Friday, August 6, 2021

My Horses, Saddle, & My Preferred Bit

Hello Friends!

Some of you have asked about my horses, and if I have a favorite breed. Some of you have written to ask if I raise cattle, or if I have goats, pigs, and chickens. A few have asked if I own a custom-made saddle, and what sort of bit I prefer. Well, I hope you don't mind that I decided to answer your questions here instead of responding to the emails. 

As for my horses? These days I only have a few horses, no cattle or goats or pigs. And no, no chickens. We actually don't need chickens and pigs since we have neighbors who raise and sell pigs and neighbors whose chickens put out a lot of eggs.

As for my favorite breed of horse? I love Quarter Horses. But in reality, I also love horses of most breeds. In fact, while I prefer stocky cow horses, I really love all horses,. And lately, I've become a real admirer of the Draft/Quarter Horse crosses that I've seen. I wouldn't mind finding one for myself since I really don't think it's fair to the horse to put a lot of weight on a horse. 

What am I talking about? I weigh in at 320. My saddle is 42 pounds. That's a lot of combined weight to put on a horse for pleasure riding, nevertheless moving cows all day. So yes, I've been looking at Draft/Quarter Horse crosses horses lately as an alternative to ride. 

As for my saddle? No, I've never had the kind of money that it takes to splurge and buy an expensive custom-made saddle. My first saddle belonged to my grandpa. As you know, my family is originally from Hawaii and I've lived permanently in California since 1977. 

My grandfather had a few saddles. One was a Hawaiian Tree and the others were saddle that he bought while visiting California in the 1950s and 60s. I used one of his saddles for years. Then in 1983, I bought a Billy Cook saddle. For some reason, I didn't fit right and I ended up giving it to a close friend.  I bought a Circle Y saddle another in 1986. In 1995, I was handed a great deal on a Billy Cook saddle that I couldn't pass up so I bought it. But then in 1996, I bought myself a Tex Tan Hereford Brand saddle that I absolutely fell in love with.

The Hereford Brand by Tex Tan saddle that I bought, to my knowledge, has now been discontinued. The model is a Prescott Rancher.  While every saddle that I had was a roper built with a Cheyenne Roll cantel, my Tex Tan Prescott Rancher is a basic working ranch saddle with an old fashion straight cantel -- what some folks call a "pencil" cantel. 

My saddle is nothing fancy other than some hand-stamped basket tooling. I like the large brass dees and its one-piece smooth-out seat. Because of the horses that I've ridden, its bullhide-tree and Full Quarter Horse bars have fit me and those horses very well. Besides how I like its fit, I really like its drop rigging. It was something that I saw on old saddles when I was a kid, and I like it on mine.

As a matter of full disclosure, I haven't ridden in a while because of medical problems. That has made me give away a couple of saddles. But, that hasn't stopped me from keeping my Tex Tan saddle in good condition and ready to use. After all, I don't think I've seen my last day in a saddle. At least not yet. 

As for my choice of a bit? I used to work my horses a lot and they responded well. Because of that, a medium port Quarter Horse bit was all I've ever needed. The one that my horse Murphy loved was a medium port with a copper cricket, a 5" mouthpiece, and a 6 1/2" short shank. I have to admit that my horse Murphy loved to play with that cricket. He liked that copper roller and would play with it for all it was worth. 

It's a safe bet that someone will write to tell me that such bits are too cheap and don't give the action that other bits will give. Friends, I've found that choice of bit, and the fact that some bits are too severe for my horses, is all a matter of personal choice. The bit below give a little more control than a normal medium port.

The Reinsman Medium Port Copper Roller Jr Cutter Bit is probably one of the two best all-time shanks with medium-plus leverage and excellent balance. The mouthpiece is good for a nervous horse that likes to play with the bit. It does add some tongue pressure to help break a horse over at the poll for a better headset. It has 7" Cheeks. 5" Mouth. 1 1/2" Port.

Friends, I can say that over the years I've tried hackamores, snaffles, spade bits, and even some bits that looked like contraptions out of a torture chamber. And while that's true, and there are hundreds of different western bits with all sorts of subtle variations as well as some very strange names, I keep going back to basics with simple curb bits. 

Grazing bits and Quarter Horse bits are curb bits. They are probably one of the most common western bits around. The shanks are angled back so, in theory, a horse can graze with the bit in its mouth. And since I was taught that there were times while working cattle that a hand might want to just let his horse graze some while bridled and saddled, I've sort of stayed with simple medium port curb bits. 

There is something else, there were times that I used to just use a set of Side-Pulls to go riding. As most know, using Side-Pulls, especially one without a bit, is great for starting a young horse. Its contact on a horse's nose gives you control and the rein rings enable you to teach a horse to give his head. They are perfect for getting a good head set. 

While I never used Side-Pulls to work cattle, it worked out well when pleasure riding the backcountry or just getting some time in at an arena. And really, I've found that sometimes using Side-Pulls was a great way for a refresher. 

I hope this answered your questions. During my next post, I'll take on your questions about my guns and my shooting range. 

See you then! 

Tom Correa

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