One of the most confusing aspects of horse riding is choosing the right bit for your horse. It can be very difficult to choose a bit that will not only be effective in your training, but also mild enough to not hurt your horse or end up producing any resentment towards the bit and bridle. This has been on my mind lately because as I’m nearing my first schooling show date, I’m looking for ways to amp up my training. Hot Rod naturally holds his head nice and level, but often pokes his nose out and can end up looking (and feeling) really flat. So, I have been looking around for potential bits to help me aid in this problem.
I currently use a level one, mild Myler shanked bit, which I really like. It’s different from other curb bits, in that the shanks can move independently from one another and still rotate in the middle, thus allowing you to use two hands efficiently when needed, but also use as a neck-reining bit. I personally think Myler makes high quality bits, and it’s pretty convenient that you can build your own bit on their website. You can see them here: Mylerbitsusa.com
Building my own custom bit would be really great, except I have no idea what I need! Or what Hot Rod needs, I should say. After doing some research, I’ve found that to help most horses become softer in their mouth and break at the poll I need a curb bit, possibly with a low port. Many articles I read indicated that a “heavier” bit would help create that “finished” look. I’m currently leaning towards this bit, called the Robart Pinchless Junior Western Pleasure. I like the idea of this bit, because it’s similar to my usual one in that it has spring-loaded shanks. A heavier bit would force me to be very soft with my hands, as well.
With that all said, you don’t want to drop a bunch of money, only to get the bit home and into your horse’s mouth to find that it was NOT the right choice. One of the best things to do is to try out a bit first, if possible. Many times a friend might have a similar bit to what you’re shopping for, and you can borrow it for a ride or two. Test-driving a bit can really help you see the pros and cons of each kind before spending your money. I tried this Classic Equine Flat Cheek Short Correction Bit that belongs to a boarder. It really helped our riding at the walk and trot. He listened to my hands nicely and I stayed very soft as well; his stops were much crisper and he tucked his nose in without hesitation. He also neck-reined way better than normal. The lope was a little dicey, however. He tossed his head and evaded the bit; the exact opposite of what I was trying to achieve! Perhaps it was just still new and felt very different to him. I’ll try it one more time and see how he does.
I was also reminded in all my research that nothing works better at producing results than a good old-fashioned snaffle bit, hard work, and patience. Sometimes, when working out the kinks in our training program, we tend to want a quick-fix to cover up the true problem. In this case, the true problem isn’t necessarily my bit (although a different one might help). It’s that Hot Rod isn’t carrying himself in a collected manner, and I’m not asking enough of him. His nose sticks out and his body feels flat, because he’s not collected. Not because I have a bad bit. I’m hoping that the intermediate use of a different bit might wake us both up and produce sensitive on both our ends, but I’m also not going to underestimate the power of simple hard work and perseverance.
“There are many types of bits, for many different disciplines, but the severity of ALL bits, lies in the hand of who’s holding them.”
– Monty Roberts