Buster Welch’s antique bits and spurs

March 6th, 2008

Buster Welch’s antique spur and bit collection, which will be sold during the A&S Auction on June 7 in Waco, TX, consists of rare pieces created by sought after early artisans. The names of the horses and riders that originally wore them are for the most part forgotten. But the collection comes with matchless authenticity – Welch used them all.

“I never thought they would be worth a lot of money,” said Welch. “I just wanted something that looked like a working cowboy had used them – not odd-looking spurs with a lot of silver and stuff.

“I’ve used every one of them, but there are three pair that I showed in the most. I showed in the J.O. Bass bit and spurs for maybe two years and won a lot of money with them. And I had another pair (of spurs) I showed in a good deal that I bought a long time ago in Arizona. They were really nice fitting and stayed down good. Scott (Franks of A&S Auctions) surmises they were made in the Arizona State Prison.”

Welch, 79, won the NCHA Futurity a record five times and is a four-time NCHA World Champion. Some of his most memorable mounts include Peppy San Badger, Mr San Peppy, Marion’s Girl, Dry Doc, and Peppymint Twist.

While antique spurs have stood the test of time for efficacy, Welch thinks that today’s bits are superior to older models. “A lot of them don’t sit right in a horse’s mouth,” he explained. “They have a tendency to pull up, instead of back.

“Our modern bits are better, except for one that I’ll not sell. It has a little grazing shank that’s no more than 2 or 2 1/2 inches long. It’s the best-stopping bit I’ve ever put in a horse’s mouth.”

Welch noted that many older bits and spurs were made of iron salvaged from the axles of Model A Fords. Before Henry Ford discovered that he could economize with lighter axles, spur and bit makers capitalized on irons horses that had been put out to pasture.

“I read where Ford went to junkyards to find out what wasn’t worn out on his cars,” Welch noted. “It was the axles and he figured he was spending too much money on them, so he cut them down.”

Welch’s collection of approximately 30 bits and spurs includes those made by J.O. Bass, the Kelly Brothers, and J.R. McChesney. He’s selling everything except two bits that he still uses every day.

“I never had any idea that they were worth what people say they are,” he admitted. “I’d been careless with them and let a pair get away here and there. I just decided I didn’t enjoy them back there in a safe, so let’s get them out where somebody can take care of them and enjoy them.”


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