"Riding Since 1945"
The Bit & Spur Riding Club was started in 1945 by then Tooele County Sheriff, Alma “Bish” White, Judge Earl Marshall, and Bill Warren, all prominent residents of Tooele. They wanted to create a club that provided fun entertainment and competition for the residents of Tooele County. These pioneers would be proud today to know their plan established a solid foundation which has survived 70 years! With the same objectives and hard work put forth by its dedicated members, the Club and its mission continues to grow, sustaining Tooele’s western heritage and culture, ensuring the western lifestyle will continue for future generations.
Up until the mid-1960’s, the Club was “The” social guild of Tooele. Membership included many prominent citizens; doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, mayors, as well as teachers, farmers, business owners, and many others whether they rode horses or not. For 70 years, the Bit n’ Spur continues to be recognized and respected throughout the Tooele County area and beyond through its involvement with area businesses, community programs and events, municipal and county government entities. Currently, the club has over 120 members.
A variety of events during the early days of the Bit & Spur Riding Club set the stage to continue to offer many and different activities to meet the needs of our equine community. The events and activities are not limited to just equine related but are very much community oriented. In 1956, the Bit & Spur started the Pony Express Relay Races. The first race ran from the Silver Sage Inn in Vernon to Tooele. A few years later the race was extended from Eureka to the rodeo grounds in Tooele, a distance of 50 miles. Bish White led a group of 38 riders on a 100-mile trail ride from Tooele to Vernon, through Dugway and Clover Creek Canyon down into Rush Valley and back to Tooele. A chuck wagon dinner served in Rush Valley during the trip drew 250 people, according to Bish White’s daughter-in-law, Ida White. In keeping with this tradition, the Bit & Spur Club continues to offer a variety of events and activities every year for its members but also benefiting and involving the communities of Tooele County as listed below:
It was 1945 when the Bit & Spur Riding Club produced the first 4th of July Rodeo and has produced this rodeo every year since. The rodeo has grown from a small town rodeo to “The Highlight of Tooele County’s Independence Day Celebration” with over 450 Contestants and 8,000 spectators. The Rodeo Committee has achieved its goal to make Tooele a destination point for visitors to come to the rodeo to celebrate our nation’s birthday and pay homage to our military. The first Rodeo grounds was built by club members in Settlement Canyon in an area called “Legion Park”. Members then purchased and built the Tooele Bit n’ Spur Rodeo Grounds, located in Tooele City which is still maintained and managed by the Club. It wasn’t until 1999 that the Club moved the Rodeo to the newly constructed Deseret Peak Complex, which elevated this 2-day event to become Tooele’s oldest and largest rodeo!
The Bit & Spur Riding club became involved with Tooele City’s 4th of July parade in 1946. Tasked with the selection of the Parade’s Grand Marshal, selecting the theme and assisting with the parade line up continues today. The Grand Marshall has always lead the parade in a two-horse drawn wagon followed by the Bit & Spur Junior Riders and includes several adult riders.
The Bit & Spur Riding Club was the first Utah riding club to allow women and youth to become members and continues to be a family oriented organization. For the past several years, the number of youth who participate in equine activities has increased every year. In 2015, the Bit & Spur Junior Riding Program was the largest on record, with 65 riders, ranging in age from 6 to 15 years old. The young riders begin riding practice the first of April and conclude in June with a District horse show competition comprised of other clubs. Our Junior Riding Program supports the belief that horsemanship promotes and develops not only an appreciation of horses and riding, but in a broader sense, dedication, leadership, commitment, and sportsmanship.
Team Penning in Tooele started in the early 1990’s and in 1997, the Bit & Spur was asked to take over the event, changing the regime to a “non-competitive” event which has drawn beginners and experts alike, from inside and outside the county, for almost 20 years. Team penning begins in June and is held twice weekly until the first of October. For the past 2 years, the Bit & Spur Club received an invitation from the Tooele County Fair Board to produce a competitive Team Penning event as part of the western entertainment during the Tooele County Fair.
The adult members have the option to compete in a variety of events during the Bit & Spur Club Adult Show, including the USWRCA District, Region and State shows, held throughout the State of Utah, competing with over 900 USWRCA members. Several times during the year both day and overnight trail rides are planned and scheduled for our members and their families, keeping in with the traditions of our founding members. Member who don’t ride also participate and many bring along musical instruments to play and sing around the campfire.
From the beginning, the Bit n’ Spur Riding Club was self-sufficient and basically remains the same today; members of the Bit n’ Spur are the primary care-takers of the Tooele Bit & Spur Rodeo Grounds and the Clubhouse, coordinating with Tooele City for support. Much effort is put into the yearly maintenance as well as planning, budgeting and implementing improvements. Recently the Club worked with a company to build and erect two entrance gates leading into the rodeo grounds, officially giving recognition to these historical rodeo grounds. In 2015 new LED lights replaced the antiquated high wattage arena lights. Having a nice facility encourages individuals and other organization to come to Tooele to ride. 4-H Equine Clubs, horse training clinicians, team roping event organizers as well as the Bit n’ Spur Club utilize the rodeo grounds for events. The club is soliciting other youth and rodeo organizations, such as the Little Britches Rodeo and the Little Buckaroo Rodeo associations to hold their region events at the Bit n’ Spur Rodeo grounds.
In 1952, Club members built the Bit & Spur Clubhouse which became a gathering place for many social functions including monthly dinner dances and weekly trail rides. Today, the Clubhouse continues to be used for meetings, awards programs, parties, and bi-weekly dances. From the rodeo proceeds, several major renovations were made possible, preserving the clubhouse for use by future members and also ensuring the building’s interior and exterior’s appearance is attractive and conducive to the surroundings.
Proceeds from the Rodeo and the summer Team Penning series have afforded the Bit n’ Spur Club to make generous donations to the Transcript Bulletin Christmas Fund, Tooele County’s Aging Services and the Tooele Food Bank. In keeping with the mission to give back to the community, the Bit n’ Spur also contributes to Tooele County communities such as sponsoring High School and Junior High School Rodeo, a local 4-H Horse Program, Tooele County’s Lil Buckaroo program, and the Rush Valley Riders Rodeo. In 2009, the Bit n’ Spur was contacted by an individual asking for our members to coordinate and manage the building of a roping arena; the “wish made by a terminally ill 12 year old boy who resided in South Jordan, Utah. Club members ordered materials, arranged equipment, and erected the entire arena, fulfilling this Make-A-Wish project. The Bit n’ Spur Club includes fund raising opportunities to FFA students and 4-H Horse Clubs in the form of providing concessions during hosted youth and adult competitions.
The Bit n’ Spur Riding Club has provided a service to the community for 70 years, thanks to its members, past and present, through their dedication and desire to preserve our western heritage.