When people see May, especially when she is standing still, they make a couple of assumptions. The biggest one? That she is heavy in the bridle and wants to lean on you. However, after who knows how many transitions, May is starting to feel pretty light in the Dressage bit I have ridden her in for years. I believe that this bit is the Herm Sprenger baucher, but it might be the neue schule one. Either way, it looks like this:
Fairly standard two jointed snaffle bit made out of some metal and stamped with some name that makes it worth more than almost all my other equipment. I bought it used so… not a big deal.
Recently, as the heaviness has subsided (especially on the right rein), I have found myself with the opposite problem. She isn’t super excited to just hold this bit with a soft connection. I can shove her up there, but I could tell she just wasn’t as happy with it as she could be, bouncing off the contact instead of letting me pusher her into it.
So I swapped her to another fairly simple bit in my collection that is either a neue schule or a HS. Same mouthpiece (or very similar) but just the loose ring version.
I’ve ridden her in this bit in the past, but have never been SUPER happy with it. It mostly fell into that category of “Theory says my horse should like this.” Well, horses mostly seem to think that theory is a load of crap, and this one was no different. I rode her in this twice, and she acted like I had never installed a half halt. Without having the hand aid to back up the seat/leg/balancing aids of the half halt, May decided they were voluntary and promptly uninstalled that button. Cute.
My thought there? I think the bit is just too much motion. A broken up loose ring like that moves around a lot. The lack of clarity could mean that May just immediately gets fairly dull in the mouth here. So… I set out to solve that problem… and promptly went too far.
I asked my trainer what she had in a 5.5″ eggbutt. (I also wanted to avoid her very fleshy lips getting pinched, which may have been contributing to the above issues.) She had a bit in that she was trying for her horse. It seemed to check the boxes I needed checked: stable and no cheek pinching. I figured the tongue relief might be an additional benefit.
The first ride, she seemed a bit confused by the lack of movement. I had to be VERY soft with my hands. Buuut, when she was connected properly, she felt SO SO good. Even on both reins, a soft but consistent pressure, pushing up from behind through her shoulders. It just felt GREAT. However, whenever something distracted her or I asked for more collection, she felt like she got lost in the bit and started really fighting it. I finished that session with some super easy transitions within the gaits, and I figured that she would figure it out for our next session.
Our next ride was a lesson. This was… helpful. During our warmup, Mandy commented on how good she looked. Soft through her back pushing into my hand. SO NICE. She noticed that, in the transitions and changes of directions, May would lose a bit of her shape, but she would quickly find it again and move on.
I told Mandy about my plan of attack with the transitions within the gaits. She agreed that it was a good place to start before moving onto some lateral work. (i.e. establish the halt half and responsiveness to forward, then encourage better connection through lateral work) Great!
Ah.Hah. Not great. Working trot? Awesome. Medium trot? Good (because we don’t really have a medium yet). Collected trot? EHR MAH GAWD. Seriously. At one point, I was sitting there, with almost no contact, just watching the white of May’s blaze flash in front of my face. She sucked back, went sideways, threatened to rear etc etc. But every time I asked her to go back into my hand a bit more forward, she did so happily.
We got some steps of soft collection, so we decided to move onto lateral work to get her listening to my body on a softer rein. It was… awful. During the shoulder in tracking left, she actually swung her haunches INTO the middle of the arena and basically spun around to go the other way. Think the world’s worst turn on the forehand. As hysterical laughter started to bubble out of me, I walked over to Mandy and asked if she had anything else. She also agreed that it was a time to try something different.
The other option? A regular snaffle eggbutt. Maybe a bit thicker than your traditional snaffle and made out of copper/sweet iron. This Stubben bit is the closest I could find.
You all should have seen the look on May’s face when Mandy walked into the arena with more bits. Wide-eyed, snorty, and about ready to turn tail and leave. (at this point, I actually felt guilty for trying the other bit at all.) But I figured it was better to do a bit more in a plain bit then end on that kind of note.
So I threw on this eggbutt. And, I swear, May contemplated throwing me as soon as I tried to get back on. But she didn’t. And honestly? We ended up having some REALLY nice work. Leg yields at trot and canter and shoulder in at the trot. I threw in some medium trot work as we worked through some stuff, and she stayed light and connected, even with the bigger push.
Going to ride in this bit again tonight and see how it goes, but I know one thing for sure, the lady knows what she likes. Do you ever play around with bits with your horse?