Form, BIT and Function – How to Choose and Use the Right Headgear for Your Barrel Horse

Form, BIT and Function – How to Choose and Use the Right Headgear for Your Barrel Horse

As I was getting warmed up to post this week’s video, I was glad to come across some timeless barrel racing wisdom from Ed Wright.

Recently I witnessed and was especially impressed by one of his students as she won the All American Finals in Waco, TX, and again it confirmed that while competition continues to get tougher as breeding programs, tools and techniques are always evolving – certain principles never change.

One such principle is that bits are secondary to education.

And yet, while education is a critical priority – just because we’ve instilled knowledge in our horse’s mind doesn’t necessarily mean there still aren’t blocks in the way physically and emotionally.

Even if we can influence and yield our horse’s body parts relatively quick and effectively doesn’t mean they feel good about it, that they want to do it, and that they aren’t dealing with physical restrictions that make it difficult for them.

This is why I also love learning about and sharing the importance of horse health, anatomy, therapeutic bodywork and biomechanics, as well as what we as trainers, riders and jockeys can do to actually build desire and try in our horses. Read more

Form, Function & Communication with Barrel Horse Bitting Expert, Dave Elliott

Form, Function & Communication with Barrel Horse Bitting Expert, Dave Elliott

This month at we’ll be diving into the subject “horsemanship for barrel racing.” Because quality horsemanship requires quality communication – quality horsemanship depends on quality tools! One of the most important being the bits we use to develop our barrel horses.

It was easy for me to decide who I’d invite as a guest contributor on this topic. Dave Elliott, owner of Elliott Bit and Spur hails from Alberta, Canada and is a household name in the barrel racing industry. Although Dave himself rodeoed in the past, because his wife Louise is a barrel racer, it’s the discipline they’ve primarily focused on serving.

Dave started out using horses on the ranch where he grew up, while his mother and sister rode english. Out of school he became involved in horseshoeing and did that professionally for 20 years. When business was slow in the winter time his interest turned to bit making, which he’s been doing on a full-time basis now for 25 years.

Elliott Bit and Spur
Look for the “Elliott” stamp of authenticity
on a bits inside, bottom right shank.

One of the things that clearly sets Elliott bits apart is the years of education and study behind them. Dave said “My search for bitting information led me to studying anatomy. I’ve hosted equine dissection classes and got involved with an equine Osteopath to learn more about motion, neurological systems and cardiovascular systems.”

He went on to explain that “Most of the information on bitting is based on the bit, not the reason why we use certain bits, which is largely anatomical based. When you read old European military manuals you’ll find that most of their bitting and riding was based on anatomical structures.”

I especially appreciated Dave mentioning how important it is to have a clear goal in mind when it comes to exactly what you hope to accomplish. “You have to have a plan as to how you want the horse to move before you select a bit to get it done. I find now days in all disciplines, that people often don’t have a plan.”

He shared that when people call to express certain needs or ideas in regards to which bit to order, “It usually ends up being more of an anatomical answer instead of a bit answer. For example ‘My horse won’t rate for the first barrel.’ I have to understand what their idea of what rate is, whether they’re looking for a short term fix or a long term fix, and if they understand what needs to happen in the horse’s body in order to rate.” Read more