I Try Out Two New Bits

After a week without riding I was sort of frustrated. I had two new bits that I was eager to try out on the horses. I really cannot complain too much if I can't ride because of rain, we have been getting dryer and dryer down here in NC. The ponds are shrinking and the creeks and river are low.

This week I got to ride!

Shannon had told me she wanted to try the Fagers “Lilly” single jointed egg-butt snaffle because it is touted as a “bar relief” bit, at least when the horse carries its head normally. This bit is fully fold-able, has a titanium mouth-piece, and is 14mm thick. Since the bit is 125mm wide (4.92”), and Cider's mouth is 4 3/4” inch wide I went ahead and the the Fagers silicon bit guards on it. These bit guards are advertised as easy to put on, and for once advertising was right. It took me only 5 minutes to put the two bit guards on instead of the hour or so (with lots of cursing and crying) that it takes me to put on rubber bit guards. These bit guards do not look as wide as the rubber ones, they measure 3 1/4” wide and look smaller on the horse's head.

Cider spent a few minutes after Shannon bridled her exploring this new bit with her tongue, and occasionally biting on it with her molars, but she did not grind the bit between her teeth. Overall I got the impression that this was a mildly interesting non-event. When we started out ride Cider took contact willingly and felt a little steadier in her contact, as in she was wont to do tiny “droppings” of the bit as I rode her with other bits, which I really had not noticed too much until she did not do it. Contact was much steadier throughout the ride.

Nothing I did seemed to distress Cider at all, all her turns were fine even if her obedience was not quite as prompt as usual. Shannon thinks that Cider likes this bit but warned me that Cider is one of the many horses who do not come to a final conclusion about a bit until she's been in it for several rides. Horses like this is why I do not rent a bit before buying it, some horses take up to a month before they decide if the bit is truly worthwhile. If I get to ride tomorrow I am looking forward to Cider's reaction to this bit after a week of being able to think it over.

Wednesday I had my lesson on Bingo. By default he got to try my second new bit, the Fagers “Fanny” FSS tongue relief single-jointed egg-butt snaffle. I told Debbie that I needed to be in a lesson to try this bit out on Bingo because while the bit is interesting, mild and humane, it really does not have any “authority” in telling the horse “Yes, I expect you to obey me.”

The mouthpiece of the “Fanny” thins out and rises at the center joint giving the tongue plenty of room. The FSS stands for “Fagers Smart System”. There is only one orientation of this bit in the horse's mouth where it is super mild. The the center joint “locks up” after the bit cannons move 1/4” if both reins are used simultaneously or 1/2” if just one rein is used. The Fager bit people say they do this so that there is no danger of the center joint of the bit hitting the horse's palate, and the horse's tongue does not get squished at all. The Fager bit people even have a direction “icon” of a horse “galloping” (it looks like the old illustrations of galloping horses before cameras) heading upwards, with the horses back toward the horse's ears. In all the other positions the bit moves like a regular bit. In the proper position the bit locks up toward the palate (vertically) and horizontally up the tongue.

Bingo had his usual reaction to any change, forgetting a lot of his recent training. Stopping him was harder as in it took several hand aids, but I did not have to resort to setting my hands. His turns were so-so at first. Deciding that Bingo needed some time to figure the bit out I practiced turning him with my inside upper thigh, moving my outside seat-bone forward in the saddle, and with my outside lower leg, all timed to his stride and on loose reins. After a few minutes of this Bingo was much more responsive to this bit when I took up contact again.

At the first part of the ride Bingo was concerned about his hind end, not the new bit. For some reason (maybe skin soreness from diarrhea) Bingo found the previously innocent tail cord of his exercise sheet extremely irritating, finally giving me a little, non-violent crow hop that did not disturb my seat in the saddle. Debbie took off his exercise sheet and Bingo settled down to his usual “This is something new, how in the world do you expect me to understand you” that he does with any change.

Friday I listened to the radio, heard that it was 40F and dressed for that temperature. Then I checked the weather outside before I put on my boots, chaps and spurs, and I promptly went back in, put on my BOT long underwear, my BOT long sleeve shirt, and another layer of coat. The wind was from the North and it was a bitter, cold wind, just like one can expect when the Arctic atmosphere decides to move South for the winter. I had put the double bridle bits back on Bingo's bridle since I wanted an easier ride on him for my homework ride. As the wind got stronger and gustier I was glad I had changed my bits.

Bingo was cold, of course, and his winter coat was standing up instead of lying down. He appreciated getting out of the wind, he liked his grooming, and he loved it when I put on his warm hats. He did not give me any problems when I put the bits in his mouth, all my difficulties came from my clumsiness but Bingo was very patient with me. After some thought, unable to stand the prospect of Bingo standing out in the wind naked in the unsheltered riding ring, I put on his BOT exercise sheet leaving the tail cord over his tail, which before has irritated him. I guess Bingo was so glad to have something keeping his butt warmer that he did not protest this time.

As usual when going back to a bit set up where he usually obeys me promptly after trying a new bit that he does not understand, Bingo was less responsive to my hand than usual in the double bridle. Well the wind was getting colder and blowing harder so I did not get after Bingo for this, I did not school him to finger-tip control because I doubt it would have taken. We plodded around the ring, avoiding another horse who was being schooled, while Bingo obeyed me with some reluctance. I was getting colder and colder, and after 20 minutes I decided I better stop. I was so stiff I had to have some help dismounting and I had trouble clearing his croup with my right leg.

Riding in the cold wind completely sapped my energy and I dragged around for the rest of the day.

I won't be able to get a lesson next Wednesday because it is supposed to be 23F at dawn and it will stay cold all day. When I call Debbie to confirm my lesson on Friday I will discuss with her if she wants me to use the new snaffle again. Debbie does not seem to understand why I am so willing to ride Bingo with two sets of reins instead of just a single rein with a snaffle or a Pelham with converters. As far as I am concerned the results I get from Bingo with the double bridle is well worth the hassle of handling two sets of reins.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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