Coach Did NOT Like His New Bit!

I was SO EAGER to try my new bit when it arrived! It is a Bombers Titanium Happy Tongue non-jointed snaffle. Coach has clearly indicated a preference for titanium bits over stainless steel bits, and he also has firmly “told” me that the more joints the bit has the more the bit irritates him. This bit is “anatomic” in shape, with a generous port and it is Bomber's version of an egg-butt bit.

Coach did not like this bit, a slightly expensive experiment. When Debbie bridled him she noted that he might not like the bit because it was so thin, it is a whopping 2mm narrower than the Mullen mouth and it rapidly reduces to just about 7mm at the top of the port. Coach immediately started grinding this bit between his teeth, not quite as aggressively as he grinds the stainless steel bits but more than he did the other titanium bits whether Mullen mouth, double jointed or single jointed. Because this bit is “anatomic” in shape it drapes across his tongue, and the thickest parts of the bit were outside his mouth, so much so that Debbie finally saw that Coach may need to try a bit with a 4 3/4” mouth instead of 5”. Now this bit's mouthpiece is measured as 125mm which is around 4 7/8”, so maybe we could consider 4 1/2” for a curb for a double bridle or any bit will hang lower in his mouth—with no wrinkles at the corner of his mouth.

Coach continued grinding the bit between his teeth when he was led to the riding ring. I mounted—grind, grind, grind, I started off with a sagging rein—grind, grind, grind, and he only stopped grinding this bit between his teeth when I picked up contact. He kept contact fine with the bit, and he did not start grinding immediately when I loosened my reins, instead he started picking up the left rein in his incisors, luckily I caught this before he got teeth marks on my rein. Back on contact he went fine again though sometimes he seemed to think that my normal rein aids were just too harsh. As long as I was urging with my legs he did not grind his bit on sagging reins, but as soon as I let up on my leg aids the grinding started again.

This week I shifted my emphasis from teaching him the ABCs of my rein and leg aids to working on influencing the length of his stride—the three speeds of the walk, with long gentle curves. My goal with the long gentle curves was to signal the turn my relaxing the fingers of my OUTSIDE hand to encourage him to lengthen his outside and thus turn. He did this very well and I could practice turning him gently with no loss of speed and without shortening his stride at all. Halting was not as prompt as with the Mullen mouth bit but I had no difficulties with getting him to stop. Like every other bit, he was quite willing to keep his mouth peaceful while on contact, but sagging reins gave him a chance to tell me EVERYTHING he did not like about this bit.

One interesting thing I noticed was when I asked Coach to extend his walk off contact. He did extend his stride a little bit, but not as confidently as on contact and he did not grind the bit. After we went halfway around the ring I picked up contact and Coach immediately lengthened his stride and he started pushing off with his hind leg a lot stronger than when he was off contact. I will continue to occasionally ask him to extend his walk off contact since he obviously has to build up his muscles so he is strong enough to have “self-carriage” when off contact instead of sucking back a little bit.

And here I thought that Mia was picky about her mouth, but Coach, if anything, is even more persnickety about his bits! Mia does not have much problem with accepting bits that are a 1/4” too wide so long as she approves of the mouthpiece. Mia seems to prefer the thinner mouthpieces and gets distressed when we ride in a thicker bit, unlike Coach who prefers thick bits (up to 23mm thick.) Mia prefers her bits to not cause wrinkles at the corner of her mouth while Coach seems to think that 2 or 3 wrinkles are perfect. Mia, as long as my hands are decent, prefers double jointed snaffles even when the joints are made to become rigid with contact, but with Coach the more joints the mouthpiece has the worse the bit. Mia's mouth feels “dead” in a Mullen mouth bit, while Coach's mouth seems to come alive in a good way with the Mullen mouthpiece. Horses, in my experience, take their bits PERSONALLY and each horse seems to have definite preferences, some of which other horses hate, hate, hate. It is like the horses sort of think of the bits like jewelry, a flashy object whose selection centers around personal preference. Just because one bit is a “miracle” bit on one fussy horse, does not mean that another fussy horse will like that bit at all. This can make finding the “perfect” bit for your horse an expensive proposition, especially when these bits are made in Western Europe--$$$!

If Coach was objecting to my hands he would be much more fussy on contact than off contact, the opposite of Coach's objections. He would not reach out to establish contact consistently, and he would be shaking his head, or gaping, or flinging his head when I establish contact instead of quieting down with his mouth. As long as I keep contact with steady hands he seems to be able to accept most mouthpieces, the truth comes out only when I go off contact or just loosen a rein a little bit.

Coach is so fussy about his bits moving around in his mouth that I am thinking that I should recreate the Micklem chin strap with a doubled up flash strap. That could keep the bit from moving so much in his mouth, and maybe he would accept more mouthpieces that he now finds unacceptable. The bad part about “tying” his mouth closed is that on the days my MS is worse I might accidentally hurt his mouth more than would have been the case because he cannot open his mouth to avoid the action of my hands. I will have to experiment with this later.

I am now eager to try my new Bombers bit on the mares I ride. It is thin enough for Mia but I do not know how she will react to the “anatomic” mouthpiece and the high port. I was going to try it on her yesterday but it was raining too much to ride. Tomorrow I plan to try it on Cider, she seems to accept the non-jointed ported mouthpiece of the Kimberwick just fine and it will be interesting to see how she reacts to this new mouthpiece, unlike that of any other bit that I've tried on her. Both mares can get quite emphatic when they do not like a bit, flinging their heads, gaping at the mouth and inverting when they do not want me to keep contact with a bit. I can TRUST these mares to emphatically tell me what they think about any bit. Just because a bit has a titanium mouthpiece does not mean these mares will accept just any mouthpiece, even though they are gentler in their objections than they are with the stainless steel bits.

One nice thing about getting a Bomber's bit is that the tag has a useful comparison between bit widths in inches and bit widths in millimeters (mm), as below;

4 ½ inches=115mm.

4 ¾ inches=120mm.

5 inches=125mm.

5 ¼ inches=135mm.

5 ½ inches=140mm.

5 ¾ inches=145mm.

6 inches=150mm.

These are not exact equivalents, some of them are a little narrower in mm's than in inches, others are a little wider, for example 125mm seems to be really 4 7/8 inches and 135mm seems to be really 5 5/16 inches, close but not exact.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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