Jo Beck moved from north-central Nebraska about a year ago to start a new life on the edge of the Black Hills.
Working out of her renovated home near Hermosa, Beck strives to preserve the art of weaving saddle cinches, making them and selling them under the name of Cinch’R Up from her booth at the Pennington County Events Center during the Black Hills Stock Show.
Cinches are used to secure a Western saddle, running under a horse's girth and connecting one side of the saddle to the other.
Cinches were once most commonly made of horsehair. Modern cinches are made of genuine mohair or a mohair blend. Less expensive materials that can also be used include cotton, nylon, rayon and neoprene.
The synthetics are strong but can build heat and don’t absorb moisture very well.
The advantage for mohair is its ability to wick moisture away.
“It’s more comfortable for the horse,” Beck said.
Beck started weaving mohair cinches for family members and friends in Nebraska in the early 2000s. She obtains dyed mohair from various sources around the country and weaves it into custom designs.
She can duplicate brands and rider initials and can match other colors of tack per a customer’s order.
Mohair cinches can be cleaned, but only after a thorough soaking in a horse’s sweat first, she said.
“You want to get them sweated up real good under a horse before you ever put them in water,” she said.
“The sweat seems to set the mohair so they won’t shrink once they’re good and sweated up.”
About a dozen years ago, Beck first learned how to weave a mohair cinch from information contained in a small section of a book. As she continued, she recorded what she learned in journals.
Her notes became so extensive, she decided to publish them and recently completed two books, "The Easy Art of Cinch Making" and "The Advanced Art of Cinch Making."
The first of her newly published books on cinch making went to foreign countries, an encouraging sign in her quest to keep the art form alive.
She says the books have been well-received.
“They call me God,” Beck said with a chuckle. “They say I wrote the bible on cinch making.”