Breeders Connection 2019: Mohair Man committed to quality for his customers
December 21, 2018
Although his real name is Rick McBride, he prefers to identify with his lifelong avocation: crafting and selling mohair merchandise.
McBride, born in McKinney, Texas in 1955, grew up there. At age 16, he signed up for a half-day school/work program. From among several participating businesses, he chose Action Company, a tack manufacturer. It wasn’t so much a "why" decision as a "why not?" one.
Beginning with lariats, he worked in the shipping/receiving/gift line. Next he was making cinches. Straight out of high school, 18-year-old McBride moved all around Texas, finally locating in Van Alstyne. He’d already mastered making lariats; now it was time to learn all the ropes. He spent the next 25 years in the tiny Texas town, where he co-founded Mustang Manufacturing in October 1982.
There he implemented skills acquired in the mid-1970s working with companies including Action, Potts Longhorn and Billy Cook Saddlery. McBride wanted to provide riders with a natural, superior product.
"Horses built this country," he noted. "Using proper equipment, like that made of mohair, ensures a good life for your buddy, your friend–your horse."
In 1985, too many synthetics (containing PVCs and neoprenes) had infiltrated the tack market, according to McBride. Equipment made of these cheaper materials was affordable but often inferior and environmentally questionable.
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McBride found that mohair, while more expensive, resulted in a far superior product. He prefers its feel and purity.
"In my 46 years in this industry I’ve never seen mohair gall or sore a horse," he says.
But what about other animal fiber? Alpaca, for example, is softer than mohair but it stretches more.
Wool is a shorter fiber, but weaker. So, McBride concentrated on mohair. He began at the source: the goat end of the business.
Twenty-plus years ago, he helped a Mexican company develop machinery and locate raw materials. At the time, there were only two U.S. companies manufacturing mohair cinch cord. McBride said he tried unsuccessfully to buy one of them but they refused, forcing him to look elsewhere. He worried if one of those two companies eventually sold out to one of his competitors he’d be out of business. So, he chose to head south to Guadalajara, invest, and get to work.
Not only did he set up the mohair manufacturing machinery down in Mexico, but he’s an expert on many others. These include leather-sewing machines; twisting machines for rope and cord products; hydraulic presses for cutting dies and embossing plates; straight and round knife cutters; leather skivers, splitters and edges; saddle tree-making machines; and he has a working familiarity with the bit and spur making process.
McBride said most mohair originates in South Africa, which is shipped to the U.S. (or Mexico) for processing. Slivers, which are inch-and-a-half strings, are then produced for use in mohair work.
It’s difficult to picture fiber that short ultimately becoming cinches and breast collars. How much does it take? McBride tallied up that approximately 1000 pounds of mohair is required to turn out 1,500 cinches. When he owned Mustang (he sold it 13 years ago), the company manufactured 2,500 cinches every week, using nearly a ton of goat hair.
A lot of travel has monopolized McBride’s life recently as he demonstrated at one trade show after another. He estimated he's put on 40,000 miles a year for the past four years. Among his many stops have been Equine Affaire, Quarter Horse Congress, High School Rodeo Finals and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
McBride took a little time away from trade show road-running to build 18 houses for family and friends (and did a bit of flipping as well). Some wouldn’t call such high-energy activity a rest, but he remarked that he has "always liked building stuff."
Although he enjoyed displaying his handmade talents across the country, he’s decided it’s time to spend a little more time at home fashioning product. Plus, there are those nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild to dote on.
McBride’s current wholesale company is USA Direct Equine, retailing under the name Horse Tack Warehouse, both of which include a complete line of tack and other equine equipment. Beginning in 2019, he hopes to concentrate mainly on his mohair line.
McBride mostly creates one-of-a-kind items. He’s never had a complaint over the past four years of this custom work. If a customer wants something changed, he’ll start completely over if necessary.
It’s said that time is money. His investment costs by clock hands, therefore, can be high. A custom girth generally takes McBride three to four hours, which is pretty fast for the industry, because of his experience. Generic patterns are repetitious, hence cheaper. If a ranch brand or initials are added, the price is a bit higher.
"Mohair Man" has an eye for design and is an adroit braider. He creates cinches and girths for Western, English, minis, drafts, and pack animals.
The quality he's known for and committed to includes a stainless steel roller buckle set, and a completely custom option for the equipment. Customers can select from a wide color palette— dark brown to hot pink to turquoise to red to deep purple, and most every hue between. McBride personally dyes all natural-colored Angora fiber to custom-make his colors.
Over the decades and into the present, McBride’s handiwork has made it onto prominent store shelves and into trainers’ arenas. Just a few of his better-known customers are saddle manufacturers Larry Coats and Billy Cook, Lynn McKinzie, Tucker Saddlery, Martha Josey andWeaver Leather Company.