From Endurance to Dressage
I like bits a lot. Good bits are like fine jewelry - every girl needs a few nice pieces. I've got a nice collection of bits in my tack room, but it's time for a change, and I don't have quite what I need.
At the RAAC, one of the judges commented that I needed to be more careful with my hands, especially since I was using a fairly severe bit. I was actually quite shocked at the comment. No one has ever suggested that one of my bits was severe (I pride myself on using quality bits that are designed with the horse's comfort in mind), and I tend to be too quick to release the reins.
While I was baffled and a little irritated, I decided to think about the judge's comment and look more closely at the bit I was using on Speedy. I also ran the comment by my trainer to see what she thought.
I first started Speedy's dressage training in a Myler French Link Snaffle. When he seemed too fussy in it, I switched to the Mikmar Eggbutt. Speedy did okay in the eggbutt, but the bit always looked too thick for his mouth. I returned to the French Link and have been using it for at least a year and half. Both bits are pictured below.
JL and I talked about the judge's comment. Her thinking was that now that we have Speedy driving more from behind up to the bit, maybe he doesn't like it now that he has to actually be on a steadier contact.
I gave his mouth a thorough exam and found something that I haven't seen before: rub marks. These are new. At the corner of his lips and on the outside of his mouth there are definitely some rubs. They're small, but a rub is a rub. Here's a photo of the French Link while at the RAAC. Click the photo for a close up.
I am wondering if the problem is with the loose rings. Do they move around too much? Do they pinch where they connect to the mouth piece?Since I like bits and don't mind purchasing nice ones, I went ahead and ordered a Korsteel Eggbutt with a copper mouth piece. It's very similar to the Mikmar Eggbutt, but I am hoping that the mouth piece is a little thinner. I am also hoping that the eggbutt will be quieter in his mouth and that there will be no pinching on the sides.
The bit arrived the other day. I switched out the loose ring and hopped up on Speedy bareback on Thursday afternoon to give it a try. I immediately felt a difference. Even on a loose rein, my connection to Speedy was much more solid and steady. He didn't feel so much like a wiggling fish on the line.
I only rode for a few minutes, but he seemed to like it. We did a little bit of trot work, and it seemed as though he was more willing to stretch forward. I could also hear him mouthing the bit, and his mouth was much foamier than it normally is.
I'll give him a much better ride this weekend, and he'll probably go to my weekly lesson (which is now on Mondays) so JL can give me her opinion on it, too. I hope he likes this bit better. I felt really bad about the rub marks. Here are some photos of the new bit.
9/21/2012 12:58:54 am
Very interesting! I'm fascinated with all the subtle and not so subtle differences in bits and how they relate to performance. All my riding years were peasure only and I quickly switched from bit to hackamore. I can't wait to see how this new bit works for Speedy in the long run. Are you planning a bit change for Syney as well?
9/21/2012 10:13:22 am
It's interesting that a bit is required for dressage - no hackamores allowed. I think Speedy will go well in this bit. Sydney will keep his as I haven't had any problems with it. It's essentially the same bit I will use on Speedy. The mouth piece is slightly larger and is made from a slightly different metal. I can't say that Sydney LOVES it, but he doesn't seem to hate it either. :0)
9/21/2012 04:22:54 am
I tried Val in a loose ring snaffle when I first got him, having switched from his previous (to me) bit - a d-ring slow twist. He <i>hated</i> the loose ring which I believe pinched the corners of his mouth. In fact I went off of him that day... probably because of that bit.
9/21/2012 10:17:43 am
I suspect that the loose ring was pinching too, but only just recently. This eggbutt isn't actually a french link (which has a flat "bar" thing). I think this is called a lozenge. I hope it suits Speedy better. I don't mind buying bits, but I don't want to keep searching randomly. I wish he could just tell me what would make him the most happy!
9/21/2012 06:23:58 am
Did the judge know which type of bit you were using? A French link snaffle is not a severe bit and is pretty common in dressage. Double-jointed bits do not have the nut-cracker action of single-jointed bits, which can squeeze the tongue and hit the palate. Maybe she thought your were riding in single-joint (or a Dr. Bristol which is more severe, not sure if it is legal either)?
9/21/2012 10:28:48 am
Val - that was my first question. How in the world could the judge "see'" which bit I was using? When I started riding dressage, I researched legal bits and discovered, as you said, that the French link loose ring is quite common.
9/24/2012 04:02:45 am
Many people think the thinner the bit the harsher it is. I also had someone tell me my myler jointed bit was too harsh. She said it was because it was so thin. Yet my horse has a very low palate and doesn't like thicker bits. Sometimes I think people get stuck with their thinking on bits. I don't think they understand how they work is different based on the horse.
9/24/2012 10:37:40 pm
I think you're right, Nicole. Bits are good or bad for a horse depending on the rider's hands and the shape of the horse's mouth. In Speedy's case, I think he did need a change, and I am glad the judge made the suggestion that this bit was "severe." I still don't think it should be considered severe, but it was no longer right for him. My trainer looked over the new bit last night and pointed out that he needed that sharper edge to get his attention. Now that I have his attention, he needs something else. Good thing there are so many different bits to choose from!
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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