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?
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I try not to mess with bits because I think, in general, issues are rarely with the bit. That said last summer it became clear to me something was wrong and, after way too much time, it occurred to me it was the bit. I went from a horse that shook his head a LOT when I went to put the bridle on, and who was uncharacteristically HEAVY in the bridle to a horse that was back to normal with no complaints once I offered him a new bit. So I’m glad I made the switch and I’m sorry it took me so long to recognize what he was saying.
Yeah. I think that’s where we are at. I’m not looking for miracles, but I do think there is something that she could be a bit happier just taking a hold of without feeling the need to LAY on it. And she seemed to do that in the last bit.
I feel your pain. June was going so nicely in a loose ring snaffle, and then just..wasn’t. I’ve found she likes a bit more stability, and we moved to a dee ring which has made a huge difference. I imagine young horses evolve as work changes and becomes more challenging. It was kind of fun to play around with all sorts of different bits.
yeah. May has gotten strong enough to really hold herself up… and now chooses to hold herself and away from the bit she had gone reliably in.
Oh god finding a bit that is enough without being TOO much or causing bracing or causing sucking back is like the neverending quest for the Holy Grail. Frankie likes what he likes until he doesn’t and then we all have to figure out what new thing will please His Highness hahaha
Bahahah oh Frankie. I added up the total cost of my bit collection the other day and… it ain’t pretty. I have some other things in my collection I could try, but why would I do that when I could just throw money at something new??
I’m generally slow to change bits but recently switched Eeyore from a full cheek single joint snaffle to a single joint Pessoa and he feels amazing in it. It isn’t dressage legal so I’ll have to think of something for that but for now I’m enjoying this new bit quite a lot
Yeah May’s jumping bit took me forever to find, and I still play around with it when I need “something”. In jumping, having enough control but not too much is, in my opinion, a big safety thing.
Once I found Amber liked the mouthpiece of a Myler level 1, I haven’t played around with mouthpieces. But I have noticed that Amber is the same way – when I put her in the Myler loose ring, she liked it well enough but didn’t like going in my hands when we started dressage. I splurged on an eggbutt, and it was definitely a difference. There was less chatter in an eggbutt than the loose ring, and she certainly felt more confident to push forward once I used that bit. For Amber’s case I find it super interesting that it wasn’t the mouthpiece that created the difference but the cheek pieces! Usually, it’s the mouthpiece, but obvi my horse is SPESHUL lololol
Yeah I wondered the same thing about the bit that I tried. If maybe she would’ve been happier if it was a loose ring with the same mouthpiece. I swear, bit selection is 70% magic 20% prayers and 10% science.
They just like spending our money making us trying to figure it out.
Update: she was awful tonight. No idea if it was bit, cold, revenge or what.
Oddly enough, some prefer a single joint to two. Badger was like that. And I’m always really careful with something that isn’t jointed at all. I haven’t had good feelings with them in the past. Though I do love my leather bits which aren’t jointed at all. They mold to the mouth though, so I think that’s the biggest difference.
I hope you find the current magical bit for May soon!
My horse prefers a single jointed bit over a double jointed one (and my last horse preferred no joints at all which was interesting to say the least! hmm I haven’t tried Dante in a mullen mouth yet…hmm) I read in a book recently that a lot of double jointed bits, especially if your hands aren’t even or if you pull/the horse pulls on one side, actually slide across the mouth and the joint pinches the corners. Dante has a narrow mouth so I think this was happening to him.
Bit journeys are at least a little bit less frustrating than saddle ones lol
Interesting point! May has a wide mouth, but like most draft crosses, has very fleshy lips and cheeks. So that’s possible… especially in a loose ring. I have a mullen mouth happy mouth I am goin to throw on her later this week.