A ‘Bit’ of Training

A ‘BIT’ Terminology

Bit Parts

  • Purchase – This is the part of the bit that is above the mouthpiece. A shot purchase will cause quicker reactions when pulling on the reins.
  • Shank – The part of the bit that is below the mouthpiece, this gives leverage on the mouthpiece. A shorter shank will resort in less control while a longer shank proves to give more control.
  • Cheeks – This refers to the sides of the bit and includes both the purchase and shank.
  • Mouthpiece – The part of the bit that goes in the horse’s mouth.

 Types of mouthpieces

  • Snaffle – Broken in the middle and one of the most common mouthpieces.
  • Three-piece snaffle – Broken in two places, to work on different places on the bars than a regular snaffle.
  • Double twisted wire snaffle – Made up of two small snaffles which are broken off-centre from another.
  • Chain mouthpiece – This does not work on the bars as a snaffle, but on the corners of the mouth.
  • Solid mouthpiece– Any mouthpiece that is not broken
    • Bars – Is what rests on the horse’s bars (gums behind the teeth).
    • Port – This rests on the tongue. There are high, medium and low port bits, the closer the bars are together, the more severe and they are apart, the less severe the mouthpiece.
    • Mullen relief – A forward curve to the mouthpiece gives even pressure across the mouth and causes a smoother reaction from the horse.
    • Swivel mouthpiece – This mouthpiece swivels on the shank allowing independent shank action and gives the mouthpiece a different action than a solid constructed bit.
  • Curb bit – rotation in mouth-down, up on curb chain, pressure on poll.

Some more terminology

  • Curb Chain Pressure – Varies from one bit to another, it sets the timing of the bit, with a loose curb chain being slower and a tight curb chain giving faster timing.
  • Metal used in mouthpieces
  1. Copper – This metal causes a horses’ mouth to salivate which allows the mouth to stay soft and usable to the rider.
  2. Sweet iron – This is intended to rust and actually does have a sweet taste to it as rusting occurs.
  3. Stainless steel – gives a clean, neat look to any mouthpiece.
  • The ‘feel of the bit’ – not only what the horse feels when the rider pulls on the reins; but also what the rider feels.
  • Timing – the amount of time required from the point when the reins are pulled until the bit has done as much it can do.

 Levels of Training for Bits

When choosing a bit it is important to know for what purpose you are buying the bit. Below are the different levels of training with a bit.

Level-1-bit for horses, by Trailsaddles

Level 1 – these bits are designed for use with horses with little or no training; they teach a horse to follow and yield to pressure.

Level 1 Transition bit for horses, by trailsaddles

Level 1 – Transition 1 – These bits are designed to continue lateral flexation and proper head set.

Level 2 bit for horses, by trailsaddles.co.za

Level 2 – these bits are designed for use with horses with some basic training but nees to continue lateral flexion, proper head set.

Photo of a Level 2 Transition 2 bit with a white backdrop

Level 2 Transition 2 – this style is the next step up to offer more leverage and advance training

Level 3 bit photo. Made for horses.

Level 3 – this style final cheek in this series is desined for the well-broke performance horse or touch-mouthed older horses where the rider needs more control.

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Parts of a Western Saddle

An image illustrating the different parts of a saddle

Be the SQUARE and let everyone know “safety comes first”

Remember to restore worn or broken parts of your saddle to ensure your safety. Checking your saddle regularly will take but a few seconds of your time and could mean the difference between Saddling up with the Long Riders and Saddling down at the Casuals Desk.

  • Saddle check list:
  1. Rigging and adjustments: check your billet straps and girth, they receive more wear than other parts of the saddle and require much attention, for weakening of leather and hardware parts.
  2. Stirrups, stirrup leathers & buckles.
  3. Blanket or pad for sharp objects.
  4. Check your bridle parts: throat strap, curb chain or strap, cheeks, reins, bridle bits, plus all points of attachment.
  • Replace:
  1. Leather that shows signs of wear, stretch, cracking, stiffness or elongation of holes.
  2. Worn lacing, broken or rusted hardware and girth with damaged areas.
  • Wash moisture, sweat and salt from all equipment after each use and allow these to naturally dry.
  • Clean your hardware to prevent rust.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.
  • Store equipment in a dry room.

Evolution of the Western Saddle

A foto of the first McClellan western saddle. By trailsaddles.

Cordura Saddles

A Foto of a brown Cordura Saddle

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Different Saddle Trees

Saddle Trees

Size and bars

There are a number of different sizes of trees commonly found in saddles. Trees differ in the width of the gullet and bars, the pitch of the bars (Steep to Flat- usually somewhere just above or just below 90 degrees). The tree of a saddle is responsible for shaping the pommel and cantle of the saddle while the actual seat can be manipulated through padding and leather work. A horse with a flat back and widely-sprung ribs will require bars with a flatter field than a saddle made for a narrow horse, where a steeper field to the bars will keep the saddle positioned properly.


Saddle trees size Gullet Width Bars Breed it fits
Regular 5¾” and 6″ 90 degrees
Semi Quarter Horse 6½ inches 90 degrees Fits many horse breeds
Quarter Horse /Full Quarter Horse 6¾ inches, but may be up to 7 inches 90 – 94 degrees


Stock Horse

Quarter Horse

Arabian 6½” – 6¾” Shorter bars Arabian


Haflinger 7½” gullet >94 degrees Haflinger Horse
Draft 8″ gullet >94 degrees Draft Horse

Saddles trees were traditionally made from wood and rawhide with the later combination of fibreglass. One of the major disadvantages of wood trees is that different segments have to be pieced together and causes the saddle to have different stress levels which cannot always be handled in the same way. This causes failure in saddle trees which in turn causes concentrated stress levels on the horse, thus limiting its performance, causes pain and makes it uneasy.

RALDIE saddle trees, manufactured in Tennessee USA, annually sells up to 100,000 saddle trees, making it the number one saddle tree manufacturer in the world. As these trees are sold to saddle makers all over the world, it should say something as every saddle makers name hangs in the balance as the tree is the basis of a good or poor saddle.


The Ralide Tree

The term Ralide refers to both the material and the U.S. trademarked manufacturer of the material. Ralide is a synthetic, polyethylene. The trees are manufactured using a moulding process, which lowers production costs and makes Ralide trees more economical and proves to be durable, flexible, and strong.

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Saddle Accessories


A numnah is a type of saddle cloth that is the same shape as the saddle. The cloth is usually heavily padded around the edges and is very thick. It is often made of wool or a similar material and is very thick and absorbent. It makes good cushioning for a saddle. They are often used under Australian pleasure or work saddles, which are a cross between the deep seat of a Western saddle and lightness and more fitted shape of an English saddle.

MODEL: 31-7480 Tough-1 Shawnee Show Pad

Tough-1 Shawnee Show Pad. Buy a snow pad.
A double hand woven saddle blanket with a heavy fleece bottom, made of heavy blended acrylic yarn provides extra comfort for the horse.

MODEL: 31-645 Tough-1 Sierra Square Saddle Pad Matching fleece Bottom

Square Saddle Pad Matching fleece Bottom. Buy a Saddle fleece
Lined with a practical combination of hospital tested fleece, topped with an acrylic blend Sierra blanket and heavy saddle pad felt located in the middle, makes this pad unusual and attractive.

MODEL: 31-7460 Tough-1 Shoshone Saddle Pad

Tough-1 Shoshone Saddle Pad. Buy a Saddle Pad.,
This double hand woven saddle blanket with a heavy fleece bottom, is made of heavy blended acrylic yarn, which provides extra comfort for the horse.

MODEL: 73-8700 Australian Outrider Collection Fleece Pad

Australian Outrider Collection Fleece Pad. Buy a fleece pad.
A breathable, double thick, pile fleece provides an extra soft cushion for the horses back while as well as allowing protection for the saddle. The pad has a Non-slip bottom and is completely washable.


MODEL: 79-4033 Farrier Tool Kit by Farrier Craft

Farrier Tool Kit by Farrier Craft. Buy a Farrier Tool Kit.
This Farrier Hoof Kit includes a – Rasp handle, Hoof rasp, Hoof nipper, Hoof knife and a Shoe puller. It all comes in a durable nylon case that measures 21″ X 28″ / 53.34cm X 71.12cm and for easy storage folds to a mere 18″ X 7″ / 45.72cm X 17.78cm.

 Swarovski Crystal Barrel Racing Headstall

Swarovski Crystal Barrel Racing Headstall to make you both look like real rhinestone cowboys.
Swarovski, one of the most recognised names in the accessory industry, giving its wearer instant glamour and fame. Swarovski crystals have the characteristic that it reflects light in a rainbow of colours and now the beloved one that carries you on its back can shine as well. This Swarovski crystal headstall will make your best friend appear even more beautiful and make you both look like real rhinestone cowboys.

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Bou jou eie saal – Build your own saddle

Bou jou eie saal!

Die belangrikste van enige saal is die boom. Gelukkig kan jy ‘n top kwaliteit RALIDE saalboom van ons aanskaf teen ‘n baie redelike prys. Daarna kan ons jou bystaan om leer en ander items aan te skaf – ons voorsien ‘n volledige lys.

Build your own saddle!

Buy an original RALIDE saddle tree from us and get a list of supplies, including leather, you require to build your own saddle for a fraction of the cost of a purchased Western saddle and have a great deal of fun in the process.


A figure containing saddle tree dimensions.

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Australian saddles

Australian saddles are built for comfort, with deep seats that is usually strung beneath the leather, with webbing or string. The blocks underneath the pommel and on the back of the saddle flaps, help keep the rider stay secure when riding up and down sharp hills. Some Australian saddles also has a horn, but is typically thinner than a Western saddle horn.

MODEL: As 180 w Australian Outrider Collection Stockman Bush rider Horn Wide Tree

Australian Outrider Saddle. Buy a saddle.
This ride stock saddle, is designed for rugged use under extreme conditions making it perfect for trail or competitive endurance riders. The deep seat keeps the rider secure and forward in the seat, while the handsomely finished leather and durable brass plated hardware gives an added touch of elegance. Comes complete with 4″ fenders, 4 bar irons, over-girth and under-girth.


MODEL: As 181 Australian Outrider Collection Stockman Bush Rider With Horn

Australian Outrider Collection Saddle. Buy an Outrider Saddle.
This comfort ride stock saddle is designed to be used under extreme conditions making it perfect for trail and endurance riders. The deep seat keeps the rider secure and forward in the seat. This saddle comes complete with 4 fenders, 4 Bart irons, an over-girth and an under-girth.


MODEL: 73-8700 Australian Outrider Collection Fleece Pad

Australian Outrider Collection Fleece Pad. Buy a fleece pad.
A breathable, double thick, pile fleece provides an extra soft cushion for the horses back while as well as allowing protection for the saddle. The pad has a Non-slip bottom and is completely washable.

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English Saddles


An English saddle is a lightweight, hornless saddle. It features a steel cantle and pommel, a padded leather seat and full side flaps, usually set forward. Most English saddle designs are specifically developed to allow the horse freedom of movement when jumping, running or moving quickly across rugged and broken country side. Webbing, leather and padding materials are based over a solid tree to make an English saddle.

Fittings not included with the purchase of these English saddles.


MODEL: Es 130 Silver Fox All Purpose English Saddle

Silver Fox All Purpose English Saddle. Buy an English Saddle.
A popular forward seat saddle featuring: a deep seat, round cantle, knee roll and a suede padded flap. Fittings are not included.


 MODEL: Es660r Equiroyal Pro All Purpose Saddle

Equiroyal Pro All Purpose Saddle. Buy an All Purpose Saddle
The popular Pro Am is made on a traditional, all purpose flexible saddle tree. This means a more comfortable seat, an improved fit and added security. The deep foam seat makes this an ultimately comfortable saddle.


MODEL: Es640r Equiroyal Newport All Purpose Saddle

Equiroyal Newport All Purpose Saddle. Buy an All Purpose Saddle
An attractive well balanced saddle built on a flexible tree with a cutback head, allowing extra clearance over the wither, making it particularly suitable to fit high withered horses with. The deep seat offers extra rider security and the soft foam seat cushion, makes this easy to clean saddle comfortable.


Saddles 5843 Hunt Seat Saddle

Front and top perspective of an English hunt seat saddle.English Hunt Seat Saddle. By Trailsaddles.co.za


English All Purpose Saddle

Close-up Photo of an English All Purpose Saddle on a wooden stand.Photo of an English All Purpose Saddle from the side.


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Types of Western Saddles

Saddles in the Western Riding World


Just like there are different grass types in this world, like Bermuda (the rugged and tough), Kikuyu (the fast winner), Gulf Green (the one that’s deep and daring) and Shade Green (the mysterious), there are different type of western saddles.

When buying a saddle the purpose of that saddle should always be kept in mind and when determining the price you are willing to pay, you should always consider the duration that you would like the saddle to last. Following is just a short description of some of the basic saddles available in the western riding world.


The Barrel Saddle

The purpose of barrel racing is to make the barrel run as fast as possible. A barrel run has sharp turns and builds in speed and thus the perfect saddle is needed to secure the winning time and your safety. A barrel saddle is designed to maximise speed and move ability while at the same time offers a secure, comfortable and lightweight seat. Barrel saddles have a flatter, deeper seat to keep the rider down in the saddle during the hard turns and a relatively high cantle for a more secure ride. The saddle trees are light weight with the entire saddle weighing no more than 13,5kg. The skirt of your typical barrel saddle will be shorter and a choice of a round or square skirt is given: A round skirt will interfere less near the flank of the horse and would make a good choice but the square skirt proves to be more stable. Stirrups are narrower (this makes it easier to keep your boot in) and forward strung to keep feet in the proper position. These saddles have a thinner, taller horn which is easier for the rider to hold onto while manoeuvring through turns and reins used in barrel racing are fully intact to allow the rider to quickly recover the reins if dropped.


The Cutting Saddle

Cutting is a western riding style where the ability to separate a single animal from the herd and keeping it away for a period of time is measured. A cutting horse needs to be athletic and willing with an innate “cow sense” and ability to respond quickly and turn sharply. For this type of riding a cutting saddle is required. A saddle pad is used, splint boots and skid boots and off coarse chaps. A cutting saddle is not built with the same deep seat as your barrel saddle and lets the rider be more centred over the horse’s back. The swells and horn are in a higher position allowing the rider to grab the horn to steady himself or push on it for more pressure to remain stable in the saddle.


The Pleasure / Trail Saddle

This saddle is designed for maximum comfort for horse and rider. The saddle is of a lighter weight (+/-13kg) so rider can easily lift the saddle. These saddles are ornate and stirrups are set for proper leg position. The seat does not have to be as deep and is more angled with a shorter horn and fork. A square skirt is preferred if saddle bags are carried and a deeper stirrup for more comfortable riding is incorporated.


The Reining Saddle

Reining is an event where a rider guides a horse through a pattern of circles, spins and stops. All work is done on a canter and gallop and requires the horse to be agile and quick with excellent coordination and very responsive to the rider’s commands. Reining requires a western saddle and a bridle without a noseband. A reining saddle has a low horn to prevent interference with the rider’s hands or the reins. The seat is shaped to allow the rider to row their seat back for big stops. The reining saddle is also built to give the rider an ultimate feel between the horse and rider. This saddle is of light weight (13.5-15.7kg) and has a higher cantle than the cutting saddle. Curb bits are required in most reining competitions. Riding attire includes a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and chaps and cowboy boots.


Roping saddle

Roping saddles are typically heavier saddles with a rounded fork. The horn on these saddles are taller and thicker and has a horn wrap for dallying. The roping saddle usually has a suede seat to increase grip and has a lower cantle for easier dismounting. Stirrups are deeper and wider and are hung close to the front to allow better bracing. Fenders are designed so the rider can lift up to get ready for the rope. The swells of the saddle are generally low to keep the leverage rope on the horn to a minimum. A roping saddle is intended to provide riders with the maximum amount of freedom and mobility while offering a certain amount of durability and ruggedness.

The All-Purpose Saddle

This is the type of saddle that is designed to serve a number of functions and disciplines. It has enough support and a deep enough seat to be used for roping, penning and even training. This saddle will have a lower swell than a cutting saddle but higher than a roping saddle.


Below are some general characteristics of some of the different saddles in western riding:

Western saddle table of information. By Trailsaddles

Trailsaddles.co.za specializes in Trail and All-Purpose saddles. As everybody does not have the resources to buy a new and different saddle for each sport an All-Purpose saddle or Trail saddle is the wise and economical choice. Please brows our website to see whether your perfect saddle is among our stock and if you are in the Pretoria area please come and visit our showroom at 216 Propshaft Road, Samcor Park.

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Stock & Trail Saddles

Pic 1

American Made Western Saddles:
Stock & Trail offers a range of affordable stock and trail saddles selected to fit smaller frame South African working horses as well as larger Quarter horse- type frames. Due to large volume of grain silo equipment imported from the USA, we are able to offer lower prices than most other suppliers as a result of lower import costs.
We are also able to order special saddles ex the USA on request. If you need fast delivery, prices would be higher than if you are prepared to wait a month or two to allow consolidated shipping.

The following saddles are stocked on a normal basis:

“Trailsaddles” brings you a range of affordable original American western saddles of good quality (made in America) and bridges the gap between exclusive high priced western saddles and low quality Far Eastern and other imitations. Our large and regular import traffic from the US for other agricultural equipment sold within the group of companies allow us to save dramatically on the cost of imports and we pass this saving direct on to you. Special orders are always possible whereby the saddle of your dreams can be ordered from our large catalogue range of saddles.

“Trailsaddles” are aimed at the recreational trail rider and the daily range rider with the goal to supply a comfortable, attractive and safe saddle for both horse and rider. A combination of leather, suede leather and ultra strong genuine cordura fabric (used in US military webbing and other applications), built on Ralide and other high quality saddle trees, ensures long and comfortable riding life.

As recreational trail riders also include middle aged and larger persons, (in general South African men  are fairly tall and heavy) at “Trailsaddles” we ensure we have inventory of 16” to 18” saddles to cater for this group as well as smaller 13” to 15” saddles for youth and women.

Gullets widths of 6”to 7” are standard to cater for our smaller Boer-type 14 – 15 hand horses while wide 7+” gullets can be ordered.

A South African made cattleman saddle, built on genuine imported American Ralide saddle trees shall soon be launched, avoiding the high customs duty payable on fully imported saddles. You can also build your own saddle with a genuine Ralide tree available at “Trailsaddles”.

A showroom is conveniently located in a low traffic density area on the outskirts of Pretoria, off the N4 and near the N1 freeways where you can browse to find the saddle of your choice. Even our showroom, hosted within one of our group factory buildings does not attract overheads, so we are able to pass these saving on to you, again.


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History Of Stetson

Stetson, a global and timeless brand…
Stetson’s story is one where heart and drive was born in the wilderness and sought shelter in a man’s soul. It is a story of how this soul thrived on the drive that was within it and swelled with the heart it carried…It is also a story of how lucky the world is that John B. Stetson had rotten luck when it came to gold.
The tale begins in the year 1830 when the legend John B. Stetson was born. Stetson came from a line of hat makers (it is said that he’s father made hats for George Washington). Yes, providence was smiling upon him from a young age, but young John B. Stetson took a while to warm up to it.
In 1860, in collaboration with the harsh elements of the land, John B. (30 years old) joined so many and tried his luck at gold mining on the plains. John B. worked in the sunshine and the rain, he worked tirelessly to find his fortune but soon enough, the hard elements started to get to him. Soon he found that he he did not like blisters on his neck and rain in his eyes and so John B. dug into his father’s teachings and made himself a felt hat off the land. This hat became the original “Boss of the Plains”. It is the hat that would become the cornerstone of Stetson and his company and is in production till this day.
Now, John, liking all the characteristics of gold: the timelessness, the beauty, the scarcity but most of all the feeling of weight it gives to your pocket (and not having any luck in finding some for himself), decided to make his own gold, by making hats.
Stetson started his first hat manufacturing company in Philadelphia in 1865 and by the beginning of the twentieth century Stetson owned the world’s largest hat factory. In that time notable people wore Stetsons, one of which was Colonel William F. Cody “Buffalo Bill”, Calamity Jane (heroine of the plains) and Annie Oakley the first American female superstar (her most amazing trick being able to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on, and put numerous additional holes in it before it could touch the ground, at 27.43 meters).
Senators and Presidents got personalized Stetsons (a tradition that is alive till this day) and Tom Mix, Hollywood’s first Cowboy became Stetson’s self-appointed ambassador by carrying a dozen Stetsons around when travelling internationally and giving them the officials and dignitaries.
Stetson kept on growing and growing and in 1930 production grew too big for Philadelphia. So the international career began. Then, in 1932 Stetson blessed the ladies of the world by opening a new line of women’s hats. Pill box hats, Cheviot berets, Tricornes styles and cloches made the women of the world smile and Stetson men smiled back.
In 1943, when World War II was at its peak, Stetson stepped up and took on government defence contracts to support war efforts. Stetson factories started producing parachutes, heavyweight webbing for parachutes and safety belts and had the perfect ad campaign to support their country, promote cautious behaviour during the war, discourage espionage and show military support “Keep it under your Stetson” and “Let’s bring him home quicker!”
When the war was over it was the perception that a hat was needed to get ahead in life, and a Stetson was the hat to get ahead in. Hollywood was not behind with this headwear boom and familiar figures like Gene Autry, James Dean, John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were some of the most visible and big Stetson wearers. Stetson advertisements were published which featured notable actors like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Ray Milland, Robert Young, George Montgomery in Life Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, Harpers Bazaar, Time, Look, and Men’s Reporter. This was also the time when Stetson created their most successful line of ladies hats in collaboration with Dorothy Lamour, Carole Landis and Susan Hayward.
1955 was a year for the books, when the most expensive Western hat was created. This hat was a master piece which took forty-three workers a year to assemble. At that time, 1955, the hat was worth $1,500. It was made of beaver felt, trimmed with a sterling silver band in the shape of a double rope strand and a solid gold longhorn steer head was added for ornamentation. This hat toured through Australia, Columbia, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand and Japan, stunning each country with its glory.
Stetson, having survived the great depression as well as two World Wars (not only surviving but thriving) still had its most difficult challenge to come. 1961 signalled the end of the “headwear era” and the beginning of “optional hat wearing”. This was a sad time, and the world has still not totally recovered from the tragic event, when the newly elected President John F. Kennedy took the oath of office and spoke to the nation hatless. Hat enthusiasts and lovers of the craft defined this as the exact moment the hat became an optional accessory, in contradiction to it being a requirement for proper dress earlier. Many hatters went bankrupt after this and only the very strong remained.
The 1980’s signalled a new era for the Stetson brand. The company started working with licensing partners and added fragrance, eyeglasses and luggage to its product mix.
Hit movies like ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and ‘Urban Cowboy’ fuelled a spike in hat sales and it seemed like everybody wanted, no needed, an Indiana Jones fedora or slick cowboy hat in their life.
In 2005, Stetson expanded even more and launched men’s and women’s apparel and foot wear.
Now in 2012, Stetson is still on top of the headwear chain. An exclusive brand, classified as expensive to the ‘non hat lover’ classified cheap to the ‘hat enthusiast’ and bringing a tear of joy to the brave Cowboy. Stetson is a brand that has been old and wise beyond its years since the beginning and now in its prime is getting only more attractive. Stetson is the brand that connects the world. It is a link between the lone Cowboy singing to his cattle and the President leading a nation. It connects the humble schoolgirl waiting to grow up to the Hollywood lights and Texas’ cool summer nights. Yes Stetson is a brand that truly overcomes worldly differences. And from the first week in May, Stetson will connect the Free State ‘boertjie’ with Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley, it will connect the Kwazulu Natal farmer with Tom Mix and Indiana Jones and most importantly, it will connect the land at the bottom of Africa with the man who started it all, John B. Stetson.

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