This is my first attempt at a blog post so hope this is not too silly! It is 90 something degress outside, full sun so cannot ride until later thus I decided to blog.  My topic: happy mouth bits since I have found a tack item that I really like.  I started using the happy mouth loose ring snaffle on my OTTB.  He was right off the track.  I started with my double jointed D-ring snaffle. He did not seem to like it, seemed confused ( he is a horse that wants to please, like most TBs) but I knew that did not understand what I wanted since all he has ever done was race.  He would carry himself inverted, not flex at the poll and flip his head when he started to get frustrated. I have been told that I have very light hands and I have learned how to be flexible with my elbows and follow the horse.  Even so, I started worrying about my hands.  I started riding him with loose rein, not much contact and he would still flip his head.  So I tried more contact, that created resistance and he would actually lean on the bit! 

After reading several forums and such, I learned about happy mouth bits.  Immediate happy horse. After a few months of learning how to be soft and responsive, his topline developed and no more inverted horse.  Little to no head flipping!  It has been 2 years and I still use a happy mouth Double jointed loose ring.  I did ride in a dressage clinic and the clinician smiled at my plastic bit but did ask if I had a bit the may get his attention more (our dressage frame did need some work!). I put my standard double jointed snaffle in my dressage bridle and was a bit worried that he might protest but he responded to it great, nothing like the first time I tried it on him. I think the happy mouth helped him learn that bits are not bad and was a great training tool. I still use it on a regular basis for hacking and cross country.  I do switch to my 'normal' snaffle for dressage and it seems that the bit switch also helps my horse understand what discipline we will be doing for that ride!

As for the happy mouth, I do need to replace the bit. In my case, I replace it about every 3 months.  It is apple flavored so yes, it does get chewed on!  But it is still his favorite so happy to replace as needed. 

 

I have a younger horse I am just starting.  She is 17.1 hands and knows this. After basic training in a rope halter,  I started with a basic, standard metal snaffle for her bit.  She would raise her head and after some work, the act of putting on the bridle became better but not super.  So I switched out the metal bit to a happy mouth.  First time, head went up. I asked again for her to put her head down and let her check out the bit.  Bit in mouth, bridle on after just a brief discussion.  Next day, I pulled out the bridle,  got ready to put it on her and she lowered her head the first time of my asking and opened her mouth!  no fuss!  She rode lovely in the happy mouth. Thus she gets one as well! 

 

My next adventure is the Micklem competition bridle. I found it for a great price and just had to try it! It will arrive sometime next week!  I figure nothing wrong with tack experimentation!  We advance our technology such as our phones, computers, cars...why not our tack?  I would be interested if anyone is using the Micklem bridle and what are your thoughts?

 

Happy riding!

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Comment by Nora Robinson on July 23, 2011 at 7:22pm
I really liked using a Happy Mouth on my mare as well.  But after a month or so, it gets rough from her chomping on it.  So I had to decide if I could afford another $25 0 $30 a month to keep replacing them.......not lol!  I ride alot in a bitless bridle, so when I pull out the metal bit she doesn't seem to object :)
Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 23, 2011 at 10:16am

Irish horses' heads seem to be sized slightly differently from American horses' heads.  Get a hole punch, I punched two holes on the chin and jowl straps, and also on the cheek pieces up by the brow band.

On the Arab mare I'm riding I am using a pony nose piece with a horse sized crown piece.  I HAD to punch holes in the pony nose piece, especially the too short jowl piece.  The browband is too big but it doesn't irritate her.

I have the Arab-Welsh pony in the cob/Arab sized Micklem.  I still punched holes on the jowl strap.  Of course I took the chin strap off both, after I determined I could replace it with another flash attacment strap if I ever decided I needed a chin strap again.  I'd have to get some keepers to use the flash strap, but then I could just run it through the nose piece dees and buckle it on itself.

So now I have a pony crown piece and a horse nose piece just sitting around.  Somehow I doubt I'll run into a horse head that that combination would fit!

Comment by CanterHaven on July 22, 2011 at 11:26pm

Jackie,

Thank you for the added info on the Micklem bridle!  I am even more excited for it's arrival.  I ordered it on July 1st but I guess Horseware in Ireland was on holiday until July 12, so it just shipped this last tuesday.  I am slightly worried that I may have ordered a size to small but I did find the proper measurement info and my gelding should fit but there will not any extra holes for adjustment!  If it is too small, them my young mare who is more fine will get it. And then I may have to order another!

Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 22, 2011 at 11:09am

Good for you finding a bit that your horse likes.

I've been using Micklem multi-bridles for years, with a bit I don't use any other if I have a choice.  I did not make the horses I ride truly happy until I took the chin strap off, but they REALLY like the fact that the cheek pieces do not rub on the outside of their molars.  The reason the horses did not like the chin strap is that neither mare likes having more than one tiny wrinkle at the corner of the mouth, using the chin strap there were more wrinkles. 

I have MS so I irritate the horses just by getting up on them.  The Micklem bridle helped my reduce a major source of tack irritation (rubbing against the molars) and the mares have been much more cooperative when I use a bit when I use this (adapted) bridle.

If your horse does not mind wrinkles at the corner of its mouth it should be quite content with the Micklem bridle.  It is a true advance in tack technology. 

The Arab mare I ride, the first time I introduced the Micklem bridle she was sort of tense, expecting a regular bridle.  I got it on her, she stood there, and then she sighed and seemed to perk up and feel more cheerful.  I think the regular English bridles had been irritating her sensitive head.

Oh, with my first Micklem bridle I had to end up cutting down the flash straps for flash nose-bands to replace the too short bit straps that come with the bridle.  On my second Micklem bridle I used leather spur straps but the leather is much flimsier.  I use the bit straps that come with it for Kimberwicks, but for snaffles I use the cut down flash straps or spur straps.  Expensive, but both mares are much more comfortable with no or only one wrinkle at the corner of the mouth, so it is worth the added cost.

I love my Micklem bridle as much as you love your Happy Mouth bits!

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