Black custom head stall and reins. Very intricate work! Gorgeous cowboy (art) gear.
Bill’s wife Teresa is often with Bill at these events, but not this go, as she stayed home with their daughter. I asked about her talents and he said that she knows how to braid a hackamore and hitch horse hair. (I look forward to meeting her someday as well.)
If you would like to know more about Bill and/or order one of his beautiful handmade authority hackamores, you can visit his
Facebook Page; Bill Black Custom Braiding,
or Email; [email protected]
or Call 541-947-5595
Next: Photos from our adventures with the Spike 150 Wagon Train!
Howdy! Thank you for choosing to follow along with us!
In order to catch you up to speed, if you are just joining in, I want to let you know about my personal project. My faithful companion, Rider (a gorgeous Australian Cattle Dog) and I, have been traveling on an Adventure, for a few years now… following the Central Overland Pony Express Trail.
Carla and Rider at Round FortRound Fort is between Ibapah and Callao Utah. It is also called Canyon Station. The Pony Express Canyon Station was further West of here though... This rock fortress was built the year after the Pony Express had ended.
Currently we are working on a Photo Journal, that will be an Ebook, with our personal experiences on the road. I started this journey, due to a visit to Fort Churchill, with my family in 2014. I read how it was built to protect the Pony Express Riders and the California Emigrant Trail. I have always been fascinated with the old West, and that of course included the Pony. On that day, surprised to find such a fortress still standing, I wanted to know if there were more! The photos I have captured, of these gems in the desert, will be in a Photo Book/Coffee Table Book. There will also be some History of the Stations, Station Keepers, Hostlers and the Riders.
Very naively I started this journey with the thought that the Pony Express "Auto Route" would drive me conveniently near all the ruins... Well, that was silly, and now I know better!
Please continue to "Ride Shotgun in Spirit" with us as we visit Historical Places along the route, and visit many Museums that house Archives of the daring young, and some not so young, Riders of the Infamous Pony Express!
Occasional we will also share with you many of the other sights seen along the way while traveling through California, Nevada and Utah.
We have decided to stop the book and journey for the time being at Salt Lake City, UT for a couple of reasons;
There are 3 more Divisions from Salt Lake City to St. Joseph Missouri. Lord Willing, we will make a book Two!
We are so blessed to have YOU to share this Journey with us.