Form, Function & Communication with Barrel Horse Bitting Expert, Dave Elliott
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This month at BarrelRacingTips.com 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.
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