Tom Balding has always been drawn to working with metal.
Since he was a teenager growing up in the foothills of Southern California and experimenting with this father’s acetylene cutting torch, Tom has made his living working with metal.
First it was building custom hot rod parts. Then it was aluminum backpack frames, which led Tom to open his own welding and fabrication shop at the age of 23. Mainly specializing in certified aircraft welding and Hobie Cat sail boat hardware parts.
In the early 1980s, southern California began wearing on Tom. He had an epiphany of sorts when a rode a neighbor’s horse that immediately bucked him into the dirt. The event crystallized his need for change. After exploring the west, he settled down outside Buffalo, Wyoming and, for a spell, set down his welding tools. Instead he worked as a ranch hand, did a stint as a traveling salesman, and built his own house. He also purchased, and broke his first horse.
In 1984, a woman asked him to repair a broken bit. The task took only a few minutes but acted as a revelation for Tom: from that moment on, he would build bits and spurs.
Success did not arrive overnight. His fabrication shop – an aging mobile home – did not protect him from Wyoming winters. Eventually, in 1998, a multiple winner of American Quarter Horse Association World Championships, started using Tom’s bits. Word got around the western horse circuit that Tom’s bits were the best that money could buy. Tom sold the house he had built and used the money to buy land in Sheridan, Wyoming where he built a shop and began hiring employees.
Tom makes all his bits and spurs from scratch. His business has expanded, but by treating his small staff like family, and instilling in them the same respect for high quality, he is able to maintain the standards he founded the business on. In addition to his standard line of bits and spurs (which includes all disciplines of riding), he does custom work for professional horsemen and women around the world. Feedback from clients is essential. Because a part of Tom is still that curious kid fascinated by innovation, pushing metal to its limits, and perfecting his product.