Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Bit Better

Recently I have decided to change Gus's bit. I have been riding him in a loose ring double jointed KK that   I've had forever! It was the bit that I used on my old eventer, Johnny, back in the day (talking 1999-2007 when he retired from riding) It has always been a great bit, and still is a great bit, but something wasn't working so well for Gus.
Gus always opened his mouth and took the bit without question, but in the past couple of months I'd have to pry his mouth open with my thumb and stuff the bit in as quickly as I could before he'd clamp his teeth back together. He never flipped his head or did anything naughty so I pondered what was it about this soft, nice, snaffle that had my horse thinking it was the worst thing ever??? He regularly gets his teeth checked and floated so I knew it couldn't of been a bad tooth acting up, and once it's in he doesn't open his mouth or try to evade the bit, heck I ride him with a plain, loose, noseband with nothing fancy attached to it to keep his jaw in place. 

One day it kind of hit me what might be the problem. As I was doing my best to pry open his mouth by applying pressure to the bar of his mouth, I realized at the same time I was doing my best to avoid his canine teeth from chomping down on my thumb as we played cat and mouse with the bit. So as soon as I got the bit into his mouth, i curled back his lips and had a look. Sure enough his bit was really close to his canine teeth and when he started chewing it would clank against his teeth. I was in a bit of a quandary because obviously the bit was to low in his mouth, but if I raised it any higher it would be to tight against his lips- there would be 3 wrinkles instead of the 2 that you are suppose to have when the bit is placed in the mouth. What about using a smaller sized bit? I tried that (I had 1 size smaller sitting in my trunk from Liaison) So into Gus's mouth that went. It looked great- 2 wrinkles, no teeth clanking, but it still wasn't perfect. Where the loose ring slides through the mouthpiece it was really close to the corner's of Gus's mouth and was only a matter of time before it would start pinching his mouth and causing sores there. So that was ruled out.

I started thinking about all the bits that were at the barn and I thought about the bit Gunner uses on Byrd. It is one of the Nathe rubber bits and figured it had 2 advantages over the loose ring snaffle. 1) It is rubber, so if it hits Gus's teeth it won't be as bad as metal hitting them, and 2) it is a mullen mouth so it shouldn't hang low and hit his teeth.
The Nathe
On Sunday my friend Alyse and her sister Cory came over and rode around the front field. I figured it would be the best way to find out of I had any control in the Nathe bit, and better to find out at home then at a show, clinic, or lesson! If Gus did run away with me we'd still be in the pasture and he could run around to his heart's content and I'd know that it wasn't a good bit for him. But this wasn't the case. He was so soft and happy in the bit I thought well damn, what have I been missing all this time? Just after a few minutes of trotting he developed some nice "lipstick" (the slobber from working the bit in the mouth) which is something that Dressage judges look for because it means that the horse is accepting of the bit. We even galloped around the field and I was able to stop him quite easily before crashing into the electric fence, which I know would of stopped him!!! He jumped great, we worked a little on our flying changes, and I couldn't of asked for him to be any better. He was a little motorcycle-y to the left, but that was just me needing to balance him a bit more and not let him lean left. To make sure that this wasn't a fluke or caused by the pretty mare that Gus took a shine to, I rode him in the bit again for my jumping lesson today and again he was perfect!!! I wasn't asking him to round up and go on the bit, but at one point I did take a little more rein up and closed my leg around him and I felt him round and soften to me before letting him have his head for jumping. Gus is so well trained that I don't really need the bit for steering or stopping because my leg and seat do most of that anyways. The bit just seems to be more of a comfort for Gus- something to balance against as we jump around- and when I say balance, I don't mean that he is leaning on the bit and pulling down on his forehand, he just jumps better if I have light contact with his mouth instead of looping the rein and going all free bird on him. I think it's his way of knowing that I'm there too. I could be wrong, but it sounds nice!!!

Now that I know how much Gus likes the bit, I'm in need of buying one of my own. Byrd's bit is to big for Gus and slides through his mouth a little more than I'd like, plus it's Byrd's bit. Not that Byrd even needs a bit, but for whatever reason his rider likes riding him in the bit better- even though he has a Micklem Competition Bridle set up to be bitless. I think it's more of a mental thing that Gunner and Cindy have, because Byrd's not going anywhere and he's happier without the bit- heck he's practically chewed through the Nathe! Though when it comes to the Nathe bit I can't help but gag at the price of it!! Seriously- for a piece of SOFT RUBBER it's going to cost me a cool $75.95????? What the heck makes it cost that much??!?!?! It's a piece of rubber!!!! An expensive Happy Mouth costs $50 but normally runs in the $20-$30 price range- way easier on my pocketbook!!! But what if he doesn't like the Happy Mouth??? So after my lesson I called mom in hopes that she might have a nice Happy Mouth somewhere in her bit collection and sure enough she did!!! Fantastic!!! I figure I'll give the mullen Happy Mouth a try and if Gus hates it and doesn't go as well in it as the Nathe, then I'll shell out the $75 for it, but if all that he liked about the Nathe was it not hitting his teeth and being made of rubber, heck that's exactly what a Happy Mouth will do!!! I'm headed up to Mom's this weekend so Happy Mouth test here we come!!! Here's to hoping Gus likes it just as much if not better than the expensive piece of rubber that calls itself Nathe!!!

Happy Mouth Hopeful!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment