Friday, March 31, 2017

experimenting: bit edition

In a lot of ways, it feels like Brita and I swapped horses in our new equestrian partners.

Brita's former lease horse, Wick, was a stakes winning war horse who came to her with very little training post-track. He was very good natured, but uneducated to the point of actually seeming dull, especially with respect to contact.

Meanwhile, my former lease horse, Isabel, had solid training in the most fundamental of ways, but was unfinished with very limited mileage. She was sensitive and hot to the touch, but loaded with talent, athleticism and oomph, if you could just figure out how to channel it.

oomph, charlie. give me your OOMPH.
So now Brita has Bella, and I have Charlie. And the cycle continues. In many ways tho, we've been able to reassure each other through each of our respective new mounts' phases. (Who remembers Wick learning how to jump?!? Brita has been quick to reassure and remind me as Charlie learns now haha)

Most recently, we discussed Charlie's dressage test on the way home from Loch Moy. I expressed how working on submission and acceptance of the contact would be Charlie's next big hurdle. We've made significant progress already - he's not nearly as heavy on my hands as he started. There's a much steadier softness.

But.... He's still very much *on* my hands, rather than *in* my hands, if that makes sense. And let's be real - he's a racehorse. As far as he knows, he's supposed to lean in on the bit.

myler something or other
Brita therefore encouraged me to try a bit she used with Wick during the early days. Not a permanent solution, but rather a tool for breaking through that barrier, breaking through the cycle of leaning and pulling, to change the conversation so Wick started actually thinking more deeply about what, exactly, was in his mouth, and why.

at least the cheek pieces make us fit in a little better in hunterlandia, even if the beaded browband is a dead giveaway that we're impostors haha
Personally I tend to be resistant to this type of experimentation, and border on change-averse unless the idea comes directly from the mouth of one of my chosen, paid trainers. I've stuck with the same tried-n-true Sprenger KK snaffles for years now. Charlie actually goes in exactly the same bit as Isabel on his jump bridle, tho I replaced his dressage bit with a big fat heavy silver eggbutt snaffle at the recommendation of a favorite clinician.

But I opted to give it a try anyway. Shits and giggles and such. And I don't call Brita my life coach for nothin!

"no pictures. just feelings. so many feelings."
So I figured I'd write a little rundown of what this bit did that was different in our first ride:
  • The bit took Charlie entirely off my hands. No leaning at all.
  • Charlie put his head down, tho sometimes this involved curling behind the bit.
  • His trot was quite good. Not the best it's ever been, but quiiiite good.
  • Canter was GREAT. 
  • Transitions were spot on. Up and down, walk trot canter, lovely lovely lovely. We practiced the 20m circle of transitioning up into, then back down out of canter from Intro C (something I've long felt would be a challenge for Charlie) and he was excellent.
  • Steering was a little worse, esp that damn right turn. 
  • Gate sourness was amplified, increasingly so as the ride wore on.
  • The horse was a bit stuck behind my leg.
  • Charlie was stressed the fuck out. 
  • I did not feel like I could push him up into the bit at all, lest I risk an explosion (and not a dinosaur-stuck-in-tar-pit tantrum, but an actual honest to god "HELP I'M TRAPPED" explosion).
  • Similarly, I was not able to 'push the contact forward' - he was very much behind my hand, not at all "in the bridle."

relieved it's over
Honestly? It was fascinating.

I tried very hard to be tactful and thoughtful with how I asked him to handle the bit. Tried to be simultaneously very steady but sympathetic and forgiving with my hands. Not the easiest thing for me, but I tried.

Mostly I wanted to give the horse time to sort it out and process what was going on, including through walk breaks and occasional application of peppermints to get him licking and chewing on the bit.

From the perspective of getting Charlie to recognize the bit as an actual piece of equipment that is intended to improve our communication? I'm intrigued to see what difference this bit could make. However, with Charlie in particular, I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of spending any serious time schooling when he's behind my leg like that, especially if I can't push him forward into the bit. That is a recipe for disaster with this horse (actually, maybe most horses?).

so handsome tho <3
It also felt like we were rapidly reaching his maximum brain capacity. For a quiet horse, he really is very sensitive and can become tense or overwhelmed by pressure (it just happens to be quite easy to miss if you're not paying attention). He gave me a very good, obedient ride, but I still cut it short bc I could feel the quarter running out.

So my very tentative plan is to switch immediately back to the snaffle for the next few rides. Paying close attention to whether I can access some of the 'give' he had with the myler. And then potentially trying the myler again for another one-off ride.

The idea is: Charlie showed improvements in some areas while actively wearing this bit. I will want to test to see if those improvements hold when we switch back to our normal bit. If that's the case, then we may choose to intermittently school with this bit to continue developing those improvements. However if there is no difference shown without using this bit, or, god forbid, if things get worse, then we'll ditch it altogether.

We'll see, I guess. It was honestly an incredible difference, esp compared to the difference Charlie showed in switching into the fat eggbutt (read: no difference shown). It definitely makes me feel more thoughtful about some of the stronger bits out there, and the importance of bitting with care for each individual horse's needs.

Of course I know a TON of you have had to experiment with bits, whether from picky horses or for training reasons. Have you had any extreme experiences with bit experimentation? Or any lessons learned? Or are you similarly change-averse like me, sticking with your one or two favorites no matter the horse?

54 comments:

  1. I am not a big experimenter with bits to be honest. I have this idea that racehorses are trained to lean on the bit for balance so that might be part of the issue. I would really worry about teaching him to curl.

    Irish was/is a big time leaner on the bit. I had some luck with a Stubben control snaffle bit but I had borrowed it and it was expensive and he was pretty much retired so I didn't go buy it. What i do now when I ride him is to make sure that one rein is looser so he cannot lean. My half halts are usually with my seat and outside rein not inside as he will just let me carry his head around.

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    1. the curling doesn't really bother me, maybe bc my last arab mare was a big curler and i kinda just learned to deal with it. stuck behind my leg tho is absolutely not acceptable for this horse. for any horse, really (that was part of my downfall with isabel) but especially not for charlie.

      but you're correct in thinking about that the leaning stems from his race training. he's gonna have to build strength and education to the aids before my seat can get him up off my hands, but it IS happening slowly but surely!

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    2. I'm not sure if racehorses are supposed to lean on the bit for balance but it's very much make your reins short, plant your fists on the neck and then they lean the poop out of you.

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    3. lol so THAT'S why my arms feel 2inches longer after a ride ;) haha....

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  2. Bobby says you can take your bit changes and stuff them. I've tried quite a few times to switch to something that theoretically should work well for him and he's adamant he can only horse in the thinnest of single joints. I love seeing what everybody else goes in and why though!

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    1. oh bobby. why am i not surprised? tho honestly i'm kinda like bobby myself - i like what i like, and that's usually that!

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    2. Pig is kinda like that, too. Unsurprising as he and Bobby are apparently sensitive soul sisters. HA!

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  3. With my first OTTB, I did a TON of experimenting with bits. And ended up with quite a collection of snaffles! As I got more into dressage, my experimenting kind of narrowed down into various french link snaffles -- obviously you can have d-ring, loose rings, eggbutts, etc, and then also experimenting with different size or shape links in the middle.

    Ruby went for ages in a fairly simple eggbutt loose ring, but I ended up trying out a NS Verbindend (idle curiosity) and she did seem to like it better.

    Cinna has been a bit of a head scratcher. Initially she did a lot of chomping on various bits, and I chalked that up to being a baby (still could be that, who knows). But the week before the show I went nuts and switched out all my bits and she now goes incredibly well (and by incredibly well I only mean that she's not actively trying to destroy the bit in her mouth in an angry fashion) in a NS baucher.

    Thank you horses, for liking the $$$$$ bits instead of the $ bits. Much appreciated..... haha. But by the same token, Topaz went just as well in a $20 snaffle as she did in an identically shaped HS snaffle.

    I like to experiment :)

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    1. omg right, it's almost like we shouldn't even try them in an expensive bit bc they're guaranteed to somehow love it so much more than anything else and then suddenly we're faced with a fat price tag! luckily my $$$ of choice (the sprenger KKs) can be found relatively easily (tho not usually for $20, alas) on ebay.

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  4. OMG I had this LONG LONG ass response and it got eaten. I guess your blog was telling me to shut up and stop being so wordy!

    ARGHH anyway i swap bits back and forth i love the Boucher for jumping and loose ring french link for dressage. However, I have a Quarter horse leaning on me so heavy my shoulders are on fire at times LOL Not an OTTB. But i think swapping bits around always helps and you are so in-tune to Charlie no harm no foul. Fingers crossed this post posts.

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    1. awwww, boo blogger! i hate it when that happens!!

      anyway tho thanks - i don't think there's much harm in experimentation if we're thoughtful about it.

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  5. Oy vey, bits just stress me out! I just hate the idea of anything in there that will hurt, but of course they all can in the wrong hands. Good for you for being so aware and being able to truly read Charlie's reactions and being so thoughtful about it all! Good luck progressing through this next new challenge.

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    1. thanks! luckily we don't really have any immediate need to fix this issue *rightnow* - mostly brita just offered to loan me the bit so i figured, what the hell, why not? but none of my trainers are concerned with where he is in his training, and none feel like we have to rush through by switching things up or trying out gadgets or whatever. just keep doing what we're doing, bc it's slowly working. i'm curious tho whether this bit would actually help in his understanding of the process. only time will tell!

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  6. I tend to be a lover of a very select few bits (nathe, KK, dr bristol full cheek are my 3 favorites) but on a horse like this I've had a lot of luck with a 2 ring elevator with two reins. Used very sparingly, of course. I really don't like putting a harsher mouthpiece in, hence why my harshest bit is a Dr Bristol, but I like playing around with how the bit works on the mouth and face. A little bit of leverage can sometimes change everything. But I also believe it MUST be done with a second rein, so that the horse can be given relief from the leverage when you get the desired result. I get all kinds of riled about a leverage bit with one rein. Of course, something as simple as changing to a full cheek (with keepers, please God) could be enough of a difference to get the result you're looking for, too.

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    1. totally agreed on the 'two reins for a leverage bit' thing. it just strikes me as lazy when ppl dont... i've thought about an elevator bit too, esp bc i occasionally wonder if i'm going to need to bit up for xc with charlie in a way that i did not for isabel. only time will tell - he's learning his brakes quite well right now with all the transitions within trot and trot walk trot that we're practicing, so there's hope yet. eventually i'll need to be able to get him to a place where he doesn't just resort to pulling against me constantly, bc i will not be able to win that war haha. there's plenty of time tho!

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  7. One of my favorite quotes, which incidentally came from a Wyatt approved movie, is: Triumph starts with TRY and ends with a great big OOMPH! Your first picture caption made me think of that :)

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  8. I'm a big fan of "it it ain't broke, don't fix it." I switched bits for Miles when I first got him, and then last year when I needed more over fences... and that's it.

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    1. yea definitely agreed! charlie's not there yet, per se, bc he.... just isn't trained lol. but he's demonstrating steady progress and that's what matters, so i'm not super inclined to go around changing everything up bc it doesn't feel like 'fast enough' progress

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  9. I wasn't a big bit person until I started jumping App, and then I got even more with Mia in trying to find something she liked. I started to list them out and decided that was too long of a list LOL! I stick to one bit per horse, myself, but like other bits "just in case". It really is fascinating to see how much a bit can change their way of going.

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    1. i was honestly amazed at the difference. it was crazy. isabel went in basically the same bit for jumping and dressage (i just had two of them, tho they did admittedly have very slight differences) and i always felt pretty spoiled with that. it would be nice if charlie turns out the same way!

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  10. I don't think curling is the end of the world, especially since this is the first ride with a different bit and he is bound to experiment with wrong answers before he finds the right one (plus it's exactly opposite of what he wanted to do before). What bothers me more is the 'behind the leg tantrum building' feeling. While some tantrums need to happen, this probably doesn't have to be one of them. I did a little experimenting with Penn (try the double for shits and giggles, he wore a weymouth when he was being a little shit and then a pelham to cement the point). Eventually he backed off the bit, and completely backed off the double and didn't understand how to move in it (so I dropped the weymouth after having it in for 10 min, no harm). The pelham was still effective for getting him to stop being a little shit (threatening to rear with a lot of the same issues Charlie is having with contact- except Penn knows better). I like $900 Facebook Pony's suggestion of an elevator with two reins- you can help yourself out and then only use the snaffle when his mind is ready to explode.

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    1. yea totally agreed on both the curling front (been there, done that with isabel and i feel like i more or less know what to do) and the 'behind the leg' front (just NO). mostly bc the solution to both of those problems is to push the horse up into the bit, but if the horse won't go to the bit (as charlie would not in this myler), it's setting us up for catastrophe beyond a mere piss fit. no. thank. you.

      re: trying out other bits, i'm not fully committed to the idea that we actually *need* a change at this point. the myler was literally put in my hands as a 'hey why not?' type thing, but i'm also pretty satisfied with charlie's level of progress in his regular bit. if i feel like we hit a wall, or he's just tuning me out or getting worse with the leaning then i will likely reconsider. for now tho, i'm curious to see what he learned from the experience in the myler and whether we can carry that over to the snaffle. first ride back in the snaffle actually felt quite promising!

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  11. I'm not a huge bit person but did a little experimenting at the request of a trainer friend of mine who noticed Subi wasn't thrilled with the single jointed snaffle I was using (that was pretty much ALL my trainer used unless occasionally you needed a pelham). So she brought me a super flexible rubber mullen and a nathe. He loved the mullen and hated, I mean, HATED the nathe. HATED it. We used the mullen for a while until I need a little more which is when she gave me a myler comfort snaffle which has become my bit of choice for him. He does not like jointed bits and something about the nathe was offensive. I can't remember how he is with double jointed snaffles, but truly he loves the comfort snaffle (so does Batty, but he's almost as happy with his oval copper mouth double jointed loose ring).

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    1. interesting! we tried a nathe for isabel at one point too, with the idea being it could be something she could really take hold of and carry forward. some horses just go better in them for sure! i'm reluctant to try one on charlie tho bc i suspect it would exacerbate rather than reduce his leaning

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  12. I've got a small collection of very large bits that do nothing for me now that I own a sensitive princess. For the longest time, both of my horses have been like Carly's - only the one 16mm weighted single link snaffle would do. Of course now that I'd resigned myself to hoarding 12$ bits for the rest of my life, the red one decides that new bits aren't actually going to kill her, and also that she's disinclined to stop or slow down while jumping in anything she's been wearing lately. It's a cycle, and clearly I need a friend with a bit collection. I think it's good to shake things up occasionally on them, and I'm jealous Charlie reacts so honestly... the red hag is fine and dandy until she is NOT and then we rear/bolt sideways/etc and stay mad for a week. MARES.

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    1. ugh yea, it's so hard to know how they'll react to something. i'm definitely grateful that charlie is so honest! i'm a little concerned that we may have problems with brakes once he really figures out this whole jumping thing (and esp on cross country) so i'm trying to lay the foundation for full body brakes now, so that he's tuned into something beyond just the bit. bc.... i feel like we're going to need it haha!

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  13. I'm not a huge bit experimenter, but I do believe there are different bits for different mouths. Some change-up may help Charlie get 'unstuck' from where he is now, especially if you alternate with rides in his ordinary rig -- this seems like a sensible approach to me. But, like you say, if you've tried it a couple of times and it's not doing, then set it aside. Sometimes finding what works takes a couple of tries, even for horse pros. You're tuned in enough to Charlie that you'll call a halt and turn back on any experimental choices that take you down a Bad Road before you get permanently lost, so have at it. :) Keep us posted!

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    1. i'm excited to say that charlie's first ride back in the snaffle *did* show a difference. he worked beautifully - much of his balance and promptness in transitions and canter that he showed in the myler held in the snaffle too. it could be that he was already developing in that direction anyway and maybe, but i don't really care. i'm just happy it's happening! he didn't give completely to the snaffle like he did to the myler, but i also wouldn't necessarily expect him to immediately. but he DID go nicely and in a way that made me feel very hopeful. it's possible that i'll repeat this little experiment again in the next few weeks!

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  14. Horses can be so individual in the type of bit they prefer! Dino goes the same in just about anything that I put in his mouth. The only thing he really objected to was when I had him in a waterford for a while since he was SO heavy on my hands, and it definitely did the trick to stop him leaning, but was definitely not a bit that he preferred. It's been interesting to experiment some with Sully's bits, however, and we've found that he VASTLY prefers the stability of a single-joint D ring or eggbutt to the softer feel of a loose-ring french link.

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    1. so individual, omg! i've known a lot of horses who can't deal with the "noise" of a loose ring too (i think wick was like that, actually!). and isabel had a waterford phase too - not for leaning, but bc she would just run through the bit. the temporary change made a big difference for her! i'm like you tho - i kinda like it when we can just pop any old bit in and hit the road

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  15. For like the first 6? months of owning Charmer, we did not have to do bit experiments. We tried a mullen mouth snaffle and it was the perfect bit for him for a long time. But then he got very "grab and lean" with it, and that made neither of us very happy. Then followed my 8?+ month search for the right bit for us. We tried single jointed, double jointed, lozenges, ported, waterfords, etc. Basically you name it, we tried it. Then I found a shaped bit and it changed our whole world. Bit experimenting is not exactly my favorite pastime, but when you find what works the best for you, it is a magical feeling. Hopefully you can find something that works for you and Charlie (and hopefully a whole lot faster than I did haha)

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    1. thanks! honestly i'm not actually "searching" for bits right now - i have every expectation to continue using the sprenger KKs with charlie, as he goes well in them. rather, the purpose of this experiment was to help show him that the bit isn't for leaning, and encourage him to give or yield to the pressure instead of pulling against it. as he learns how to do that, and how to change how he carries and balances himself accordingly, he will still be going in the KK

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  16. What I've learned about bits is that I should do everything in a straight or broken snaffle. I use a Pelham for proper framing while schooling. I should never be allowed to use any kind of curb. While I am mindful and respectful, I know my hands can get heavy and it's not something I want to inflict on my reactive horses.
    And, just my unpopular opinion regarding myself, I think if I can't get my horse to work in a snaffle I am failing them somehow. I don't know where I learned this.
    However, since higher level dressage and working equitation required leverage bits, I'm going to have to address my occasionally heavy hands at some point and learn to use big girls bits.
    Actually...I think fear is a big reason why I will occasionally hang on a horse's mouth. But I've been lucky to have horses that are game for just about any bit that isn't used incorrectly.

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    1. the ideology that 'every horse should be able to go in a snaffle' is actually quite commonly believed, and not unpopular either. a lot of ppl feel that way! and it's important for each of us to recognize maybe why we shouldn't work with certain bits bc of our own misgivings about being able to handle them appropriately.

      personally, i would love for all my horses to go in snaffles for all three phases. isabel did, and she was great! the reality tho is sometimes a little less idealistic. imo, sometimes a green horse or a strong horse needs something different in order to be successful and safe on cross country, for instance. i think from a perspective of training, we should be seeking to train the horse such that they could plausibly go in a snaffle, but also be realistic about how to best help them and communicate with them in the right here and now. it's a process!

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    2. Absolutely! I rode Ben in a S curb for a really long time because it gave me extremely effective brakes (which I needed at the time).
      Also, I must hang around too many people who are sporting tom thumbs and spade bits. I didn't realized 'every horse should be able to go in a snaffle' was so popular. :)

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    3. i guess it likely varies among disciplines, but in regular dressage you don't start seeing leverage until horses are going in the double at 3rd / 4th. so there's kind of this expectation that you ought to be able to get the job done in a snaffle. it's definitely a little different in the jumping disciplines, but you still see some of that same mindset (tho, like i said, i tend to be bit more pragmatic about things and would rather have the right tools to do the job safely and successfully than be ideologically rigid and end up getting in a nasty situation at a cross country fence....)

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  17. We have done a LOT of bit experimenting with Lucy over the years. When I got her, she was a PITA to unbridle because she was afraid of the bit hitting her teeth. But, in general, all our horses warm up in a plain snaffle (maybe a diff type if needed, but Luce is so easy), then we swap into whatever else for the rest of the ride - so her hunt seat show bit was a D ring Myler with hooks Mullen mouth roller barrel (seriously my favorite breed show hunter bit), and she had three different show curb bits depending on event for western classes.

    Of course, this is also a horse I ride in a halter bareback so there's that. Brakes are v v v v good (too good??).

    I guess I'm almost opposite because I think there's a lot of good that can come from switching bits depending on what you're working on. Similar sort of to how runners wear different shoes for sprints, long runs, trail runs, etc?

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    1. ha isabel had excellent brakes too - and could also get a little behind the bit (and leg!) even in the mildest snaffles. that could sometimes introduce problems of its own lol....

      honestly i think your ideas of switching bits depending on what you're doing is really interesting - and i've definitely heard of trainers doing that often (esp in the western disciplines). in a way, i do that between dressage and jumping since i have different bridles for each. but i don't end up experimenting much more than that bc i honestly can't be bothered to always be changing out bits and reins and whatnot on all my bridles lol....

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  18. Lets of good comments here, so I won't reiterate. I went through 6 different bits with runkle before getting at our current one (I've actually been working on a post) and I knew all of them weren't 'final form'. Some were huge successes and some were failures but I did learn something from ALL of them, and so did he.

    I think there are different bits/bridles for different days. And training versus competing or even just riding bits. It's funny you posted that one, because my trainer just put a much older horse in that purely for schooling purposes and they've had a lot of success.

    I could talk about bits for AGES.

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    1. oooh i'll definitely be interested in reading your post when you publish! and agreed that training and competing are very different. even the way i ride between each tends to be a little different (like not pushing charlie so forward during our show test, vs making him HUSTLE in schooling lol). it's such an interesting subject, bitting. so much there to learn!

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  19. I've done a lot of experimenting with P over the last 3 years with some bits making zero difference, and some making a huge difference, good or bad.

    For the past several months he's been in a KK loose ring snaffle for all 3 phases. While brakes aren't the best, as long as I involve my body in the process (i.e., don't lean or clamp), we're typically ok. For awhile I was flatting him in the KK, then jumping in a baucher, and that made ME feel safer, since he seemed to respect that bit, but then it started to make him feel anxious, so in the long run it wasn't working for us. The bitting process is different for every horse and as they grow and progress in their training, what works for them changes as well!

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    1. yup i had that problem with isabel where a bit could back her off, and that's DEFINITELY not what i want! charlie mostly needs to do two things simultaneously: 1) get stronger so that he can carry himself in this new and unfamiliar way; and 2) understand what the fresh fuck i'm actually asking of him haha. a bit alone won't do either of those things, but maybe it can help as he develops?

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  20. I have tried so many different bits with Nilla trying to get her to keep her tongue in her mouth. While I haven't found a magic solution, there are definitely better and worse bits for that. And the reactions can be very dramatic. I'm very open to changing things up, but if something is working, I tend to stick with it. We tried a bunch of bits on Eugene in the beginning and he has gone in the same happy mouth for most of the year. Once we found one that worked, we were done.

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    1. ugh yea the tongue thing is so tricky, i've never had to deal with that issue but can imagine the frustration!

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  21. Pig the ONLY snaffle Pig goes in a thin double jointed snaffle. He has always gone well in a mullen mouthed Pelham, though. It took him FOREVER to get used to the double and understand the different mechanisms of the bits. All of that makes total sense to me. His mouth is small, and his lips are shallow. He doesn't have a lot of room to work with, and his very sensitive about how he's communicated with. In other words, he's a totally different character from Charlie!

    With horses that are leaners or pullers, I've typically had really good luck with training them to eventually hold themselves up. Keeping riding really short, and keeping them sitting off my hands. But, Charlie is probably not terribly ready for that yet. With other horses I've gone to a pelham with two reins to give them a bit of the idea that my hands aren't the place for their whole body to rest. A few rides in that always seem to do the trick, and teach them to sit back on their ass when I ask, rather than dig in harder into my hands.

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  22. Leo was previously ridden in a mildly terrifying-looking contraption that involved a "sweet six" with an extremely high ported mouthpiece. I have no idea what it's called, and I've only ever found one picture that remotely resembles it. I strongly believe that this is a major contributing factor to his extreme aversion to having his mouth touched.
    When I brought him home, we experimented for a long time. Like, months. He hated most things and tolerated several. He doesn't do anything with a single joint, will tolerate an oval link, and seems to go best in thinner Mullen mouths.
    I currently ride him in a loose ring Nathe, and it's the best bit that I've found for him so far. I'm sure that there may be better options out there, but thus far I haven't found anything. Trainer has a shit ton of bits that I can play with, though - I honestly really like experimenting - because he is so particular he definitely lets me know what his preferences are, and it's helped me find the best options.

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  23. Hah! Horses. My 3 all go in different bits. Except when they don't. For example, my 24 yr old AQHA likes his double jointed Tom Thumb. Except when he wants his hackamore. My Morgan is the most reliable. I ride him in a Pelham, mostly. But switch him to a double jointed loose ring snaffle for dressage, which is ok but he tends to lean on it heavily. My POA is currently in an elevator bit, but I have also ridden her in a straight mouth Pelham. So yeah. It's all individual to them lol. I know you will eventually stumble upon what works best for Charlie! :)

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  24. My favorite thing about bits is that there are a lot of pieces to work with. The shape of the cheek, whether or not it has leverage, the amount of leverage, the mouth piece, the joint, etc. Frankly, I think the Myler has a lot happening on it, but if you saw some positive elements in how Charlie went in it, maybe change one part or another and see what happens. Granted, Myler bits cost a pretty penny, and buying a ton for the sake of experimentation is a worse financial decision than horses themselves. If you can borrow a couple different types, you might find something that Charlie really likes.

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  25. The change trigger by a bit is so remarkable! Q went through many and does okay with most, but is ultimately happiest in her hack. Stan has forever gone in a uxeter kimberwicke and despite multiple tries to put him in something more mild, we're kind of stuck there because when he gets excited and wants to GO he really won't listen to anything else. And Grif has been through the most, but we've settled with a French link snaffle for flatwork and the Myler combo for jumping. He is definitely more responsive to the Myler combo now since we've executed more work in the snaffle, but we still have to keep it as the regular jumping bit because without it he can and will charge off in exuberant happiness after certain fences & the snaffle just doesn't do much to encourage him otherwise! Haha.

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  26. I am a BIG bit experimenter. After 27 years in the saddle, 20 of those spent training and working other people's and trainer's horses and having owned 8 horses of my own, I can confirm that some horses have very distinct bit preferences.

    My favorite Appendix jumper loved his Waterford loose ring snaffle: he did gorgeous flatwork and it was the only thing that could get him to listen to you when he decided to lock onto a fence. His alternate bit was a double-jointed 3-ring (Pessoa) Happy Mouth bit. My own OTTB mare preferred a single-jointed full cheek snaffle. My QH ONLY wanted his D-ring Dr. Bristol snaffle (no French link; Dr. Bristol. He liked that larger, flat link). He would turn into "U" if you rode him in any other bit.

    Lily hates snaffles (she will invert like a giraffe or lean heavily on the bit, and sometimes she'll put her tongue over snaffles); she prefers ported bits (tongue relief) with tiny or no shanks and a fixed mouthpiece (no sliding. Loose rings are the worst for her). She currently happily goes in a low port kimberwick; it's been her bit for the last 3 years. She will reach for the contact when you want her to stretchy trot, but she goes around in wonderful self-carriage when you ask her to work properly in the arena. Her dressage competition bit was a Myler Comfort snaffle because tongue relief. Her alternate favorite thing is a cheapo English hackamore. She loves that thing. I played around with a Myler combo bit for a while because it was the best of both worlds (port, shanks and nose pressure) but she was the same as she was in the kimberwick. The Myler combo bit Liz Stout uses on Griffin used to be Lily's: they got it from us.

    Gracie likes short-shanked low port bits with thick mouthpieces. Her favorite is her minimal-port fat Weymouth. We experimented with a variety of hackamores with her because she will not drink on trail if she has a bit in her mouth and settled with the flower hackamore for her, because it has no shanks that might touch surfaces before her nose does.

    I literally have what I call a "Bag o' Bits" and it contains one of almost every bit every horse I've ever ridden has liked. It makes for easy experimentation. If I don't have the bit I want to play with, I look for it on eBay, FB English Tack Trader or FB Endurance Tack & Horse Swap.

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  27. Oooo now I'm really really curious about how this one goes because Mae is super heavy on my hand (my forearms are sore after every single ride). We've kept her in a very simple eggbutt snaffle and really don't want to throw anything heavier at her - she may just learn to pick her own head up, especially after she develops the neck muscle to do so. We played around with a lot of bits with Ryon. He has such a short neck and so much power behind it. I always did it at the advice of a trainer and never without. I wouldn't know the first thing to do and the last thing I want is a hard mouthed horse

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  28. Soo bits are something I am absolutely fascinated by. I think it's great that there are SO MANY options out there. I do think some of the crazier contraptions really aren't necessary until you get to more upper level type stuff with bigger jumps/harder questions, but I still think that it is well worth experimenting to find a bitting setup that the horse feels comfortable and "safe" in so to speak.

    For example, I've done a lot of experimenting with Val, and finally settled (for now) on a hard straight rubber loose ring. I've learned that he really doesn't like egg buts, he prefers a mouth piece that isn't heavy, and sweet copper and its variations don't do anything. And that required going through countless combinations of different things to find out what really worked.

    For guys like Val that have a tiny mouth and are really fussy and tend to want to have their head up all the time anyway, an elevator was only so successful. But for a heavier horse, finding the right elevator can be really helpful. It looks like you don't have the rein attached to the elevator loop thing on the bottom of the bit, and I'd maybe play with a smaller/simpler mouth piece (if he has a low palate the port can actually be really uncomfortable) while playing with elevation like some other people have suggested. Possibly a three ring just on the first and second ring, but I've also seen lots of success with some of the hackabit combinations. Probably more than Charlie needs in the long run, but I've had them be life changing for some of the heavier guys.

    I know a lot of people are on the side of putting a snaffle on everything, but being a small person who will never win a fight if it comes down to it, I am more on the side of avoiding the conflict altogether. If you find the right combo that the horse respects but doesn't fear, it opens a whole new world of options.

    One other thing I'll mention is that for a new bit I'm concerned the horse may not immediately understand, I sometimes find it helpful to put the horse on the longe line for 5-10 minutes just to chew on it and get a feel without the added factor of communication from my hands.

    Best of luck though! I am a firm believer that there is a perfect bitting combo out there for every horse!

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  29. The new horse I'm leasing is a puller. I'm experimenting with other bits but shes trained and I have to suck it up and tell her how it is instead of a quick fix bit (not that it is that in your case, hes still learning!) What actually gets Evita to unlock is bending and circles. Lots of give and release. But yeah, I always have moments where my arms feel like they are being pulled out of my sockets.

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