MIKE VATALARO, WHIT OLSON & SARA HAGEL
This Las Cruces spade bit features an inlaid sterling cross framed by decorative file work. The non-traditional spade mouthpiece measures 5 1/8-inches in width and 4 inches in height, with two copper crosses inlaid in the surface, and a brass roller. The reins were made by Whit Olson and are 12-plait with a 16-plait romal. The headstall was made by Sarah Hagel, and the silver on the headstall was made by Mike Vatalaro. There is a rawhide braided underbridle made by Whit Olson and horsehair mecate made by Sarah Douglas Hagel that can be added to this working set.
MIKE VATALARO, Bitmaker, Hopland, California
Mike Vatalaro started ranch work at age 15 in California, then moved to Wyoming in the early 80s to go to college. He worked ranches in Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Nevada, and after an injury he attended the Elmer Miller School of Bit and Spur Making in the early 90s. In 2001 Mike opened Tap’s Bit & Spur Shop. He says, “The Californio and vaquero ways have always drawn me, and I reflect that in my work.”
WHIT OLSON, Rawhide Braider, Alexandria, Virginia
Whit Olson’s experience working with horses gives him a unique perspective on making quality tack that is comfortable to both horse and rider. He studied braiding under professional braider Hial Steele.
SARAH DOUGLAS HAGEL, Horsehair Twister & Leatherworker, Dayton, Wyoming
Sarah Douglas Hagel began making mane hair mecates at age 13 under the guidance of her father, and soon became known for her innovative use of natural colors and patterns. She and her husband Lee run Hagel’s Cowboy Gear.
Photos by Adam Jahiel