Last night I returned to the Raised Rockin' S snaffle I was riding in last winter. It looks like this:
It is not a legal bit for either dressage or Working Equitation, however, Ashke still likes it.
Last spring (January or so) I was really struggling with the dressage training. I felt like asking Ashke to give at the poll and bring his head down as a huge fight every time I rode. It felt like I had to hold him in a frame to meet the expectations of the trainer. He was able to go in a frame, but he really hated it. I ended every ride feeling horrible about us both. The trainer was actively encouraging me to show, and even had us ride one of the tests, but I finally got to the point where I was tired of fighting with Ashke and told her I wasn't going to show in Dressage. At that point, her interest in really working with me disappeared and we went our separate ways.
Additionally, Ashke was hard to control on the trail with this bit. When he got excited or wanted to run, he would blow through this bit and nothing I could do would slow him down. It was after several run aways, that I decided to buy the Myler Level 2 shank bit.
It did the trick. There was enough bite to the bit that when I needed to put the brakes on and he wasn't listening, I had enough there to get him to slow or stop. I really love that bit and will probably continue to use it at least some of the time when we are on trail. (For those of you who think this means my horse hasn't been trained correctly, you obviously don't ride an Arabian. He is very good in a controlled environment, but can get very bouncy/jiggy/up when on the trail in the company of others. Trail environs are different than arena environs.) Just saying.
So that brings us back to why I returned to this bit. Last Weds Ashke spooked, hit the end of the reins and jammed his mouth pretty good. He also tore up my left arm which still hurts and is healing slowly (it really is a bitch getting old). I think in that little incident, he also bruised his mouth very badly. Those bruises were aggravated in the ride on Saturday, since he was expected to share time with Cali and Mesa, and then in the trail ride on Sunday, when his mouth was bleeding. I couldn't continue to use a bit that might continue to aggravate the injury.
I went back to the Raised Rockin' S bit and it worked very well last night. Ashke was very agitated last night in the crossties and acting very stressed. His muscles were rock hard and stress was radiating off of him. A contributing factor is his new stall mate to the west where Fool used to be. Grace has moved in and the two of them LURVS each other. E, Grace's owner, was really surprised when they first met because Grace was really nice to Ashke. Then, about a week later, they saw each other and Grace nickered at Ashke as she went by. Emily made the comment that Grace never nickers at another horse. Now, as of Monday, they are stalled next to each other and I am pretty sure Ashke spent the entire day with his head pressed against the new wood bars of the fence that separates them, since his face had brown stripes from the no bite stuff they put on the wood.
Ashke was very stressed and calling for Grace in the crossties. When we got to the indoor, every muscle in his body was hard as rocks I decided that caution is the best part of valor, grabbed the lunge line and let him move at his own . Ashke exploded off the line and galloped for a solid five minutes to the left. At the end of that run, he was cantering nicely, with his head about mid chest, chewing and playing with the bit. He stopped himself and seemed ok for the first time since Weds. I really think the bit was causing him anxiety. He didn't once call for Grace and went to work with good grace.
His walk was long and swinging. His trot was nice, except when he starts anticipating the canter, which in the indoor is every time we trot. :) His canter though, was the nicest it's been and he rolled around under control and listening. Every time I asked for a trot, he came right back down to it. At no part in our ride was there a struggle and he was very relaxed on the bit. I think I could use this bit on the trail when it's just J and I, but I'm not sure I trust him to listen if the potential for a race exists. I also have a bit on order that should be here that I can try tomorrow, to see if he likes that any better than the shank.
When I was a kid I had two bits: a simple loose ring snaffle for training and a curb bit with a copper roller that I rode in all the time. I had no idea that collecting bits was an art form and necessity for most riders.