Eli’s job is now in the hunter ring and my bitting choices for competition have dwindled significantly. Pretty much any bit is acceptable in the jumper ring, provided the show officials don’t deem it as cruel or abusive. I never really used all that many bits on Eli anyway–I like him in the Herm Sprenger Dynamic RS D-ring. Or the eggbutt. And sometimes the WH Ultra dee. However, these bits are easy for him to slightly ignore for a few steps, as he demonstrated by running through my hands a few times at the show in March. He still has a SUPER SOFT mouth and I am not about to ruin that with a “harsh” bit (in quotes because I think we will all have different versions of harsh).
But over the years I have used a variety of bits on different horses with different jobs and then of course bits are like precious jewelry so there are a few I’ve been coveting, too.
Ah, the Cheltenham gag. I rode with a trainer for 15 years who threw this bit on a handful of jumpers, including mine. He explained to me the action and the difference in the action when you use either rope gag cheeks or leather gag cheeks, and he also taught me how to use the gag rein on this bit (never without a snaffle rein on my particular horse). It worked out great for my jumper, although it wasn’t the only bit I showed him in. That choice was made the day of, and he went in HS KK Ultra bits, too, and a hackamore for a brief period of time while a lip injury healed up. (One day I will write a proper post about this horse!) The Cheltenham exerts a good bit of poll pressure via the gag rein and I wouldn’t dream of using one of these on Eli.
I used a Dr. Bristol eggbutt snaffle as a junior. My QH went quite well in it. I know that there are two ways you can put the Dr. Bristol–the nice way and the mean way. The plate is angled for a particular type of tongue pressure, and if you put in in your horse’s mouth the mean way, the edge of the plate slices right into his tongue. I used it the nice way, where the plate lies flatter on the tongue.
My first off-track guy, a little chestnut, seemed to go best in a rubber dee. He chewed through a few of them, but he’d only take a feel on the rubber dee and pretty much avoided any other bit by tucking his chin.
My favorite bit for Eli, the Dynamic RS dee. What can I say about it other than it works for Eli? I am a fan because of how anatomical this bit is, and also I like the double jointed bits generally because of the reduced nutcracker action on the tongue and I have also had problems with narrow mouth TBs getting hit in the palate by single jointed bits, which must suck for them!
But let’s not stop there with the Herm Sprenger bits. The hunter ring limits bits — you are pretty much going to see dees, full cheeks, and pelhams. The rules limit bits mostly to these types (eggbutts are okay, too, but NO ONE uses them in the hunter ring). Now, the mouthpiece on those dees … that’s where a little anything goes comes back into play, and many hunters go in custom bits that have mouthpieces tailored to their style in the bridle. But pelhams are okay, too, although not as common–I see them more in Eq. I’d be curious to see how strong Eli would consider getting in a pelham, although I think ultimately it’s too much bit for him. The pelham has both poll and curb action, as strong or light as the rider’s hands, so it’s a bit for educated hands only in my book. Pelham converters drive me up a wall. If you don’t know how to use a curb rein, don’t use a pelham.
And on to another common hunter option–the slow twist dee. The longer I work with horses, the less and less I like this bit. I think it has its place, and I used it on my jumper when he was very young and learning the show ropes in the hunter ring. However, I am not sure all horses react the same to this texture on the mouth bars–I think it panics some horses and actually makes them lean on the bit and take off (I think the same of corkscrews and twisted wire bits).
Now onto the bits I am currently coveting and am so curious about and want to try on Eli. Probably never will, but I can dream. First is a Bombers elliptical lock full cheek. Honestly, I have been wanting to try just about *any* Bombers bit for ages (okay, not all–they make some serious leverage bits and I don’t need that). I like the amount of thought this company puts into their work. Also, the blue sweet iron is SO PRETTY. Not that it lasts after oxidation, but whatevs.
I am also extremely curious about bauchers, and sweet iron, and copper, so why not throw it all together? Mostly just curious to see baucher action for myself on my own horse–the arguments are whether bauchers exert or relieve poll pressure. Maybe what the horse does with his head is a part of determining that? I can think about bit physics for hours.
Last, we come to the bit I have selected for Eli that I would like to try at our next show, the JP Korsteel copper ball link full cheek. So far, so good the first two times we’ve used it. I hemmed and hawed over quite a few styles–full cheek or dee, waterford or ported barrel … and settled on this. Barely more bit–just a touch more. I will probably jump him in it soon to see how it goes. I had actually tried Eli in a JP Korsteel copper lozenge dee, but the lozenge was too big for Eli and he was pretty fussy in it. I think the copper ball link is a better fit for him.
So tell me … how do you choose which bit for what horse and which discipline?