In a perfect world horses would all be trained the old traditional vaquero way which factored in the impact to young horse's bodies of too much, too soon. Years ago, horses were not started until they were 5-6 years old. Nowadays, with so much pressure to start horses at 2 years old, the old ways have been adapted so that 2 year olds are just lightly ridden to prevent damage to growing bones and joints. This is in contrast to modern training where many young show horses are started at two years old and rammed and jammed during their formative years ending up physically and emotionally ruined by five years old. Most modern horses are started in a snaffle bit, and are often ridden their entire lives that way. The old way is to start a horse in a snaffle bit or start the horse right from the gitgo in a hackamore, making sure that , especially thru the fourth year, when the horses' teeth are in transition, that the horse's sensitive mouth is protected by going bitless with the hackamore. At the beginning of the fifth year, the horse's teeth are full size and now there is a good environment for him/her to start packing a bit using a "2-rein ." Control is still with a small hackamore, but the young horse can carry the bit and get used to it for another year to year and a half before he gradually transitions to "straight up" in the bridle. Everything is done slowly during this time as a solid foundation is carefully built physically and emotionally for the horse. The ultimate goal is to put the horse into a spade "signal" bit but not many horsemen know how to do this anymore! This process, along with traditional vaquero training techniques, results in the highest level of harmony and communication with the horse that can be achieved in ranch riding. These old vaquero traditions are not seen much anymore except throughout the Great Basin!!!

After extensive research, Mike Bridges and Martin Black are the three living masters of old-style vaquero horsemanship that I recommend to learn from. It is especially important to have a solid understanding of traditional gear and how it should be used and these three are sticklers for keeping and teaching the old traditions. Be sure and read the info written about and by Bridges on these two links: Bridles to the Past (about Mike Bridges) by Robert Miller Western Horseman May 1996 and Vaquero-Style Bridle Bits What they are and how they work by Mike Bridges Check out this Martin Black video about the 2-Rein Check out this utube Martin Black video on the spade bit horse Martin Black on the Hackamore

Note: just a reminder that I am, in general, trying to photograph mostly those people who keep the old buckaroo bridle horse traditions...and a lot of them hang out at ranch rodeos which is why I go to so many of them....but I'm not really there to photograph the rodeo itself though I do as much shooting as I can. Those folks who use non-traditional gear like tie-downs, ball caps, halters under the bridle, rubber on the horns, and other non-traditional gear are there too and I do photograph them some of course. As an example I love to photograph the barrel racers! But just so you know, because I've got my hands full with the photos of traditional folks, there are thousands of photos I am NOT taking of those in non-traditional gear or attire. For that I apologize because that is no reflection on the skills of the horse men and women who choose not to follow the old traditions. In fact, they are often the event winners!