Could It Be the Center Joint?

I used my new Ovation titanium coated D-ring single jointed anatomic mouth bit on Coach for the second time during my lesson on Wednesday. The grinding of the bit between his teeth was greatly reduced this time, he ground the bit some at tacking up and being led to the ring, but it was not as “furious” as before. When I started my ride he ground the bit a few times, I took contact, and then he only ground the bit a few more times. Since the heat was affecting me badly I limited contact, walked a lot on loose reins, and Coach lengthened and his mouth was nice and quiet. Debbie's final judgment was that Coach actually liked this bit, at least in comparison to several other bits.

His contact was quite good at his normal walk, but he did not keep the type of contact that I like when I asked him to extend his walk, in fact he has “sucked back” somewhat both rides when I asked him to extend his walk. The other time that his contact was truly horrible (inversion, gaping) was when I asked him to back up. I limited us to two teeny tiny microscopic steps back, just to have a reason to tell him he was a good boy for obeying my signal. Because he was not obeying my signal with a relaxed body I did not repeat the backing up, seeing no reason to make Coach uncomfortable before I finally figure out what bit will work best with him. Since we had achieved two small steps back the second time I used my Fulmer snaffle WITHOUT any blatant evasions I know that Coach is capable of moving backwards without the drama with his mouth. These two imperfect reactions are why I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my lozenge 3-piece mouth titanium coated snaffle just so I can compare his reactions. According to Debbie the only bit that they tried on him that gets good results is the 23mm center jointed egg-butt snaffle so I take Coach's reactions as him liking the titanium bit though it is only 16mm thick. I do not know yet the mouthpiece thickness of the bits I am waiting for, I fear they may be even thinner-14mm?, but if Coach is more comfortable with the center lozenge he may still accept this bit better than one with a center joint. At least I hope so!

Mia got her usual “old style” Wellep bit back for my ride on Friday. I thought she would be happy but she fussed and fussed and fussed some more, reluctant to move into contact and her contact was lighter than usual. The last time I used this particular Wellep bit on her Mia moved into contact beautifully and she did not fuss at all. Mia acted like she was DISAPPOINTED with something. It was not as hot as my previous ride, but my hands may have degraded enough during the long weeks of heat so that my contact is no longer good enough for this mare. The Wellep bit is made of surgical steel, so maybe Mia decided she liked the taste of the titanium even though she did not particularly like that specific mouthpiece. Maybe Mia decided that she does not like ANY bits with a center joint, even the old type Wellep bit that becomes a Mullen mouth with minimal rein pressure. Since I won't be able to ride her next week we will have to wait for the solution for this puzzle. At least my new titanium coated three piece snaffles should arrive by then, and Mia is a horse who prefers thinner bits (down to 10mm) than Coach does. The 14mm titanium coated snaffles are 2mm thicker that the Wellep bit, but if she prefers the taste of titanium she may decide to put up with the extra 2mm of thickness. If not I can always try using my three-piece Wellep bit again to see if it is the center joint that causes her distress now.

Last Sunday I tried the titanium coated center joint D-ring bit on Cider. She was not particularly happy with this bit either though she expressed her unhappiness in a calmer manner than before. She has been on her arthritis supplement for a few weeks now and is moving better out in the pasture (she keeps up with the other horses now) and is not flinching as much under saddle. Throughout the years I've ridden Cider she has shown a definite preference for three piece mouthpieces, first with the Dr. Bristol, and later when I switched her from the center joint Wellep bit to the three piece Wellep bit. Cider reached out for contact gingerly, and her contact was lighter than usual. I think she was telling me that she did not like the center joint but the taste of the titanium made the bit more bearable to her. This weekend I will go back to using the three piece Wellep snaffle on her.

When I went to the tack store on Tuesday I went through their bits. I bought a 23mm thick egg-butt snaffle and a 23mm thick Weymouth short shanked curb bit, both made with stainless steel, and both were on consignment thus cheaper than if I bought them new. I imagine that I will use the 23mm snaffle on Coach at least occasionally, in a week or two he should realize that the Micklem bridle, my Pegasus Butterfly saddle and my BOT Contender II saddle pad mean that I am riding him instead of the more accomplished riders Debbie has training him. Then it won't be as important that the bit is different. I got the thick short shanked curb bit to introduce him to the curb bit before I introduce the double bridle, it is thick enough so he should not be irritated just because the bit is thinner, and with the short shanks it looks like a very mild curb bit. I just have to wait until the weather is cooler and my hands improve to try it. I will make me up a “double” bridle using my old-fashioned jumping hackamore, the one with the divided cheek pieces, in place of the brandoon for steering. That way I can also introduce him to bitless and see how well he has learned my language of my hand aids when I am not working him on the curb bit. My hope is that after a few rides with this super thick curb bit he won't be as distressed with the thinner bits for the double bridle, together the two bits take up more tongue room than the 23mm curb.

I hope it gets cooler soon so my body will work better. The horses are all so very, very kind to me, putting up with my body when it does not work well.

Of course I do all I can not to irritate them to the point of rebellion.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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