Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bits, bits and more bits

This has been as big a search for comfort for Ashke as my earlier search for a saddle, or trying to figure out the hoof boots vs shoes dichotomy for my sensitive boy. For about a year now, I have been riding in a Spanish bit (because Alta Escuela saddle and Spanish attire). And for the most part, Ashke has been better than any bit I had tried before. However, he gapes his mouth open when I touch the rein and getting him to relax into contact is difficult, even in this bit. So, my search for a new bit is on . . .

Let's review . . . 

We started in a bit like this and it did not go good.
No brakes. Gaping mouth. Not a happy horse.

D-Ring Snaffle
This one had the same issues. He hated the nutcracker action.

This is a Raised Rockin' S snaffle.
Designed by Mark Rashid
It was moderately better, but still a struggle.
And less than zero brakes. 

Dr Cook's bitless bridle
Hated it. Still tossed his head. A lot.
No brakes

I added a running martingale, similar to this but not exactly.
It helped a bit, but was not a long term solution.

English mechanical hackamore.
I went through this phase trying to figure out what he might like that would give me brakes.
He had his head straight up in the air. 
Rubbed sores on the sides of his face and jaw

This one was even worse and caused huge rubs on the sides of his face.
The S did not fit his face at all.
This is a constant struggle.

Happy mouth french link

A not-so-happy, happy mouth bit

Nothing happy here

Myler comfort snaffle - kimberwick style

We then had an incident in the arena at Table Mountain Ranch where Ashke bolted on me and didn't want to stop. We did five full circuits of the arena at a dead run before I finally got him to stop. (Everyone moved to the inside and just let us ride it out.) That was when I decided I needed to figure out how to make him stop, before I worried about anything else.

Known as a grazing bit. Ashke actually was much better in this bit, but still threw his head up.
And no ability to get any kind of lateral bend or movement while riding in this bit.
We did, however, figure out how to stop.

He was not a fan, although it did allow independent movement between the sides.

Not a bad trail bit, but still not relaxing into contact.
Worked better to get lateral movement.

Spanish bit to match my attire.
This was the bit we moved to a year ago, when I was told by a judge that we needed to be in a Spanish bit. It was better. It is the bit I have been riding in lessons with Amanda and on trail (I got tired of changing bridle sets). 

This year, the US Rules for Working Equitation lifted the injunction that stipulated the bit had to match tack and attire,. There are some illegal bits (mechanical hacks, gag bits, elevator bits, high spade bits) but we are no longer held to a dressage legal bit if riding in English attire, or a Western curb when riding western. There is a lot more freedom, which means I could look outside of the spanish curb I had been using. The bit search started again.

We also tried this one.
Not a fan.

Hated this bit and refused to move forward.
Like, rooted to the ground in this bit.

Didn't hate it, but didn't love it.
No lateral flex to the bit.
Wasn't a fan but didn't hate it as much as other bits.
This is the bit my friend C had me try. He liked it pretty well and was more comfortable in the contact. The issue, however, is that the chin strap sits way far up his jaw and we ended up with rub marks two inches up from his chin channel. 
Straight Eqyptian Arabian. Not easy.

I also tried another friend's custom made french-link style bit and he acted like he was gagging. It's not a pretty look. I don't have a picture, but it was kind of like a french link with a frog and roller in the middle that laid on the tongue. He was not excited about it. 

That makes 20 bits, that I can remember, that I have tried on Ashke. He prefers less tongue pressure without gouging the top of his mouth. He also prefers a shank bit, in part because it is diffused pressure. Anything that is a direct rein was a no go. The last one shown is the one he has been the most fond of, until the bit I rode him in last night. The bit we tried last night was a bit Amanda has wanted me to try for months now and it deserves its own post. 

So stay tuned . . .




  1. I knew you had tried a lot of bits...but hadn't realized it had been quite this many! Looking forward to the next post. :)

    1. I think I might have left a few out, actually. Thankfully, most I've bought used.

  2. I have an entire tupperware bin full of bits it took me to find one Nilla liked. I think bit shopping might be as long a process as saddle shopping. I'll be interested to see what you ended up with.

    1. This has been more frustrating than the saddle. I don't think I've spent as much on bits to try as I have on the saddle, but over the past five years at anywhere from $50 to $130 a bit, it adds up. (I didn't buy all of them, I swear. And at least a bunch of them were used and I picked them up cheap.

  3. That is a lot of bits to try. I'm interested to see what you tried last and how it went. I've been fortunate that Gem is pretty happy in simple bits although the recent change to the Baucher has been received with a lot more relaxation. I'm losing some breaking power though which is more a training issue with her not responding to my seat and legs than a bit issue

  4. Finding the bit that a horse likes and also one that you can be in control with is so important. I was reading recently how crucial tongue comfort is and it is not just the bars of the mouth, and the roof of the mouth too is affected. I will be eagerly waiting to see what you came up with. All I know is that our mare has to be ridden with a curb chain and a port or else she immediately evades and gets her tongue over the bit. Teeth too are another thing.... so much involved. She loves her bit now by the way.


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