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Ask Dr. Dave

Betty from Idaho, writes:

Dear Dr. Dave,

Thank you for your insightful column! I really enjoyed watching you at the Classic. For a new horse owner, do you prefer a certain brand of tack over another? I am looking to purchase a quality saddle and bridle. Also, what kind of bit do you recommend?
Thank you for your time! I look forward to learning from you.

Dear Betty,

Thank you for your question about saddles, tack, and bits. I have always recommended that people buy the very best equipment they can afford. High quality saddles and tack will pay you back many fold with longevity. But almost more important is that the saddle you do choose fits your horse. Not all saddles are built the same nor are they shaped the same. The style of saddle you choose will also be dependent on your use and activities. For example: trail, ranch, endurance, arena, pleasure, equitation, reining, cow cutting, team roping, barrel racing, calf roping, steer wrestling events all have their own style of saddles, not to mention all the different English events.

There are a gazillion different styles of bits and headstalls, each with their own particular use and twist. Once again, buy the best (usually determined by price). Remember that not all horses' mouths are the same size or shape, so a particular bit that fits well on one horse may not fit the next horse. If I had to pick one style of bit, and it be the only bit I would ever have, I would pick a handmade, sweet-iron, copper inlaid, ring snaffle with a two-piece mullened mouth. I would hang it with a nice brow-band, throat-latched, double-buckled leather headstall with a loose-leather chin strap with double buckles, and hook it to a pair of long, harness leather, weighted split reins. But this is only a personal preference and by no means a recommendation, nor a condemnation of other style of bits and headgear.

My best advice for you is to seek advice from professionals in your area. The AQHA provides a list of AQHA Professional Horsemen in each state who should be very willing to help you in your selection. You might want to contact one of them. Be thorough, be smart, and don't be in a rush. Your purchase of equipment is merely the start of a long and enjoyable journey into the world of horses and horsemanship. Of course, if you are training your horse for barrel racing, you should consult Sharon's book, The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing, which addresses equipment and training fundamentals. Also consult the Ask Sharon Section on Equipment in this website. Welcome to the wonderful world of horse ownership!

Best wishes and happy trails,

Dr. Dave