More Adventures in Trying Bits

I spent this week trying out my new bits on all three horses, Cider, Coach and Mia.

Last Sunday I rode Cider. She was still quite stiff from her arthritis though Shannon thinks that she has improved some on the arthritis supplement. I figured that a different bit would give her something new to think about during our rather boring perambulations around the ring, and I decided to try my new “rainbow” titanium coated bit whose mouthpiece somewhat resembles the Myler Comfort Snaffle but without the “anatomic” shaped cannons, in other words when it is stiff the shape of the mouthpiece is like a Mullen mouth snaffle. The bits I've used recently on Cider were the Wellep three piece full cheek snaffle and the M. Toulouse titanium coated D-ring single jointed snaffle with an anatomic mouthpiece with curved cannons.

When Shannon started putting the bridle on Cider surprised her, Cider opened her mouth for the bit on her own! I do not know if Cider smelled the titanium, or possible the tiny bit of copper on the cannons, but this is the first time in over a decade of bridling Cider that she has voluntarily opened her mouth for the bit without Shannon having to stick her thumb inside of Cider's mouth. A promising start! However, after mounting, Cider started grinding the right side of the bit between her teeth whenever I rode on loose reins, for the first time in all the years I've ridden her. Cider took contact really well, and as long as I kept contact with her mouth she proceeded peacefully around the ring, obeying my hand aids and not fussing with her mouth at all. This bit's mouthpiece is only 10mm thick so I was pleased that she took and kept contact so well. As for the bit grinding maybe the independent side action of the bit annoyed her when the reins were slack, inciting her to grind the right side of the bit between her teeth. Tomorrow I am planning on trying out my new “rainbow” titanium plated three piece snaffle with a lozenge in the center to see if she grinds on that bit off contact. I am pretty sure that Cider has shown a definite preference for the titanium coated bits, now I just have to find out which mouthpiece she prefers with these bits.

Since I had promised Coach that I would ride him on the 23mm thick stainless steel egg-butt snaffle that Debbie said that Coach seemed to prefer, I was not prepared for the same furious grinding that Coach has given every stainless steel bit that I tried on him. So, Coach's more furious grinding of the bits is not a reaction to the thickness of the mouthpiece, it seems to be related to the stainless steel, a good thing for me to know. At first he was a little bit more sluggish in his response to my hand aids but he improved throughout out ride. Contact was fine, the only time he showed evasions was when we backed up two micro strides but he's done that with every other bit I've tried. Otherwise we worked some on turning, changing my aids from mainly hand, to mainly thighs, to mainly lower leg, in both directions. Then when he was warmed up we started on the three speeds of the walk, first going into an extended walk a few times then doing the super-slow walk. Coach is getting the idea of the super-slow walk, with well timed little twitches of my reins he shortened his stride and slowed down his legs. Then I practiced slowing down his walk just using my legs (as his barrel came out to meet my leg) and while he did not slow down as much as with the rein aids he did slow down. I promised both Coach and Debbie that I would ride with the 23mm egg-butt snaffle for three rides, that way I'll be able to see if Coach improves with his grinding and gnashing at the bit when off contact.

I decided to try the same bit on Mia that I used on Cider, the “comfort snaffle” centered, non-anatomic “rainbow” titanium coated snaffle. Many years ago I had tried an actual Myler Comfort loose ring snaffle on Mia and she HATED that bit, gaping, flipping her head, gaping, and doing all she could to show her utter displeasure with that bit, so I was not too sure how she would react to this new bit. Mia LIKED this new bit, she readily reached out for contact, including when I loosened my reins, her tongue was nice and relaxed, she kept her head stable, and she kept her mouth shut. Mia actually wanted to keep contact with this bit, she seemed to enjoy keeping contact with this bit, and I was happy. Then after 15 or so minutes I asked for our first halt, with my usual well-timed twitches of my little fingers. No response, I repeated my aids gently, no response, I added “freezing” my seat, no response, I tried using both hands at once, gently, no response and Mia was starting to get irritated with my hands. You would have thought that Mia had never, ever been asked to halt before in her whole life. “Why are you fiddling with the bit?” “Is that supposed to mean something?” “I have absolutely no idea what you are asking for.” “Why in the world should I react to your hand aids?” Those were Mia's responses to my hand and seat aids for the halt. When I finally got her to stop it was not pretty at all, her mouth was resistant, she gaped, and she inverted as she finally stopped. However when I asked her to walk she reached out for the bit and gave me the same great contact she had given me from the start of our ride until I asked her to stop again, when we went through the same rigmarole. Then I asked her to back up, she thought of it for a few seconds, then she gave me her usual relaxed, quiet mouthed normal smooth three strides back without any mouth problems. After a few more sessions of walking and halting she finally improved enough so I could end our ride on a good note.

In my search for the titanium covered bits (all “rainbow”) I ran into some that sell through Amazon, brand name Aaliff. I got my son to order three of them, an egg-butt Mullen mouth snaffle, a Baucher snaffle, and a Kimberwick. I bought these particular bits for further experimentation with Coach, the Baucher to see if Coach is objecting to how the bit lays in his mouth off contact, and the Mullen mouth snaffle and the Kimberwick to see if Coach gets less irritated with a stable mouthpiece. I was so excited when I tore open all the packaging, the bits looked pretty after all. Then, when I handled the bits, my excitement turned into disappointment, these bits, averaging around $60.00 USD each, have PROBLEMS. Where the mouthpiece meets the cheek pieces, including the egg-butt Mullen mouth, the joints do not move smoothly, it feels like there are rough parts withing the joints that catch, then release. These joints are also not as tight as the joints on the Korsteel or other intermediate cost bits that are made in China. These bits did not have a country of origin anywhere on the tags, but they do have the Aaliff brand name on them and on the tag. After a bit of internet research I found a reference of the Aaliff bits being made in Pakistan, which seems to be the main/only source of the titanium coated “rainbow” bits (warning, not all “rainbow” bits are titanium coated, I saw several stainless steel “rainbow” bits.)

Not all “rainbow” titanium covered bits have these problems. The two I got earlier, through a British tack store on Ebay, are nice bits, with smoothly moving side pieces, and I would never hesitate to put them in a horse's mouth, these two bits came without tags and only one has a manufacturer's name on it but they are decently made bits. But I will never again buy an Aaliff bit without being able to handle it in person, all other bits I've had with these problems were el-cheapo bits. I do not know if these problems where the bit ring meets the mouthpiece in the Aaliff bits come from poor quality control or from problems with the manufacturing process, but I will NEVER buy an Aaliff bit again unless I can handle it personally before buying it, especially at $55.00 USD on up for each bit. I could not leave a review on Amazon since I am not a member (my son orders what I want), and when I tried to go to the Aaliff website with my complaints my Norton anti-virus warned me of the lax security of the site with the possibility of malware. Not only are the joints loose and moving roughly, but on the Kimberwick the curb hooks are put on in the way most guaranteed to irritate the horse, with the opening of the curb hooks pointing to the mouthpiece where it will poke the horse's lip. I will HAVE TO get these curb hooks fixed before I dare try the Kimberwick on any horse, much less Coach. I am very disappointed with these bits.

I will be able to use them, especially the snaffles on horses who do not mind bit guards. But Coach, the horse I mainly bought them for, gets really irritated by my leather bit guards and will not stop trying to eat them. So long as I do not use an extreme opening rein I should be able to avoid the rough spots within the joints, but the joints are still looser than with comparable bits from other manufacturers. The Aaliff bits I bought through Amazon are definitely not worth their price. I will be using these Aaliff bits to see if Coach has any preferences as to mouthpieces before I spend $250.00 USD on up on a Lorenzini pure titanium bit for him.

So far all three horses have shown a preference to the titanium covered bits over my stainless steel bits. Even with the three piece snaffle with the lozenge, Coach has not ground the titanium covered bits anywhere near as much as he grinds the stainless steel bits, of any thickness, that I've used on him. Cider has never opened her mouth voluntarily for any stainless steel bit, and Mia is less accepting of stainless steel bits ever since I used the titanium coated D-ring single jointed snaffle on her.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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