Thursday, November 29, 2012

Huzzah for BITS!

Thanks to all for some good boot advice and opinions yesterday! I'm not even to the shopping-  and trying-on- phase yet, so I'm sure we'll get to cover it again. I'm sort of surprised that only one person had worn the Volants...

Only the cutest horse ever

Anyways, many thanks to Ellie for the new blog header. Not only does she take kickass pictures--she also designs stuff for me. Winning!

As I was admiring all the rocking pictures Ellie has taken for me, I thought I might as well illustrate something near and dear to my little tack 'ho heart: BITS!!

I like them. All of them.

Here are some I use regularly with a description of their action and application.

D'aawww. Photo by me.

We'll start with the most basic. This is an eggbutt. The mouth piece is a Dr. Bristol, so double jointed, but instead of a softly rounded bean, there is a flat plate for the center piece.

I use it on Cuna for dressage, hacking, and every day stuff. I use the eggbutt because Cuna is a nervous worrier, and he likes the stability that a fixed-cheek bit provides. I use the Dr. Bristol because he's built very long and heavy on the forehand with a low set neck, so it's incredibly easy for him to brace against me. The plate gives me just a little bite that reminds him to be soft without hurting him or backing him off the bit.

Photo by Ellie
Here's another look for us: a full cheek happy mouth mullen.

I used this bit CONSTANTLY when I started riding Cuna. The full cheek is fixed, which keeps it very still in his mouth, while the plastic mullen mouth is very forgiving. It's a very soft bit.

I picked it because Cuna and I were just getting acquainted. He is very particular about his mouth (fair enough, right?) and I didn't want to piss him off while we figured things out. It didn't give me a lot of brakes and we had no longitudinal flexion, but we also pretty much eliminated his trademark head tossing as an objection to the rider's hands.

A fixed cheek also provides some steering control by putting pressure on the horse's face, which makes it an excellent choice for young/green/obtuse horses as it gives them a bit more information and won't allow the bit to slide through the mouth the way smaller models can. Ever seen that happen? Yeah. Not pretty.

Fuzzy photo by me
A sort of bastard cousin to the full cheek is the d ring bit, commonly seen in hunter circles. It gives the stability of a fixed cheek like the full cheek or eggbutt, some of the steering control of the full cheek, but the smaller size and sharper look than the full cheek.

I think d's are pretty. They do have one distict drawback: those corners. Reins and/or cheek pieces tend to slide around them and then get stuck. I haven't seen a horse react badly to that, since it's a fairly small motion, but it's kind of a pain.

This particular full cheek is a single jointed slow twist. It's the go-to bit for one of the horses in the barn who has a lovely neck and well set head, but gets a little strong while jumping. She doesn't need to poll pressure that helps Cuna, but the corrugated surface reminds her to be soft without using leverage.

Photo by Ellie
Some of you remember Izzy... She is the opposite of Cuna. While she went fine in a fixed cheek bit, I always wanted to encourage her to chew the bit and salivate. To that end, I put her in a loose ring french link with a central "bean" and a copper mouth.

The loose ring gave her some motion to play with. The bean instead of the plate kept everything very soft to keep her from curling behind the bit, and the copper is supposed to encourage salivation. It worked for her.

Cuna HATED this bit. It was too narrow for his big, squishy lips, so it pinched him. Fixed cheek bits rarely pinch--loose rings can. To each their own?

Photo by me
Today, we played with a full cheek waterford. If you haven't seen one of these, well, they're pretty cool. It's a whole series of connected links that are softly rounded. It isn't severe, but it doesn't give the horse anything to lean on.

We borrow it from one of Steph's clients who has a green horse who is very stiff, but he curls behind the bit if anything touches him. It works really well for him, but Cuna?

Not so much. Although he liked the fixed cheek, he was pretty sure the mouth piece was just something to carry around and ignore. He doesn't lean--he braces. Not the same.

Photo by Ellie

That leaves us with my current go-to jumping bit. It's a happy mouth mullen pelham with connectors.

Cuna gets very strong while jump big fences and PARTICULARLY while running XC. It's his joie de vivre, what can I say? While yes, I agree that you should be able to ride any horse in a snaffle (and we have/can jump in one), there's no sense trying to beat the joy out of him. His passion is what makes him great--I just have to roll with it.

The plastic mullen makes it a nice, soft mouthpiece, but the curb action of the pelham gives me a little more control. Before you purists complain, YES, I know the connectors muddy the action of the bit, making it neither curb nor snaffle.  I know it's more proper to ride with two reins.

You know what else? Cuna likes those connectors. He dislikes the two reins. He apparently didn't read the book.

Needless to say, I love bits. I've actually bought bits that I don't have a use for just on the off chance I need them in the future. What are you guys using? How often do you change bits? Anything cool I need to add to my inventory?


  1. Good post! I may do one of my own on various bits I have used on Hamps. Which isn't many ... but still. lol.

  2. I'm still in the process of trying to find the right bit for the pony. He was trained Western, so we started out with a pretty harsh shank bit and have been slowly moving our way down to something gentle. I tried a D-ring snaffle once, but my horse thought that this must have been a joke and took me for a real "ride", if you know what I mean. These days we use a kimberwick uxeter, which works pretty well, but I still have some problems with him curling up behind the bit and bracing when we canter. My problem is mainly that he's used to harsh bits so he does not respect gentle bits, but of course I'd rather ride him in something gentle. :S

    1. Oooh... I just googled that. Which mouth piece do you use?

    2. I actually use two - one with just a regular jointed snaffle mouthpiece, and the other has a low port. I seem to get better results in the snaffle, but I'm undecided. I like that I can change where I place the reins (or I could use two reins if I was coordinated enough for that).

  3. I've tried a rubber bit, a bit with rolly center pieces, and a regular O ring snaffle. Shy really liked the eggbutt French link snaffle, but I recently tried an O ring French link snaffle. Shy loves it. She chews and foams with it.

  4. A loose ring Dr. Bristol on my jump bridle, and then Izzy's old bit on my dressage bridle. :)

  5. For Dressage we use a loose ring Nathe. I LOOOOOOVE it. Pongo is a big fella too and I wont lie, our first few rides in it were not pretty, but now he is SO light and soft in the bridle with it. Not recommended outside the ring since it's basically like ZERO control if things got a little out of hand/spooky/naughty. For Jumping I use a Happy Mouth 3-ring mullen. I use the actual bit ring or the first bubble for show jumping, the bottom bubble (most leverage) for XC. It works, he doesnt run away with me anymore :P

  6. Welllllll, Owl goes in a sprenger KK loose ring snaffle, about 90% of the horses in the barn go in this for dressage, but to everyone surprise I need more bit for jumping and XC (since everyone seems to think he the easiest horse in the world when he's not lol,) HE DOES GET HOT, he is a thoroughbred, I use a loose ring Waterford on him, giving me the control I need when he try's to grab the bit an run away! Lol neither of those would work for Cuna from your blog lol, but still fun to say.

  7. I don't have a bit comment to make, but I'd like to state for the record that I'd forgotten how breathtakingly beautiful Izzy is. But then again, Mr. Cuna is pretty handsome too ( :

  8. My pony has an egg-butt with a french link that she loves, and my 2yo, coming 3yo LOVES the d-ring with the french link that I've been using on him to get him ready to go under saddle. He's very mouthy and thinks having a bit in his mouth is thebomb!

  9. I ride Riva in a Sprenger KK-Ultra loose ring. I am enjoying everyones comments and your post was super - I want to learn more about bits and am having a hard time finding info on line.

    I am fortunate to board at a barn where the BO has a large box full of bits and will allow us to borrow and try out.

  10. Henry is heavy heavy heavy... school in a Mikmar and show in a Segunda. One day we will ride in something softer I hope! :)

  11. Great post! Libby can get so heavy that most of the bits we have to use have lifting capabilities. I have a huge bit bucket of bits that don't work for us.

    1. Hehe. I'll be sure to check with you next time I'm in the market. :)

  12. Love your new header :).
    Awesome post! I use a french link snaffle on my horses. I use the one with the D sides instead of the loose ring sides.

  13. Fox-Pitt won Rolex last year in a pelham with connecters. Just a fun tidbit.

    1. For all the snobbery put forth on the internets, you do see them around in some very good hands. :)

  14. I am obsessed with bits... Just having as many kinds as I can... I have...

    Eggbutt with copper inlay
    Eggbutt with copper roller
    Eggbutt french link
    Plain D ring
    Solid rubber mullen mouth full cheek (currently loaned out to a friend, whose horse is going fabulously in it)
    Had a happy mouth - that was Legends bit, and I didn't pay much for it, so I let the girl I sold him to keep it and one of my cheapo bridles because my commission more than covered it and I was afraid she would switch his bit to a metal one.
    Loose ring - was Don's bit. Not exactly a hollow mouth but very, very light weight. Anything heavier and he hated it.

    I think I have a few others as well but I don't exactly remember. They've all sort of been put away for awhile now except the ones I was using on Legend.

  15. I'm not as obsessed with bits, but love the mechanics of each and every one :)

    I ride Koda in either a full cheek simple snaffle mouthpiece (dressage bridle) or a racing D (smaller D) simple snaffle for jumping/cross-country/when using a martingale. I'm tempted to change up our dressage mouth piece since Koda is SO long and has trouble getting off his forehand. He doesn't necessarily lean, but he will get backed off from the snaffle.

    P.S. Lovin' the new layout :D

  16. Really like the new layout... I have way too many bits and always looking to try new ones - Houston has been a trial and error for sure.

    I have:
    Loose Ring KK Ultra
    Loose Ring Single Joint
    3 Ring French Link
    Dee Ring French Link
    Dee Ring Waterford
    Eggbutt Single Joint
    Full Cheek Slow Twist Dr. Bristol

    Great post!


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