Both Mares Like My Bombers Bit More Than Coach Does
This week I got to try my new Bombers Titanium Happy Tongue bit on Cider and Mia. After Coach's reactions I was not very hopeful, particularly with Mia. When I asked Shannon if I could switch Cider's bit from the titanium coated rainbow Kimberwick to the Bombers bit she was quite interested.
Cider's first reaction to the new bit was “it is different” and she explored the bit with her tongue, feeling its shape, seeing how it moved around in her mouth, and, as always, enjoying the taste of the titanium. I had no problems with contact, she kept her mouth nice and peaceful once we started our ride, and she strode forth as much as her creakiness allowed. Cider “told” me that with this solid mouthpiece bit that my halting aids needed to be both hands at once instead of my normal alternating my hands, she acted like I had never alternated my little fingers as a signal for a halt. Once I understood her everything went smoothly with the halts. This may be in response to the unique shape of this bit because she halts readily when I alternate my hands (little fingers really) on the equally solid mouthpiece of the titanium coated Kimberwick that has the lower ported Cambridge mouthpiece.
Forewarned by Cider's reactions to single reins in halting, I used lighter than normal rein aids for the turn on the hindquarters. Her initial reaction was sluggish, but by the fourth step she “planted” her hindquarters. It may take a while for me to get my fingers to give the right “strength” of signal so that this particular bit does not irritate her when I ask for turns in place. Of course with Cider still being stiff moving from her arthritis I could not really EXPLORE all the variations caused by this new bit, but she is slowly, slowly improving with her supplement, at least out in the pasture. However, essentially Cider considered my new bit as an interesting “non-event” and nothing to get upset about.
I must admit I approached Mia with my new bit with a degree of trepidation, she is so very, very, very picky about what she considers an acceptable bit with my hands. When I bridled her she did not even mouth the bit, it was titanium, worked well with her tongue, end of story. Mia showed none of her signs of resistance to the bit, she reached forth confidently for contact at both the walk and the trot, she did her turns in place just a little bit less crisply than usual, and, using both hands at once, she halted promptly and peacefully. When we backed up I think I used my hands just a little bit too strongly at first so it was a little bit more ragged than usual, but, again, she showed no signs of evasion.
I think this is maybe the most peaceful introduction of a new bit that I've had with her in over a decade. Of course I cannot count on Mia to continue to accept this bit, over the years I have noticed that it can take her up to 3 rides before she finally makes up her mind about a bit, leading to quite a few disappointments when I thought I had finally found an acceptable bit. Time will tell, and in the meantime I will have to work out a suitable strength of signal for her sensitive mouth. Mia is a great teacher as far as refining my hand aids is concerned!
My lesson with Coach did not start off on a wonderful note, my fault, instead of putting the horse size nose-piece on the Micklem bridle I had put Mia's pony sized nose-piece on. When we finally got the bridle adjusted to his satisfaction he appreciated the Mullen mouth rainbow titanium coated Mullen mouth snaffle in his mouth again. While this bit has too thin a mouthpiece for his finicky tastes, it does not have any joints in the mouthpiece so Coach mostly keeps his peace (aside from picking up a rein with his teeth off contact.) Twice during the ride, when I was asking him to extend his stride at the walk, he “offered” a trot but since I backed off a little bit with my legs he stayed at the walk.
Debbie is aiming for me to trot Coach soon. I did one small trot the first time I rode him and his trot is so much more powerful that the other horses I've ridden this past decade. I am concerned that I will “lose my seat” and accidentally hurt Coach's mouth with the bit. So, next week's lesson, I am going to bring out three things that might protect Coach's mouth better from my hands and bad balance, and let Debbie decide which one I should try first. Since I use the Micklem Multi-Bridle I can use the bit clips that attach the bit to the noseband, so I dug deep into my bit carton and found a pair. With these I would not have to worry as much about hurting his mouth as his nasal bone would take some of the pressure. I dug out one of my extra flash-straps, hopefully it is long enough so I can run it through the chin strap rings on the Micklem bridle, double it up, and use it in place of the Micklem chin strap I cut off the bridle many years ago. Either or both of these things could stabilize the bit further in Coach's mouth, I get the feeling that Coach does not like any bit “floating” around in his mouth, even a Mullen mouth.
The third choice? I went on Ebay searching for a Mullen mouth Kangaroo snaffle with a Vulcanite mouthpiece, which is hard and stiff but nice and thick. I ran across a bit that was titled as a Kangaroo Mullen mouth in soft rubber. I bought the bit because it was only $20.00 USD with no shipping so I would not loose to much money if Coach destroys this bit with his premolars. When I got the bit it turned out that it is a Centaur Soft Rubber Mullen mouth bit with a flexible mouthpiece, and it has 4” rings, an inch bigger ring than most modern snaffle bits. The flexible black rubber mouthpiece is 20mm thick, hopefully thick enough to meet Coach's preference for thick bits (the Mullen mouth I'm using is 12mm thick.) With this bit I will be able to determine if it is the METAL that bothers Coach in his mouth when off contact. Since it is pretty cheap I won't lose a lot of money if Coach decides that this bit is just as unacceptable as the other bits off-contact and grinds it between his teeth.
I REALLY hope Coach accepts this soft-rubber bit. It is thick, it won't clang around in Coach's mouth, and if I lose my seat at the trot it will not hurt his mouth as badly as a metal mouthed bit would. Of course Coach is a horse, which means that he could decide that anything about this bit is unacceptable. Some 45 years ago I got my first horse, the sainted Hat Tricks, a white soft rubber bit because it was gentler than the single-jointed metal bits I was using. It did not work, Hat Tricks purely HATED that bit and spent the whole ride trying to push it out of his mouth with his tongue. I was sort of heart broken, but when I tasted the bit it tasted HORRIBLE, if someone had put it in my mouth I would have rejected it too! Luckily my new black rubber bit tastes a lot better.
My goal is to find Coach a bit that he will accept off contact, or a set up with the Micklem Multi-bridle that makes him more comfortable. I am sick and tired of the grind, grind, grind while off-contact, while he does better with the titanium coated bits he still does it. I would also LOVE to find a bit with which he would not take the rein between his teeth when I am off-contact. His other rider has no problem with this because she ALWAYS rides him on contact. Unfortunately for me riding on contact takes more of my limited energy, and after a few minutes I just have to rest my arms and loosen the reins.
I will let you all know how this works out as we experiment with the three possible “cures” for our problems with the bits.
Have a great ride!