Tom Balding Bits & Spurs

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Tom Balding Bits & Spurs
Sheridan, Wyoming
United States

Tom Balding Bits & Spurs is a small metalwork manufacturer in Sheridan, Wyoming that designs and sells handmade equine riding equipment. Their products, most notably bits and spurs, are used by professional horsepeople and trainers.



In the 1960s, Tom Balding began working with metal as a teenager in Ontario, California, building such things as custom hot rod parts and aluminum backpack frames. In 1974, he opened his first welding and fabrication shop specializing in a precise type of welding called TIG welding. [1] [2] [3]

He continued to TIG weld in the aerospace and sailing industry until he moved to Sheridan, Wyoming in the late 1970s. In Wyoming, he worked as a ranch hand until 1984, when a neighbor asked him to repair a broken bit. He built her a new one, and for the next 15 years, he ran Tom Balding Bits & Spurs out of a repurposed mobile home. [1] [2] [3]

After that, the business expanded due to increased popularity from the endorsement of multiple National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Champions such as Bobby Ingersoll. The business is now widely recognized throughout the world of western horsemanship. [3]

Metalwork Products

The company handcrafts metalwork products and other items in Sheridan, Wyoming. All custom pieces are made at the fabrication shop where they are precision cut into parts and fitted together, instead of being cast. Each part of every product is made to 1/1000 of an inch accuracy. [4]

Their products include spurs, custom spurs, heel bands, spurs, shanks, and rowels. They also handcraft bits made for shank bits, snaffle bits, baseline bits, bit shanks, and mouthpieces for Western and English markets. [1] [2] [5] [6]

The company also sells other items such as jewelry and belt buckles, including a variety of silver and turquoise jewelry; money clips, leather belts, and photo albums. [7] [8]

Tom Balding Bits & Spurs products are known for their design and craftsmanship and have been featured in galleries and in museums. The company has also been featured on Discovery Channel’s How It’s Made. [1] [3] [4] [7] [9] [10] [11]

Related Research Articles

Tack is equipment or accessories equipped on horses and other equines in the course of their use as domesticated animals. This equipment includes such items as saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, and harnesses. Equipping a horse is often referred to as tacking up, and involves putting the tack equipment on the horse. A room to store such equipment, usually near or in a stable, is a tack room.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metalworking</span> Process of making items from metal

Metalworking is the process of shaping and reshaping metals to create useful objects, parts, assemblies, and large scale structures. As a term it covers a wide and diverse range of processes, skills, and tools for producing objects on every scale: from huge ships, buildings, and bridges down to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spur</span> Metal tool used in horsemanship

A spur is a metal tool designed to be worn in pairs on the heels of riding boots for the purpose of directing a horse or other animal to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine the riding aids (commands) and to back up the natural aids. The spur is used in many equestrian disciplines. Most equestrian organizations have rules in about spur design and use and penalties for using spurs in any manner that constitutes animal abuse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reining</span> Type of western horse riding competition

Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope, or the gallop. Originating from working cattle, reining is often described as a Western form of dressage riding, as it requires the horse to be responsive and in tune with its rider, whose aids should not be easily seen, and judges the horse on its ability to perform a set pattern of movements. The horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely. A horse that pins his ears, conveying a threat to his rider, refuses to go forward, runs sideways, bounces his rear, wrings his tail in irritation or displays an overall poor attitude is not being guided willingly, and is judged accordingly.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pelham bit</span> Horse tack

A pelham bit is a type of bit used when riding a horse. It has elements of both a curb bit and a snaffle bit. In this respect a pelham bit functions similar to a double bridle, and like a double bridle it normally has "double" reins: a set of curb reins and a set of snaffle reins. Because it has a bit shank and can exert curb-style pressure on the horse, it is considered a curb bit. Like all curb bits, a pelham bit has a mouthpiece, shanks with both purchase and lever arms, a ring for rein attachment at the bottom of the shank, and a curb chain. But like a snaffle bit, a pelham bit also has a bit ring on either side of the mouthpiece. Like some curb bits, a pelham bit usually has "loose" shanks - hinged at the mouthpiece in the same way that the rings of a snaffle bit are hinged. When two sets of reins are used, the snaffle rein generally is wider, to help distinguish it from the curb. A "cowboy pelham" is a western style of loose-jawed curb bit with additional rings at the mouthpiece allowing a second set of reins to be added.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Curb bit</span> Horse tack

A curb bit is a type of bit used for riding horses that uses lever action. It includes the pelham bit and the Weymouth curb along with the traditional "curb bit" used mainly by Western riders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Double bridle</span>

A double bridle, also called a full bridle or Weymouth bridle, is a bridle that has two bits and four reins. One bit is the bradoon, is a modified snaffle bit that is smaller in diameter and has smaller bit rings than a traditional snaffle, and it is adjusted so that it sits above and behind the other bit, a curb bit. Another term for this combination of curb and snaffle bit is a "bit and bradoon", where the word "bit" in this particular context refers to the curb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gag bit</span>

The gag bit is a type of bit for a horse. Because the cheek piece and reins attach to different rings there is leverage action. Severity of leverage action depends on where the reins attach. For example, in a Dutch Gag, the further the rein attachment from the mouthpiece the greater the leverage. The gag bit is related to a Pelham bit and a double bridle but the gag bit has no curb strap.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rein</span> Riding tack item used to direct animal

Reins are items of horse tack, used to direct a horse or other animal used for riding. They are long straps that can be made of leather, nylon, metal, or other materials, and attach to a bridle via either its bit or its noseband.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hackamore</span>

A hackamore is a type of animal headgear which does not have a bit. Instead, it has a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the face, nose, and chin. Hackamores are most often seen in western riding and other styles of riding derived from Spanish traditions, and are occasionally seen in some English riding disciplines such as show jumping and the stadium phase of eventing. Various hackamore designs are also popular for endurance riding. While usually used to start young horses, they are often seen on mature horses with dental issues that make bit use painful, and on horses with mouth or tongue injuries that would be aggravated by a bit. Some riders also like to use them in the winter to avoid putting a frozen metal bit into a horse's mouth. In the Mexican Charro tradition, the Jáquima and Bozal substituted for the serrated iron cavesson used in Spain for training horses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bit shank</span>

The bit shank is the side piece or cheekpiece of a curb bit, part of the bridle, used when riding on horses. The bit shank allows leverage to be added to the pressure of the rider's hands on the bit. Shanks are usually made of metal, may be straight or curved, and may be decorated in some disciplines. The headstall and curb chain or curb strap of the bridle is attached to the top of the shank, and the reins are attached at the bottom. Shanked curb bits are used in western riding for nearly all adult horses, and are seen in English riding disciplines primarily as part of the double bridle used by advanced dressage riders, and on the hybrid pelham bit that includes a ring for a second rein attached at the bit mouthpiece.

<i>Broken Trail</i> 2006 TV film

Broken Trail is a 2006 Western television miniseries directed by Walter Hill and starring Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church. Written by Alan Geoffrion, who also wrote the novel, the story is about an aging cowboy and his nephew who transport 500 horses from Oregon to Wyoming to sell them to the British Army. Along the way, their simple horse drive is complicated when they rescue five Chinese girls from a slave trader, saving them from a life of prostitution and indentured servitude. Compelled to do the right thing, they take the girls with them as they continue their perilous trek across the frontier, followed by a vicious gang of killers sent by the whorehouse madam who originally paid for the girls.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bit mouthpiece</span>

The mouthpiece is the part of a horse's bit that goes into the mouth of a horse, resting on the bars of the mouth in the sensitive interdental space where there are no teeth. The mouthpiece is possibly the most important determinant in the severity and action of the bit. Some mouthpieces are not allowed in dressage competition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western riding</span> Style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions

Western riding is considered a style of horse riding which has evolved from the ranching and welfare traditions which were brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, as well as both equipment and riding style which evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. At the time, American cowboys had to work long hours in the saddle and often over rough terrain, sometimes having to rope a cattle using a lariat, also known as a lasso. Because of the necessity to control the horse with one hand and use a lariat with the other, western horses were trained to neck rein, that is, to change direction with light pressure of a rein against the horse's neck. Horses were also trained to exercise a certain degree of independence in using their natural instincts to follow the movements of a cow, thus a riding style developed that emphasized a deep, secure seat, and training methods encouraged a horse to be responsive on very light rein contact.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bit (horse)</span> Horse equipment that fits in the mouth and is used to direct the horse

The bit is an item of a horse's tack. It usually refers to the assembly of components that contacts and controls the horse's mouth, and includes the shanks, rings, cheekpads and mullen, all described here below, but it also sometimes simply refers to the mullen, the piece that fits inside the horse's mouth. The mullen extends across the horse's mouth and rests on the bars, the region between the incisors and molars where there are no teeth. The bit is located on the horse's head by the headstall, and which has itself several components to allow the most comfortable adjustment of bit location and control.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joe Bianchi</span>

Joe Bianchi was a world-class spur maker who immigrated to Victoria, Texas in December 1885 and died in Victoria at the age of 77. Bianchi's particular style became known across Southwest Texas as the Victoria Shank or bottle-opener spur, terms which are still used today by collectors, some sixty years after production of these much sought-after custom, handmade spurs ceased.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Handcrafts of Guerrero</span>

The handcrafts of Guerrero include a number of products which are mostly made by the indigenous communities of the Mexican state of Guerrero. Some, like pottery and basketry, have existed relatively intact since the pre Hispanic period, while others have gone through significant changes in technique and design since the colonial period. Today, much of the production is for sale in the state's major tourism centers, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo and Taxco, which has influence the crafts’ modern evolution. The most important craft traditions include amate bark painting, the lacquerware of Olinalá and nearby communities and the silverwork of Taxdo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">High Noon Western Americana</span> American retailer and auction consulting company

High Noon is a retailer, and auction consulting company. They specialize in Western American art & antique Americana, including cowboy and American Indian artifacts and fine western art. The company is known for founding the High Noon Western Americana Auction and Antique Show in 1991, held every January at the Phoenix Mesa Marriott in Mesa, Arizona.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Handcrafts and folk art in Michoacán</span> Folk art

Michoacán handcrafts and folk art is a Mexican regional tradition centered in the state of Michoacán, in central/western Mexico. Its origins traced back to the Purépecha Empire, and later to the efforts to organize and promote trades and crafts by Vasco de Quiroga in what is now the north and northeast of the state. The state has a wide variety of over thirty crafts, with the most important being the working of wood, ceramics, and textiles. A number are more particular to the state, such as the creation of religious images from corn stalk paste, and a type of mosaic made from dyed wheat straw on a waxed board. Though there is support for artisans in the way of contests, fairs, and collective trademarks for certain wares, Michoacán handcrafts lack access to markets, especially those catering to tourists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Handcrafts and folk art in Tlaxcala</span> Artistic traditions of Tlaxaca, Mexico

Tlaxcala handcrafts and folk art is that which comes from the smallest state in Mexico, located in the center-east of the country. Its best-known wares are the "canes of Apizaco", sawdust carpets and the making of Saltillo-style serapes. However, there are other handcraft traditions, such as the making of pottery, including Talavera type wares, cartoneria, metalworking and stone working. The state supports artisans through the activities of the Fideicomiso Fondo de la Casa de las Artesanía de Tlaxcala


  1. 1 2 3 4 Ebert, Susan L. "Crafting a Legend, Bit by Bit” Western & English Today, p. 14. Early Spring 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Boatwright, Abigail. "Cowboy Welder.", p. 22. Apr/May 2012
  3. 1 2 3 4 Western, Samuel. "Tom Balding: Custom bridle & bit craftsman was inspired when bucked off a horse." WyoFile. June 26, 2012
  4. 1 2 McFarland, Cynthia. The Horseman's Guide to Tack and Equipment: Form, Fit and Function 2013. pg. 106
  5. Dolhun, Marie Catherine. "Eperons et mors, Tom Balding” NEWestern Way of Life. March 2014
  6. Ehringer, Gavin. "Tom Balding Bits & Spurs”. Wyoming Lifestyle Magazine, p. 44. Summer 2011. Copy available here
  7. 1 2 Fritsche, Kathleen. "Tom Balding Bits and Spurs" Cowboys and Indians Magazine. July 2009
  8. "Balding Bits & Spurs makes gear for Texas Tech University”. The Sheridan Press. Oct. 16, 2012. Copy available here
  9. Falstad, Jan. "Wyoming artisan sells his bits and spurs worldwide." Billings Gazette. June 13, 2010
  10. Estes, Brad. "Tom Balding, Discovery Channel Complete Filming." Sheridan Media. Sept. 28, 2011
  11. "The Science of Spurs" HorseLink. Nov 2011