Sometimes life is a cinch
Horses are the most amazing creatures, able to lasso young girls’ hearts, turn daydreams into careers, and sprinkle magic into artists’ creative hands. For those with horses, sometimes life’s a cinch. Really.
Katie Baker was born and lived in hot, humid south Florida until age 12, then spent a quick two years in Ohio. She’s called Loveland, Colo., home ever since. As are many girls, Baker was enamored of all things equine. Unlike luckier ones, she’d never had one of her own.
But she did finagle her way onto their noble backs by begging rides from horse-owning friends and cleaning stalls in trade for additional hours in the saddle. There’s no cure for such a joyous addiction; and so …
Fast-forward to 2016, when Baker graduated from Colorado State University, with a bachelors degree in equine science and a minor in agriculture resource economics. Her experiences at CSU had been fulfilling, including competing on their Horse Judging Team for two years.
The first year, 2014, Baker and the rest of the Arabian Judging Team travelled to Tulsa for Arabian Nationals. They left Oklahoma as National Champions. In 2015, however, competition at the American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, was simply chalked up to being “a big learning experience.”
Baker admitted, “We didn’t do as good there.”
Several CSU internships provided more hands-on experience. During three months with GLR Quarter Horses, owned by Gordon Rowe, Baker trained yearlings and schooled a green 2-year-old under saddle.
A five-month internship with the Greeley Stampede taught her the myriad details involved with producing such a huge event.
“We did everything from washing sponsor trucks to setting up banners,” Baker recalled. “I did lots of office work but also hands-on things including walking in parades and hanging flyers in businesses.”
In the midst of all these educational endeavors, one of Baker’s friends casually showed her a gift she’d received for Christmas in 2015. Little did Emily Hartman suspect her mohair cinch-making kit would influence her pal far more than it would her.
Baker said, “I thought it was the coolest thing!”
So she bought one for herself, completed the one cinch it came with, and bought more. And more. And more. Although the kit teaches basic design, Baker experimented by trial and error how to expand her developing skills into a variety of patterns. Furthermore, she found an eager market for her finished products.
She currently sources her mohair from “U-Braid It” in Santa Fe, N.M., and Caravan Fiber Studio, Trumansburg, N.Y. Owner of the latter company, Char Sharkey, can provide custom hand-dyed fiber and custom-twist colors.
Baker crafts a variety of mohair tack including lead ropes, cinches, rope halters, wide bronc halter nosebands and breast collars. Each item is unique and time-consuming; for example, a breast collar (depending on pattern intricacy) takes 15 hours or more to complete. Eventually, she’d like to add purses and other specialties to her product line.
While still at CSU, Baker completed its Colt Starting class and made a cinch for the awards saddle (built by Iddings Saddlery in Laramie, Wyo.)
Each year, she enjoys entering a cinch at the Larimer County Fair in the Spinning and Weaving Open Class. Also, the National Finals Rodeo includes a Mohair Cinch Division for its Art of the Cowboy Makers section. Baker hopes to join that challenge this year, the only caveat being that there are always “some pretty good competitors in it.”
Just a couple months post-CSU graduation, in February 2017, Baker applied for and acquired an inside sales representative position with Mountain Vet Supply in Fort Collins. She finds it a perfect match for her career goals and likes the flexibility of hours it offers. Her bosses, co-workers and customers complement the great environment.
“The Demosses, Bill and Annette, are great people to work for,” Baker contentedly said. “I’ve met a lot of people at Mountain Vet and I’m learning so much.”
Bill Demoss is on the Larimer County Stock Growers Committee. Baker is helping organize their 2019 Ranch Rodeo, a fundraiser for the Stock Growers’ scholarship fund. The event will be held on Aug. 24 at McGraw Arena in Wellington, Colo.
Ranch-based activities at this type rodeo accrue points per team (of four participants each) rather than per individual. Baker will make four cinches for the winning team’s members.
Needless to say, all this equestrian energy would be kind of pointless without realizing 26-year-old Baker’s lifelong dream: her very own horse — her very own first horse. Four years ago, a Pinto X Arabian gelding named Lakota fulfilled her horsey dream.
The now 15 year-old tobiano previously belonged to a friend’s father who’d had some health issues. The man was unable to ride much but had been hesitant to sell the horse, concerned he might eventually end up in a kill buyer’s hands.
Baker eagerly stepped up with an offer of a great home for Lakota. The owner accepted and asked a fair price well within her budget. And, although the flashy gelding initially exhibited a few behavioral issues, he is now Baker’s solid, dependable riding partner.
One of her future hopes is to travel to equine events as a vendor. Right now, that’s a little difficult considering her job and family commitments. Husband Blaine and their 1-year-old daughter, Rylie, come first.
Four-legged family member Sammi is also a priority. The 4-year-old dog has been with the Bakers since she was a tiny “free” puppy, gifted to Katie by a customer at Jax in Loveland after Baker merely told her she loved dogs. (Speak, and ye shall find.)
As do most canines, Sammi loves to go with. However, she only goes along on trail rides occasionally because her dubious attention span is easily shattered by scampering squirrels and blitzing bunnies.
Baker’s mohair tack is available at Mountain Vet Supply, as well as through her Facebook page and Instagram under her business name, Feisty Pinto Trading Company. ❖
— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.