From Endurance to Dressage
In December, I did a review of the Mylers' book, A Whole Bit Better. Mine is an updated and revised fourth edition, copyrighted 2004. It's a great book but has since been revised again. In 2010, the book was republished under a new name, The Level Best for Your Horse. I just got my hands on a second edition, published in 2016.
It's no secret that I am a Myler bit fan. It's not that they're necessarily the best bit brand around, but they are nicely designed and constructed. I also appreciate the many options that the Mylers build into their bits. You can get the same mouth piece with different cheek pieces for example.
I wasn't sure that this re-written version would offer much more than was in the copy I already had, but some of their newer mouth pieces weren't in my book, and I wanted to read about them. With a purchase price of $13.95, less if you use a Riding Warehouse coupon, it was worth the risk.
I am glad I bought it. One of the things I most respect about the Myler brothers is their ongoing effort to learn more about horses and how they work. Since writing their first book, the Myler philosophy about tongue relief has evolved. They've always been huge proponents of tongue relief for horses, but now they've gone on to say that, interfering with a horse's ability to swallow impedes his overall balance and motion. Tongue relief remains the underlying principle of the Myler Bitting System. It's about understanding your horse's personality so you can give him as much tongue relief as he can handle.
They go on to explain that when they first assigned levels to their bits, they focused on a horse's training and his abilities. Could he do this or could he do that? Now, they've expanded their philosophy to focus less on the horse's ability and more on the horse's disposition. In the preface, the Mylers say A horse's disposition is perhaps the most important consideration in bit selection. I love this way of thinking.
The book has a number of chapters meant to be read: "Bitting for Communication," "The Anatomy of Bitting," and "Basic Bit Knowledge" for example. The true value of the book though lies in its encyclopedic structure. Interspersed amongst the more "wordy" chapters are those that have detailed descriptions paired with illustrations explaining how each mouth piece and cheek piece work: does it apply tongue pressure, how much? Does it rotate onto the tongue or not? Does it collapse on the bars and tongue, and if so, to what degree?
Reading through the book prompted me to stop and reconsider what I am using on Speedy and why (a boucher with a French link mouth piece). I have some more thinking to do for sure.
As I continue to search for the best bitting situation for Izzy, I read what the Mylers now have to say about this particular correction bit: If the horse is relaxed, the tongue can pass comfortably under the wider opening. The pronounced corners of the port apply two points of pressure on the tongue for increased control. The result is a mouthpiece that offers maximum tongue relief for the horse, but very good control for the rider.
That is exactly what I need for Izzy. But.
The correction bit isn't legal for dressage, mainly because of the curb action created by the Kimberwick cheek pieces. So even though Izzy is going super well in this bit, and even though the Mylers have designed this bit for long term use (unlike their other correctional bits), Izzy needs to eventually transition to the show legal bit.
So back to the book I went. There are four basic levels in the Myler Bitting System that recognize stages of learning balanced with a horse's disposition: Levels 1, 2, 2-3, and 3. Izzy, for example, should probably go in a Level 1 bit (most of the snaffles), but with his disposition, he needs a Level 3 bit that gives him the greatest amount of tongue relief.
The Mylers are now recognizing this need and are finding ways to guide riders in selecting a bit and cheek pieces that take into account a horse's disposition. I bought another bit - a Kimberwick MB 33, to help him transition to the legal Level 3 bit even though he might not be the trustworthy, finished horse that typically goes in that level of bit.
This bit, also a Level 3, should be the perfect transitional bit for Izzy. The mouth piece is nearly identical to the legal bit. The port is only slightly higher at 1½" and only slightly narrower which still gives him ample tongue relief. But unlike the loose rings of the show legal version, this bit has Kimberwick cheeks which will give me some mild leverage as Izzy's still learning to behave himself. Right now, I still need that control.
I think most riders would benefit from having this book on their shelf. It's a great resource to turn to as your horse becomes more finished and his bitting needs change. I also think more of us should have a better understanding of what our bits are doing in our horses' mouths. I know that I rode with a much different frame of mind over the weekend after having read this book. Knowing how to use my bit to give Izzy the tongue relief he needs will certainly make me a better rider.
I can use all the help I can get. Let me know what you think.
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.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%