There was a time that I thought I’d teach myself to braid. Not just braid a horse’s mane or tail, but to braid rawhide. To create horse gear in the tradition of the great artists that craft amazing creations out of leather and rawhide in the Vaquero tradition. I found books and blogs and youtube videos on the subject, but it quickly became abundantly clear that this skill -that appears simple in materials and concept, is incredibly complex-.And in it's highest expression it's very much an art form.
While strolling through the vendors here in Tulsa, I was lucky enough to see Ben Seville at work. Ben is the proprietor and artist behind Western Braiders,
Ben is a Master Braider. and learned the craft from his older brothers and they learned from their uncles. At this point in time, Ben has been braiding rawhide and leather for over 40 years. When I asked Ben if he was teaching a new generation to continue on this tradition of hand crafting horse gear, the answer was,"no".
Not because Ben is hoarding the knowledge, or because there is a shortage of demand for his work, but because, while there is no shortage of buyers for his work, there seems to be a shortage of people seeking to learn it!
If you get a chance, stop by and watch Ben in action! You’ll come away with a new appreciation of the skill, artistry and craftmanship of braiding. And I hope a few will walk away inspired (or challenged) to learn more about it-and perhaps try their hand at this amazing skill before it is lot to the next generation of horsemen. It’s such a traditional, historical art form; let’s make sure we don’t lose it forever.