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Unique designs on display at Art of the Cowgirl, Bozeman, MT

By Kaycee Monnens for Tri-State Livestock News

The Art of the Cowgirl, held for the first time in Bozeman, Montana, kicked off Wednesday June 23, with the culmination ending in the Elite Horse Sale and Cowdog Sale on Sunday June 27. The cowgirls-only event consists of a week of workshops where cowgirls can better their trades of ranch roping, cutting, silversmithing, leatherworking, horsemanship, colt starting, equine massage, and more. In the meantime, there are prime competitions of Open Breakaway Roping, All Women’s Bridle Horse Challenge, and All Women’s Ranch Rodeo.

Art of the Cowgirl has been historically held in Phoenix, Arizona at the Corona Ranch, but due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, last winter’s was cut short. 2021’s AoC was picked up enthusiastically in western Montana with many local makers, horsewomen, and businesswomen featured throughout the third annual event. The trade show is second to none, with dozens of cowgirl vendors sharing historic western arts for all to see.

One notable vendor, Cross N Custom Cinches, owned by Tia Rose Watson, began from a personal need. After winning a cinch in a ranch rodeo, Watson was disappointed when it sored her horse shortly after. “I was disappointed in the quality and after that happened. I started looking at the quality of cinches that we were riding and figured I could do better. I started taking apart, rebuilding, and researching how to make a quality cinch and thus started a business,” she says

Watson dyes many of her own cords, which makes for unique and colorful looks. She enjoys helping newcomers to the industry, which sets her apart. Watson believes there are enough clients for several makers in the same area. She is happy to share her expertise with those who wish to share in the making of a comfortable cinch. For Watson, it’s all about the fitting to the horse.

How suitable that Watson graciously recommends Big Sky Mohair Cinches, which may be considered her competitor. Dana and Tracy Eklund believe that “a comfortable horse can get the job done.” They enjoy making functional gear that allows a person to get maximum performance and enjoyment out of their horse, no matter their discipline.

Their business was also born of a need for good cinches. The owners were working with a non-profit therapeutic riding center for people with disabilities, and needed large cinches for draft horses. Options were limited, so they decided to start building cinches for themselves. With no intentions to create a business, it simply evolved into a thriving producer of quality cinches in Bozeman, Montana.

Savanna Simmons of Flat Hat Creative, a woman-of-all-trades from Redbird, Wyoming (near Lusk) will have a booth featuring childrens’ books on display. “ I initially started writing children’s books because there are few chapter books that are ranch- or horse-related for boys in particular. That’s not to say there are none, but there aren’t many,” she says. Simmons also dabbles in turquoise and silver jewelry, saying that she likes to have varying interests.

Simmons, a freelance writer and photographer for Tri-State Livestock News, decided to pick up the pen to provide unique reading materials for young boys like her sons. Brim and the Big Cat Blunder initially came about due to a bad cold in the winter months of 2019, though it took her the better part of a year to write, design, and finish.

Simmons is appreciative of the talents next to her at the trade show during Art of the Cowgirl 2021, saying, “The trade show is made up of really talented individuals with mostly handmade and handcrafted items. We all are creative and have found our own small niches under the bigger umbrella of western trades. I’m excited to be a small part of it.”

Many other makers and businesswomen will be featured during the 2021 Art of the Cowgirl, including:

Reata (Brannaman) Clark; daughter of Buck Brannaman and current manager of historic OW Ranch in Quietus, Montana with husband, Gabe; instructing horsemanship and ranch/vaquero style roping.

Kaley Klein; owner of Magpie West of Augusta, Montana; maker of fine leather purses, wallets, and more.

Staci Copper Grosskopf; owner of Buckaroo Business in Billings, Montana; instructing ranch roping.

Casey Curtis; Hamilton, Montana; maker of leather hat feathers and purses.

Blue Borton; owner of Out of the Blue Emporium; featuring tasteful vintage coats, cowgirl gear and clothing, suitable for all ages.

Stay up to date on final results of the Open Breakaway, All Women’s Ranch Rodeo, and All Women’s Bridle Horse Challenge at artofthecowgirl.com or livestream on the Wrangler Network.

Savanna Simmons, a journalist turned children's book writer, noticed a lack of ranching a horse books for boys, so she wrote one, called Brim and the Big Cat Blunder, which will be on display at the 2021 Art of the Cowgirl. Photo courtesy Savanna Simmons
Tia Watson of Cross N Custom Cinches knows the value of a good-fitting cinch on a working horse. She is instructing others in the craft at Aoc. Photo courtesy Tia Watson
Big Sky Mohair Cinches believes in helping a comfortable horse get the job done, which starts with the cinch. Amy Burkenpas Photography
Image courtesy Art of the Cowgirl Facebook page.

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