Horlacher works with an engraving ball in his workshop. (Submitted photos)
Pat Horlacher of rural Harney County enjoys engraving silver, shoeing horses and jiu-jitsu, among other things
By Debbie Raney
What do jiu-jitsu, shoeing horses and engraving silver all have in common? They are all three passions of Pat Horlacher.
Two and one-half years ago, Horlacher and his wife, Kailin, were a young married couple deciding what path they wanted to take in their lives together. They had friends who were planning to relocate in Harney County, and this was a possibility the Horlachers were considering as well, which would mean leaving Corvallis.
“It was one of those deals where we had to decide which lifestyle we wanted,” said Pat.
On their way home from the Jordan Valley Rodeo, the Horlachers stopped in at Jett Blackburn Realty and they were shown a home on Buchanan Road that fit what they wanted. Within a month they had moved, beating their friends to Harney County.
Pat grew up in Eastern Washington, and had made his living starting colts, day working on ranches and shoeing horses. This line of work continued when he moved to Corvallis to be close to Kailin. This is where he was first introduced to jiu-jitsu, receiving martial arts classes as gifts from Kailin’s family.
While Pat was still in high school, he was working for friends in John Day. During his stay he met silversmith Ernie Marsh, and was in awe of the work that Marsh created. He longed to own a scarf slide that Marsh had made that cost $120, but he had to settle for purchasing his second choice, a slide that cost $60.
His first opportunity to learn something about the silversmithing trade was offered to him by John and Jerri Hyde. The Hydes own Yamsi Leather and Silver in Chiloquin, and create custom silver creations that are famous throughout the northwest. After spending time with the Hydes, Pat was hooked.
In 2000, he applied for and was awarded a scholarship from the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association.
One of the members who offered their time and knowledge to students was Marsh. Pat had five days to spend under Marshes guidance — a fledgling silversmith’s dream come true. He said in those five days he learned the intricacies of high-relief engraving and the basics of bit and spur building. Pat was off and running.
An example of Pat Horlacher’s silversmithing.
Pat said he sees similarities between the coordination skills needed in shoeing horses and those needed to engrave silver. “Your left hand is your smart hand, it moves the engraving ball. Your right hand is the stupid hand, it just holds the tool.”
Although he insists he has no artist talent, many of Pat’s designs take a fresh, original spin on tradition.
He said silversmiths never want to replicate each other’s work. “We may take a general idea, but we put our own twist to it.” After making an assortment of items, from buckle sets to earrings to a rodeo queen’s crown, Pat said his favorite items to build are horn caps and pendants.
Starting on flat sheets of 6- or 8-inch sliver, Pat begins each project by cutting his silver with custom-made dies. Then, depending on the size and shape of his project, he may spend two or more hours just on fabrication. Once the piece is shaped and fired, he pencils out a rough outline of his chosen engraving design and begins the detail work. He said he can spend six to eight hours working on a single piece, but some projects may take longer. The queen’s crown took Pat four days work to get the shape perfected and to make the pattern. He said he ended up raiding Kailin’s kitchen cabinets to find objects that he could trace for the shape he desired.
Just outside of Pat’s workshop door sets a makeshift training facility, complete with weights and punching bag. When he’s not using his silversmithing tools, he can turn to the tools he uses for his jiu-jitsu and grappling passion. Both require commitment and fortitude to be successful, and Kailin put it best when she said Pat is, “very dedicated.”
He goes back to Corvallis twice a month to take care of his horseshoeing clients there, and Kailin has started her own business selling handmade purses and wild-rags. Together they hope to expand their careers and make a permanent home in Harney County for themselves, their daughter, Grace, and the baby they are expecting next spring.
“We’re living the dream,” said Pat.
Photos of Pat’s silver work and Kailin’s wildrags are online on his Facebook page.