Spanish bits (spade/half-breeds)
When done right, the California style of horsemanship is a thing of beauty. Spanish bits, some with a spade mouthpiece or perhaps half-breeds are works of art designed to honor the horse and rider.
They are often ornately decorated with inlaid silver/gold with check pieces (shanks) ranging from the fine lines of the Santa Paula to the heavy looking, more common Santa Barbara.
The California style of horsemanship was developed over lots of time with the whole concept based on “manna.” That is to say there is always tomorrow. A horse is often started in a snaffle, and then roughly in a year, put into a hackamore (bosal/mecate). Sometime around a year later (if the horse was ready) the colt would then be taken in the two rein. The two rein is where for a while the horse carries a “bridle” bit but is guided mostly by a small bosal/mecate. When the horse is ready, he is ridden in just the bridle. (with a small bosalito to honor him). These horses are called “straight up in the bridle” and are solid gold.
The reins used with the Spanish style bits are themselves things of beauty. Usually braided rawhide with lots of decorative knots. They are connected to the bit via lightweight chains. When your horse is to this point, and you’re riding along with those rein chains jingling, it’s just amazing!
The spade refers to the mouthpiece of which there are varieties. Some are plain while others are done up with copper rollers and sliver frogs etc. Not every horse’s mouth is physically able to carry a full spade bit so something else would be used. (Some horseman might use other mouthpieces in transition to the full spade). The half-breed is a high port (not as high as a spade or cathedral) with a roller(s) and is somewhat the same effect as the spade. These bits are made to be used by master horsemen who understand them. They should not be used in the hands of most children or novice.
There are many styles of Spanish Bits and all the variations are an enjoyable study. The people who use them are truly artisans.
For questions about Spanish Bits, please contact us.
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