Road Stories

Braids of Glory

Ben Baldus at the Waggoner Ranch.

Ben Baldus at the Waggoner Ranch.

World champion trainer Ben Baldus doubles as a parachute cord craftsman.

Story and photos by Ross Hecox

I stood in one of the neatest, cleanest tack rooms I’ve ever seen and watched Ben Baldus dig through a plastic sack, pulling out colorful spools of parachute cord.

“Cameron calls this my knitting bag,” he said with a laugh.

Despite his wife’s ribbing, Ben thoroughly enjoys his hobby. The head trainer for the legendary Waggoner Ranch doesn’t knit, but instead braids reins, hobbles and other gear.

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“When we drive to a horse show, I have Cameron or one of my assistant trainers drive, and I’ll sit in the passenger seat and braid,” he said.

Braiding is more than just a hobby for Ben, a world champion trainer who is featured in the June 2015 issue of Western Horseman. He grew tired of replacing leather reins that his 2-year-old horses often broke. So he learned the art of braiding parachute cord from several horsemen and regularly purchases his material from His thrifty, practical nature also led him to begin replacing worn-out cotton lead ropes with homemade lead ropes built from braided blue hay-bale twine.

Hay-bale twine

“Do you want me to show you how to do it?” he asked.

My fascination must have been obvious. Of course I wanted to learn.

Ben began braiding 12 strands of parachute cord, showing me the simple over-under-over-under technique, then handed the piece to me.

“Take this home and practice,” he said. “Unravel it to see how I got it started. Call me if you need any help.”

World champion Ben Baldus.

Since then, I’ve worked on that braided piece a few times, and have discovered that keeping all the braids neat and even isn’t easy. But it’s fun to work on, and I have to admit there is a small collection of hay-bale twine now hanging in my barn.

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