Artisans That Are Keeping Mecate Making Traditions Alive

black and white horse hair mecates that are hand woven, used with a rein for a horse

Mecates and Barber Poles

Today’s spotlight is on an artisan that I became acquainted with, in a roundabout way. I was looking for info on a really great trick rope mecate, in 5/16”, that was a gift from a friend of mine from the Plush area of Oregon. For those of you who are not familiar with the term trick rope mecate, it is a mecate that changes from one color or type of pattern to another as it moves along its length. The one I have has roan and grey hair in it and goes from specks of both to a Barber pole of 2plus2 and then specks within the barber pole pattern then back to solid colors. It is an amazing work of art, to say the least!! (see 5th and 6th picture below)

While on Instagram I came across a mecate maker that also ties cinches from horsehair as well. Helen was kind enough to look at a picture I sent her and gave me the name of a Gentleman that she was pretty sure had made it. Most artisans know each other’s work by sight through certain markings, styles, or the way the ends are finished.

brown, black and white horse hair mecates that are hand woven, used with a rein for a horse                            black and white horse hair mecates that are hand woven, used with a rein for a horse

Who is She?

The kind lady was Helen Dougal, who in her own right, comes from a long line of mecate makers. She is a 3rd generation woman to hold this title, after her mother Frankie, who started making mecates and helping her mother and Grandmother, Clara Whitby, at 9 years old. Clara was spinning hair ropes for her brothers and uncles (Drummounds) in the early 1900s who ran horses in the Owyhee desert (Southern Oregon). Clara learned it from a Spanish fellow named “Jesus”. Okay, maybe not the same fellow you and I know by the same name!! She picked her hair by hand and sold them for $2.50 each!!
How many of you would do that today?

horse hair spun and braided

In the 1960s Helen began her journey at the ripe old age of 8 with the help of her mother and grandmother learning what they themselves had mastered over the years with little to no modern tools. The work took longer and more hands were needed back then. Today she is still producing Amazing pieces fit for any collection as well as working articles for Cowboys, Buckaroos, and Vaquero’s in the Great Basin as well as around the country and the world alike!!

Traditional Mecates Kept Alive

Thank you, Helen, for continuing the traditions of those who came before us alive and well. I sincerely hope that one of your family members keeps it alive. Maybe there will be an individual that you feel is worthy of the knowledge that you and those before you have handed down, and we’ll soon learn of their work, as well.

Want to see some of Helen’s amazing work? Check her out on Instagram @helen_mecates  and tell her we sent you!

natural ad black colored horse hair spun and braided into a mecate

Hold My Mecate!

For those of you that are still reading along..the cliffhanger is over!!

After Helen took a peek at the photos I sent her, she was pretty sure the trick rope Mecate was made by a Gentleman by the name of Merlin Rupp!  He’s a well-known Buckaroo from the Great Basin area and Northern Nevada. Very exciting! I will post some pics of this mecate as well!!

white and brown horse hair mecate
Vince’s mecate made by Merlin Rupp
horse hair hand made mecate
Merlin Rupp mecate

What Are Mecates Anyway?

What is mecate you ask? Mecates are a type of rein system used in the bosal style hackamore to train young horses. It’s a long rope approximately 20-25 feet in length and up to about 3/4 inch in diameter.  Horsehair is traditionally used in the making of a mecate. They are tied to the bosal, an oval or teardrop-shaped noseband, in a specialized manner that adjusts the fit of the bosal around the muzzle of the horse. This creates both a looped rein and a long free end that can be used for several purposes. For the mounted rider, the free end is coiled and attached to the saddle or tucked under the rider’s belt.

black and white horse hair cinches that are hand woven, with gold andd silver buckles for a horse
30″ Horse Hair Cinches by Helen.


Regards till next time!!

Vincent Sánchez!!!

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