Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Bit to Try and a Gas Attack

Yesterday it was pretty hot and I didn't ride, although I really wanted to. My back was feeling sore after a day of housework and cooking, and tends to be a little bit sensitive anyway in hot, humid weather, so I decided to play it safe. I was hoping to try a new bit on Maisie. Maisie has always had bitting issues, partly related to her dental and chiropractic issues and her tendency to become anxious when she's not sure what to do, and partly due to me - I'm what's known as a "strong" rider - all that really means when it comes down to it is that I tend to use my hands too much. This bothers Maisie (as it should) and I've had to really work on it - it's always a work in progress.

Recently, Maisie and I have been working on our downwards transitions, trying to use basically no rein aids at all, and that's going pretty well. She has a tendency to want to "curl up", losing the engagement of her hind end. Without the rein aids, she wasn't wanting to do this as much. I also wanted to try a different bit to see if she could be a little more comfortable accepting contact. I'm a big believer in keeping it simple, and that bits don't solve problems. In my past, I was a gadget/bit junkie, but I use a relatively small group of bits now - I did a post a while ago that included a part on my philosophy on bits, with lots of pictures - you'll find it here if you're interested. The bit I wanted to try on her is a ported Mylar snaffle, in the D ring version with slots:

I've been having some luck with her using the Rockin' S snaffle (see the earlier post for its picture) - probably due mainly to its stability in her mouth and the side rings, but she still isn't a fan of a single-jointed snaffle - she has a low palate and I think it sometimes catches her in the roof of the mouth (ouch!), which may contribute to the curling up. I've also used a KK snaffle with a lozenge in the middle (so three parts), but that bit is very "wiggly" and applies a fair amount of tongue pressure. So my thinking on the Mylar ported D ring snaffle is that is quite stable due to the upper slot (to which the cheekpiece attaches), like the Rockin' S is stable, but it has a mouthpiece that moves around less than the KK and gives good tongue relief, but without affecting the roof of the mouth. Although the Mylar comfort snaffles, without the port, are great bits for many horses, if a horse is having trouble with tongue pressure or has an unusually large tongue, the Mylar comfort snaffle with no port may give the horse trouble.

Since I didn't ride, I just tried the bit on her to see how she would like it, and did a little in-hand work to see how she responded. She didn't seem to mind it and carried it well. I didn't use the bottom slots (the ones for the reins), since that to my mind creates a leverage effect I'm not interested in and causes the bit to rotate in the horse's mouth - I wanted a direct rein connection without any leverage and where rein pressure did not affect the position of the bit in the mouth.

We backed in hand - I stood next to her shoulder (I alternated sides), holding the near rein in one hand and reaching my other hand up to her neck in front of the withers to hold the other rein. She softened to the bit pressure well, and backed softly with ease - so far so good. We also did some turns on the forehand using one rein and my hand on her side - not too bad. That's all we did, and with some luck I'll be able to ride today to test it out further. I also find a bit with a direct connection to the mouth - where the bit does not move around with rein pressure - allows me to really feel the horse's mouth while keeping my hands very soft, so perhaps it'll help me work on me.

After I put her back in her stall, I walked away up the hill towards my house. I heard some bangs from the barn, and kept walking. More bangs now - so I turned back to see what was up. A horse was obviously kicking in its stall for some reason. When I got back in the barn, it was Maisie. She was pinning her ears, and kicking and body-slamming - something hurt. It was almost feeding time, but she'd been eating hay and is on ulcer meds, so ulcer pain seemed unlikely. She had that "abstracted", "I'm thinking about my insides" look and was standing a little bit hunched, so I suspected gas pains. Sure enough, when I led her outside, some of the pressure was (audibly) released, and when I turned her out in the small grass paddock to see if she would graze, she was happy to graze and was much more comfortable. When I went back later that evening to turn fans off, she was resting comfortably in her stall.


  1. Totally understand about your hands being a work in progress! Mine are much better nowadays but will always be something I work on!
    Very thoughtful comments on bitting. So easy to get sucked in with the marketing of them and not study what actually suits our horses.

  2. Let us know how this bit works with her. I wish there was some way I could take one on "trial" to see if it would work with my horse. Heck, maybe with all the bits I have bought I should start a bit rental business!

  3. I use the KK losenge bits but in the eggbutt model. The loose ring ones wiggle far to much for me. Never have tried a Mylar but many people really like them. Hope it works out to be a good bit for Maisie.

    Your girl is quite clear about how she feels, and you are really good at tuning in to her discomfort. She is lucky to have such good communication with you. Glad she felt better so quickly.

  4. Jean - one thing I really like about Maisie is that she isn't a stoic - she always tells me (loudly if I'm not listening well!) when she's uncomfortable. I much prefer that to a horse that just puts up with discomfort and doesn't tell you how he or she feels.

  5. So very right, a sensitive horse will teach you much more than one that puts up with whatever you throw at them. Maisie sounds a good teacher.

  6. I like the myler bits--I use one on a fussy mare I sometimes ride (not mine) and she goes really well in it. It stay nice and still in her mouth and keeps either of us from fussing with it. I hope it works for you.

  7. Fascinating posts about this bit and your experience using it on the ground. I'm always fascinated with bits and why people (and horses) choose to use specific types. I'm going to check out that other link you provided, too, about bits. I'm glad Maisie is ok and didn't have anything serious going on, like colic.


  8. I have the same philosophy with Bar (and Lena) but it's more obvious with him. I try for the least "invasive" bit and, yes, try to concentrate on my own hands and being as clear with my commands as possible.

    He was so used to being guided only by the reins on the track that allowing him the space to figure out what I'm asking with other aids has been a good lesson for both of us.


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