Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A BIT Better..

Maggie's New Bridle

Bits have been on my mind a lot lately because the new  bridle that Tom has been building me is done. YAY!! Its really beautiful.I love it.  I am so lucky to have a husband who can make some of my tack!! I will try not to brag about him here but he is really talented . He does some amazing fancy nautical knots in his tack. He has even made mohair girths and of course he makes all of our halters and lead ropes. My new bridle is completely hardware free. Even the reins attach to without hardware. The connections are all done with knots. best part? When it gets dirty, do  you know how I clean it?? I throw it through a cycle in the dishwasher... seriously!! I have done this for years with all of the bridles he makes. They hold up amazingly well.

So, with a new bridle, I need to find a new bit. I was going to steal the bit off the bridle I have been using (also a bridle he made me) but ideally , I want to just keep her current bridle intact and have a whole second set up for this new bridle.

The bit I use is a Myler Western Dee w/ Sweet Iron Bristol Roller and Copper inlay in the mouth piece. You can see a photo of it here.

That got me thinking about what bit to use? I went hunting. Between Tom and I , we have enough miscellaneous tack to outfit a cavalry. I rummaged through it, hoping I had another one of these identical bits lurking. All I found was a lot of regular run of the mill cheap snaffles, french links, a couple of old curb bits (which should just be hung on the barn wall cuz we will never have a use for those), a couple of racing gags from when I exercised track ponies, a bridoon, and even a Tom Thumb(gasp) which came from my old Chili mare. When I bought her, the previous owner gave me her bridle. The Tom Thumb was on it. I promptly removed it. I should toss it into the garbage so one less horse would be subjected to it. No,I am not a case you didn't notice. I would be happy to do a follow up post if anyone is interested in th reasons why but I am sure most people know the downfalls of the Tom thumb. I didn’t find what I was looking for, unfortunatalely.
This whole process got me thinking. The bit I am using is considered a level one in the Myler bit world. Level 1 bits are for all intents and purposed about keeping the horse comfortable while they get used to carrying a bit in their mouth. They rely more on tongue pressure and less on the bars. The bit I am using is also broken into 3 segments ,(triple jointed). This is to again increase the comfort level to the horse.This design creates less of the “V” pinch , often seen with a regular two piece snaffle (double jointed) The triple jointed bit also allows the sides to work independently, which translates to letting the rider pick up a shoulder if need be. The function of this bit is referred to a pinch and restrict with a quick release. This means that the horse gets rewarded by the release of pressure, if the riders hands are responsive. Ideally, the rider would not be in the horses mouth constantly. The sweet iron on this bit also encourages salivation. All in all it is considered a comfort snaffle. In my opinion, it’s about as good of a bit as possible to start young horses in. I have started almost all of my horses in this bit and have had good results.
Before I go any further, I feel like I should put in a bit of disclaimer. I know that there is a lot of noise out there about how all bits are bad and if a person wants to be a kind horseman/horsewoman , they should not consider using a bit. Most of you have probably heard this or even been involved or subjected to a similar discussion. Maybe you are even one to believe that bits are inhumane. While I think it’s a broad sweeping general statement to say that no horsesshould be bitted, I am not here to convince you otherwise. That’s your business and if it works for you and your horse, great. A lot of horses go fine in a bitless bridle. Someday I hope that I can get Maggie collected and responsive enough and I can transition her to bitless but we aren’t there yet . I still need that tool to communicate effectively with her at this point in her training. Besides, it’s not the bit that is harsh, it’s the hands behind it. The snaffle can be one of the harshest bit in the wrong set of hands. So there’s my plug.

I use a bit on my horses, unabashedly. I am trying to determine if now is the appropriate time to move Maggie on to a Level 2 Myler. There are some general guidelines that the Myler Website offers to help horseowners decide what bit level is right for their horse. It seems like it should be simple when you look at their site but its really not. Too many variables.

Level 1 bits are intended for horses that are just learning about carrying a bit, getting used to directional pull , lateral flexion and is working on other basics in regards to gaits and transitions. In addition, the horse would also be in the beginning stages of being able to break at the poll with soft contact with the bit.

So far so good. Maggie has all of this going for her.
Level two bits are for horses that have basic training established, are relaxed at the poll, which means they hold the position when rein is released and has the ability to bend, collect side pass and lead change.

Maggie only has some of those Level 2 skills and only some of the time.It’s certainly not consistent.

Before I go any further, my bit philosophy is this; I don’t believe that a bit is going to fix training issues. Bits are a training aid, just like a whip, spurs, or lounge lines, etc. Getting a harsher bit is not usually going to fix a chargey horse . In fact, it will often make it worse, the horse will just learn to get above the pressure and charge through it. A bit won’t make a horse collected. Just because the horses poll is in what appears to be correct position, does not mean the horse is collected. I have seen too many horses with a vertical head set and a hollow tight back along with that really attractive dip in front of their withers.

… but don’t get me started…

Collection doesn’t start at the poll and move backwards, its starts at the hindquarters and flows forward, correct poll position being a secondary response to true collection.
So, with all this considered, I am questioning if a level 2 bit would give me any additional benefits that would help me help Maggie to progress to the next steps in her training? Would a Level 2 bit help us move towards improved responsiveness, more lightness. A second level bit is basically making more bar contact and therefore (bar contact)when pressure is applied, it makes it more uncomfortable for Maggie when she responds incorrectly. As I ponder this, I realize the burden is ultimately on me. Again , the bit is a tool. I have to be responsive and my timing has to be right for it to be an effective training tool. Maybe the more important question is this, Does the level 2 Myler offer enough of a difference to make it worth the increased pressure she might be experiencing or am I best to just keep plugging along with with the Level 1? Can I get her to the training level I want her in a level 1?

1 comment:

All Who Wander said...

The world of Myler bits has opened new doors of communication for me. I'm not one of those who though "bits are bad" but being a little reactive myself when the rubber meets the road I hesitated to ride bitted for a very long time. Honestly, I think Journey prefers the bit to the hackamore. She detested the feeling of the noseband on the hack. I used the Parelli version of the Myler first and did find my horse more responsive in that bit which was a level 2, than the bit I have her in now that is also a level 2 in a little different design. But she prefers and rubs at her nose much less in this second version that has no noseband. I had more control laterally with the Parelli version. Either way, it is working better for her. In retrospect which means it is working for me.