No person or horse is perfect, but acknowledging that ahead of time can save heartache down the road.

Story and photography by Katie Frank

Live and Learn

Several months ago I met with Texas bootmaker Carl Chappell at his shop in Saint Jo to learn about his craft and what makes his creativity tick. His warm smile and down-to-earth personality kept my attention, and before I knew it, four hours had passed. To build his award-winning boots, Chappell has formulated the process into a science.  

Live and LearnThat level of craftsmanship must be planned, accounting for inevitable errors. He cuts materials with enough room to correct any mishaps that may slip in. “You want to make sure that you’re allowing not for mistakes, but if there is a mistake, you can hide it,” he says.

To err is human, a trait all horsemen know. Chappell’s wise words reminded me of how I grew up riding. While my horse and I were a great team, we were always preparing for what could happen once we stepped in the show pen. To be honest, if we were docked points on our reining pattern, it was usually my fault. To score high, we needed to foresee potential hiccups and correct accordingly. To ensure my horse transitioned from a big, fast circle to our small, slow circle, I would not only cue by sitting deep in the saddle, I would quietly hum a monotone note. Combined, the two aids ensured we would hit our mark.

Instilling safeties into our lives, whether training our horses or making a boot, doesn’t mean we are welcoming mistakes. It means we live, learn and keep trying our best.

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