The Whole Package: Tristan Mahoney
Arizonan bit and spur maker Tristan Mahoney offers a whole lot more than mouth hardware to his clients.

When Tristan Mahoney entered the real-life, working world, he was in real estate, but it didn’t take him long to realize it wasn’t for him. So, five or six years ago he turned to his longtime friend, Tucson craftsman Gordy Alderson, for some advice.

“Gordy Alderson has been my friend since I was just a little kid,” Mahoney said, “and I always tinkered with stuff a little bit, and I said to Gordy, ‘Hey, what do you think about me making some of these bits?’”

With Gordy’s blessing, Mahoney got to work, building what he could when he wasn’t taking care of his real estate responsibilities.

[Related: Team Ropers Favorite Spurs]

“Gordy really helped me at the beginning. He told me everything I needed to do and where to get parts, so I just started out part time for probably two years where I was still selling real estate and just messing around and making stuff. I wasn’t charging very much in the beginning because it was pretty crude.”

Not the case these days. As a tie-down roper on the rodeo circuit—Mahoney was the 2018 Reserve Champion in the GCPRA, for which he also serves as the Tie Down Board Director—the business grew organically and allowed him to commit to his shop full time for the past four years.

[Related: Bit Logic]

As his skill improved, Mahoney honed in on building a product that reflected his own values as a horseman.

“I take outside horses and I train and sell my own,” Mahoney explained. “And my wife, Kayse, is the rodeo assistant coach at the College of Arizona and does a lot of lessons and stuff, too, which is good for me as far as meeting a lot of clientele and selling bits and horses.”

So, between Mahoney and Kayse, the Breakaway Board Director for the GCPRA and their 2018 Year-End Breakaway Champion, they know a thing or two about horses and the gear they require.

“I’m more worried about the functionality of the bit,” Mahoney said. “My deal is, I want stuff to really feel good and to get what it’s supposed to do out of the bit. I never sell it ironclad, like, ‘This is going to fix your problem for sure,’ [because] it depends on the rider, it depends on the horse. But I definitely give them my best recommendation. I feel confident saying what this bit is designed to do and I think it will fix your problem.”

[Related: Trevor Brazile’s Explanation on How Bits Fit the Team Roping Head Horse Program]

It’s an approach that seems to work well for Mahoney’s team roping clientele, too, who comprise his majority market share.

“Team ropers like more bit, as a general rule. They say, ‘I’ve got one that’s suckin; I’ve got one that’s strong; I’ve got one that’s not scoring—what can you do?’”

Mahoney estimates about half his customers know what they want, and the other half are looking for expert advice. For this, Mahoney blends his knowledge of bit mechanics with his years of horse training experience.

“I think it’s a mix of getting control of their horses and providing a nice feel because, if you use something too harsh, you’ll lose all your feel.” 

(480) 459-1411,

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