2010 - Volume #34, Issue #3, Page #06[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Custom Spurs For Cowboys, Celebrities
The Water Valley, Texas, man grew up ranching and working with horses. While breaking horses as a young man, he wore his father's handmade spurs. Ford worried that he might lose one, so he decided to make his own. Over the years he made a few pairs for friends while he made his living as a farrier. After 22 years of shoeing horses and too many chiropractor visits, Ford needed a new occupation and decided to get serious about making spurs.
By 1984 he was making them full-time thanks to one of his first customers, Buster Welch, a five-time NCHA open futurity champion. Other celebrities who purchased his spurs included Ken Curtis (Festus on Gunsmoke), actor Wilford Brimley and John R. Erickson (author of the Hank the Cowdog series).
Although he has been the winner of numerous awards over the years, Ford says he isn't sure how his work is unique.
"I know my spurs have got a real good ring to them. It has to do with the way the metal is tempered," he says. "Also I taught myself to engrave, so it's my own style."
Ford's workshop has pretty basic tools: a 225-amp welder, a cutting torch, bench sanders, anvils and hammers.
When customers come to him, he asks what they plan to use the spurs for so he can guide them to the best design.
"It has to be functional first. If you calf rope, you want a lighter spur so you can jump off the horse and run. If you are a bulldogger you want a short shank," he says. "If you are a cowboy you want comfort and function so you can ride all day."
Styles also vary for tall and short people.
Ford gives customers dozens of design choices of rowels (spiked wheels) and shanks, which connect the rowel and the band around the boot heel. The complexity of the design on the band can be anything - initials, a brand, a howling wolf-engraved in nickel, silver or gold. Ford's wife, Liz, does the leather tooling on the strap that holds the spur.
"I seldom do the same thing twice," Ford says. "Cowboy stuff is very individual."
Spurs start at $500 and go into the thousands when gold and gems are involved. Ford's work is in such demand that he's backlogged about a year. He's sold spurs in nearly every state and Canada as well as overseas.
In addition to custom work, Ford likes to come up with his own creations. His "George Strait" spur has a tipped champagne glass on one side of the spur band and a howling coyote on the other in honor of one of the singer's songs. It's been a popular seller.
He's also working on a more challenging design, a limited edition of 20 Chihuahua (Mexican-style) spurs with a peacock design that includes emeralds and rubies.
Ford teaches others how to make spurs through a video he made, and he encourages those who are interested in spur making.
Ford sells complete kits with spurs, buckles, leathers, bits, stirrups and a hoof pick on a stand. Check out his website for more information.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, R.F. Ford, 14398 Old Sterling City Hwy., Water Valley, Texas 76958 (ph 325 484-2433; www.fordspurs.com).
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