Boredom Relief—I Try a Different Bit
Since I am still recovering from my trip up to Maryland two weeks ago I have not done much in the ring other than walk. This week Debbie was glad for me to just walk during my lesson since the ring was wet, wet, wet. For a while there I had been afraid that we were entering another drought, but for the past week the heavens have opened up, the crops are getting the water they need, the ponds are full, and the streams and river have plenty of water in them. It is getting positively soggy around here.
A few weeks ago I learned that a particular horse training “gadget” was on sale, in a bundle with a particular bit. Do you all remember those ads in horse magazines about the Beery booklets about horse training in the 1960's? I had always wanted to get them, but I knew that there was no way that my parents would let me get them since they considered all horse knowledge to be totally unnecessary. One reason I wanted to get these booklets was that the Beery Pulley Bridle was included in the bundle. Throughout my 47 years of owning, training and riding my personal horses there were about three times that I had wished that I owned the Pulley Bridle (a variation of a “war bridle”) though I managed to muddle through without it (I fixed the problems.)
Well, Charlie Hicks of Horse Training Resources has reissued the main Beery course for breaking horses, the Pulley Bridle, and the Beery 4-in-one bit, and recently he had the pulley bridle and the Beery bit for sale. My riding teacher has been having big difficulties with getting her personal horse shod, his brain is not quite right, he was not introduced to shoeing when young, and she needed to get her horse tranquilized each time she had him shod. She got tired of this and ended up using hoof boots for their training for long-distance riding, but she has had problems with the hoof boots falling off, and causing some sores on the fetlock. So I gave her the Pulley Bridle to see if her horse could be trained to accept being shod, and so she could try it with training her horse to accept carrying a flag.
This left me with the bit. I showed it to Debbie and she said that the bit I got was too narrow for her horse though she was interested in trying it on her problem child. I went on E-bay and found a slightly wider Beery bit, this one is probably better because it has a small French link in the center instead of just the single center joint. The original Beery bit can be seen at http://horsetrainingresources.com/BeeryBit and it is a variation of the Wilson snaffle, which has an extra set of rings floating on the mouthpiece of the bit. The headstall of the bridle is attached to the inner, floating rings and the reins are fixed to the outer rings, and when both reins are pulled the cheek rings squeeze the horse's head. After handling the bit a few times in my hands I put a pair of leather bit guards on it to take up some space (4 3/4” mouth, 5 1/4” bit) and to protect the horse's head from the side rings.
Since I knew I would just be walking around the ring I asked Debbie's permission to try this bit on Bingo. I do not need “more bit” to control Bingo since he does quite well in the Wellep bit, but I get worried about him becoming bored, bored, bored doing the same stuff every time I ride him. Putting a different bit in his mouth is a way to give him something new to think about while I do the same boring stuff.
Bingo did not seem too put out by having this bit in his mouth, but he reacted differently when I rode him, it was like I had gone back to a regular bit which all accentuate the unevenness in my hands. Since I could not get my hands totally in tune with his mouth he sucked back and I had to use a lot of leg, leg, leg to keep him going, in fact I had to bring my spurs in play once or twice. It may have helped if I had trotted him, but the ring was sopping wet and I did not want to tear it up unnecessarily. He kept contact fine, he just did not want to move out at all. He carried the bit peacefully in his mouth, he obeyed all my rein aids, but he just did not want to move out at all.
It seems that many of my hand problems arise from tightness in my shoulder joints, especially my right shoulder joint. I did not realize this until I did the “rider's push-ups” a lot, when I finally realized that I hold a good bit more tension in my right shoulder joint than my left shoulder joint. Now that I realize this it explains many of the problems I've had with needing a lot of leg to get the horses to move out, I think my right arm had been giving a retarding signal at the same time my legs were urging them to move out. I TRY to be religious about leg without hand and hand without leg (conflicting aids) but my MS has messed up my nervous system so much that I had not realized what I was doing. The poor horses, luckily for me, keep right on cooperating with me even with my less than perfect contact, they just did not want to move out when one of my hands was telling them to slow down.
Personally I probably won't be riding with this bit again unless I ride a horse with certain problems (shying violently or diving the head down suddenly.) I gave Debbie my observations and asked her if she wanted to try this bit with her problem child, and I made a point that she needed to be sure that her horse's teeth were rasped down properly so his cheek would not be cut by his teeth when the inner ring ran up against his face.
This bit, like the Wilson bit, was developed originally for driving horses. It is quite ingenious how the Beery bit (unlike the Wilson bit) can give 4 different strengths depending on how the reins are attached to the bit, and looking at my extensive bit collection I can understand how many people could like the fact that this one bit could replace 4 bits of different strengths. Since Beery started his school in 1908 the bit selection was not quite as vast as it is nowadays, and if one was stuck out in the country far from any big city, trying to find new bits may have been a challenge.
There are quite a few antique Beery bits on E-bay, but back at that time they were not made of stainless steel and these antique bits look heavily corroded. Nowadays two companies make them, Weaver Leather makes the one sold on the Horse Training Resources site, they say it is a 5” bit but I would NOT put it on a horse with a 5” mouth since it seems to be more of a 4 1/2” to 4 3/4” mouthpiece. This bit is made with stainless steel, the mouthpiece is nicely curved and it should suit a pony quite well. My 5 1/4” Beery bit, with the French link in the center that I found on E-bay, is made by Coronet (Intrepid International), which has a straighter mouthpiece, it is also made of stainless steel, and this bit does seem to be a full 5” wide.
Next week, with great relief on my and Bingo's part, I will be going back to my “old style” Wellep bit, and I expect I will have no problems with getting Bingo to move out. I am working hard on making sure that my shoulder joints relax when I get my shoulder blades in the right place against my back. I had not realized just how much tension was in my shoulder joints, though the horses, of course, knew full and well that my contact was not perfect.
Have a great ride!