Elgin welcomed yet another fine craftsman to the area when New Mexico native Kim Parkey and his wife Karen built their house and settled here in 2019. Parkey, a bit and spur maker for over thirty years, is a horseman, a roper and a metal worker whose custom bits are sought after by world famous horse trainers and competitors for their fine quality and craftsmanship.
A welder by trade, Parkey had plenty of metal experience and as a horseman, he was always looking for a more balanced, better quality bit to use when working with his own horses. Since he was “too broke” to buy a custom-made bit back then, Parkey decided to try his hand at making his own. From there, a passion was born. Through the years, he has learned what works best and how to build a bit that the horseman can use to help refine subtle methods of communication with the horse. He likes to call it ‘teaching the horse language’ through his bits with the lightest touch from the rider.
In 2009, Parkey’s wife encouraged him to take a silver engraving class in Alpine, Texas given by silversmith Johny Weyerts. As a result, Parkey’s bits, belt buckles and spurs became more attractive and appealing to customers.
In 2010 with a scholarship from TCAA (Traditional Cowboy Artists of America), Parkey attended a weeklong session that concentrated on traditional California-style bridle bits. This tradition originated in Spain, going back to the renaissance when horses were highly trained for battle. As the Conquistadors and their horses came to the New World and settled in Southern California, they brought their traditional style of horsemanship with them. The tradition spread to other western states as well, and is now a part of many competitive equine events.
The first question Parkey asks himself when working on his bits is, ‘Would I ride my horse in this bit?’ He works with a consistent pattern for the most part, though if a client needs something specific, he will accommodate him or her.
Though Parkey also makes custom spurs and belt buckles, bits are his passion and he prefers to concentrate on their construction. Each November, Parkey makes the journey to the WRCA (Working Ranch Cowboy Association) Ranch Rodeo Finals in Amarillo, Texas, where he joins hundreds of other vendors in the largest handmade western gear show in the world. There he meets with hundreds of horse enthusiasts, reconnects with other craftspeople, and receives most of his orders for the year.
Parkey’s bits are not only useful but works of art that last forever and can be handed down for generations. He even gets an occasional order from people who just want one to hang on the wall because they are so beautiful.
Handmade horse equipment is a western tradition that Parkey and many other horsemen and horsewomen appreciate and treasure. It is their hope that this tradition and art continues to be appreciated.
For more information, visit Kim Parkey Bits and Spurs on facebook, or go to his website, www.kimparkeybits.com