Crafted with Care
By Jeanne O’Malley
Photography by Leslie Herman
Ron Herman’s work is often represented in Paint Horse championship competitions, whether or not Ron has a horse in the arena. In addition to training horses for reining, working cow horse, roping and Youth events, the horseman from Lindsay, Oklahoma, also designs and creates custom spurs and bits. As a trainer, he knows what works on Western horses and their riders; as a craftsman, he can produce it.
He started with the horses.
“Growing up in Western Kansas, my older brothers did rodeo and roping,” Ron explained. “I tagged along and found I liked it, too. I got a rodeo scholarship to Panhandle State University, and I qualified for the College National Rodeo my freshman year.
“I started working with two established trainers 30 years ago before starting out on my own. I spent a lot of time a shows watching winning trainers warm up their horses, studying their methods and trying to incorporate them into my own training program.”
The same study worked with bits and spurs.
“I studied the old handmade bits and spurs, trying to figure out how those blacksmiths worked with their limited tools. I had learned how to weld when I was young, so it was a matter of combining horse and training knowledge with metalwork,” Ron said. “My uncle was a self-taught silversmith, and he started me off. He told me to get some silver, sit down at the bench and see what I could do with it. And after messing up a few pieces, I certainly learned what not to do!
“I enjoy the challenge of starting with a flat piece of metal and changing it to fit the idea, the design I have in my mind. And it is gratifying to see the look on a customer’s face when they see what I’ve made them.”
So who orders custom pieces and why? Professional trainers and competitors know exactly what they want and what suits their horses. It might be a port just so high but no higher, or perhaps the horse has an unusual jaw size and something off the shelf doesn’t quite fit. Or maybe they want a bit of copper on the mouthpiece in a certain location.
When every horse in the pen is eye catching, grab a second look from a judge with that extra glint of quality chrome; Paint Horses naturally have eye appeal in the show ring, so custom bits or spurs can up the ante. Draw attention to your horse’s particularly beautiful head with ornate, silver bit shanks and your stable logo. For horsemanship and equitation, spell out your name in silver on your spurs to draw attention to a particularly good heel and leg position.
Of course, there’s always the unique beauty of individually designed tack—the knowledge that no one has equipment exactly like yours.
That desire for beautiful, custom work is not unique among professional horsemen. When your spurs mark a milestone—graduating from high school or college, when you turn 21, that very important anniversary or the first championship call—it’s a present that won’t wear out or be outgrown. That is when you sit down with Ron Herman to work out a design that is yours alone.
Ron’s work has gone from Canada to Florida and as far as Brazil. Though he often sees himself coming and going in competition—even when he might not be in the arena himself—it is a terrific feeling to see his work in the Paint Horse world.
Learn more about Ron Herman Bits & Spurs on Facebook.