My New Wellep Full Cheek Double Jointed Snaffle
A few weeks ago, on Ebay, I found this listing for an “extremely rare” Wellep Full Cheek Double Jointed Snaffle. Yes, this bit IS extremely rare, I have been haunting Ebay for seven years, frequently checking for any Wellep bits for sale, and this was the first time I had seen a double jointed Wellep bit for sale. I had to wait out the auction process, but I finally got my bid in and bought this bit. On the Wellep web site this bit is described this way, “The Wellep full cheek double jointed snaffle allows more of an angle over the tongue, and the center section with its ball joint at both ends allows the middle to roll, encouraging the horse to play. A kind bit, could well prove to successful on a horse with a sensitive mouth. Acts on the tongue, bars and lips.”
When it finally came I immediately put it on Cider's bridle since she was the next horse I was riding. The last month or so I switched my plain leather reins to the “rainbow” rubber reins in hopes of getting my hands more even on the reins. Cider and Bingo sort of accepted the rubber reins but I had not dared to try them with Mia since she gets so pissy about all my hand faults (that is why she is such a great teacher.) I decided I would use the rainbow reins on all three horses when I introduced this new bit just to make sure that Mia would have plenty of reason to complain if she did not like my new bit for any reason. Of course all three horses had liked how the plain leather reins could easily slip through my fingers if I made a mistake with my hands, and neither Cider or Bingo were quite as happy with my hands as they had been when I used the plain leather reins. I also did not use my leather bit guards on the bit like I had with the Wellep single jointed snaffle and the JP Dr. Bristol bits.
I had been using my beloved JP D-ring Dr. Bristol snaffle with my added “bit loops” (made with bias tape) on Cider. She had indicated to me, through her reaction to my contact and hand aids, that this Dr. Bristol was her favorite bit, she even preferred it to my Wellep Full Cheek full cheek single jointed snaffle. It was NOT that Cider said my hands were perfect with the JP Dr. Bristol, it was that Cider liked being able to communicate with my hands by manipulating the center plate and the side cannons with her tongue. I do not know how Cider knew that this was a new bit (maybe the metal smelled different?), but when Shannon brought the Wellep bit up to her muzzle Cider immediately opened her mouth for the bit by her own free will, something she had never done before for any bit. As Cider happily mouthed her new bit I mounted and went into the ring.
Well, Cider IMMEDIATELY told me, by her reactions to my contact and rein aides, that she greatly preferred the Wellep double jointed bit over the JP Dr. Bristol D-ring bit or the Wellep single jointed bit. There was little drama during my ride. Cider let me use MUCH lighter rein aids, and she obeyed them promptly. This bit, like the single jointed Wellep snaffle, turns “solid” like a Mullen mouth snaffle when both reins are applied at the same time, the difference is that the single jointed bit has a small peak in the center while the double jointed Wellep bit has sort of an arch in the middle. Cider greatly preferred this middle arch to the middle peak when I kept contact. She did not pretzel at all, looked much more cheerful according to Shannon, she kept a good steady contact with my hands, and after a few minutes I could use the lightest hand aids to get obedience, just a little twitching of my fingers.
The next Sunday Cider voluntarily opened her mouth for this bit again. Happily rolling the bit in her mouth Cider stayed relaxed and obedient. Over all the years I've ridden her Cider has objected to my seat and hands by pretzeling with an absolute refusal to go straight. Well, last Sunday, going across the ring, Cider actually went STRAIGHT! She was not perfect the whole ride of course, but between my Pegasus Butterfly saddle, the properly shimmed Contender II saddle pad, the Millbrook stirrup leathers, my Kerrits IceFil silicon/rubber full seat tights, the rainbow reins, and now my new Wellep double jointed snaffle bit Cider is MUCH HAPPIER with me riding her. I stay stable on her back, the saddle moves out of the way of the top of her shoulders, my hands are even on her reins, and the Wellep bit minimizes my hand faults since the bit does not irritate her mouth.
When I got home from my first ride on Cider with this new bit I immediately changed it over to Bingo's and Mia's bridle. On Bingo I had been using the PeeWee bit, a rather thin loose ringed Mullen mouth bit. He likes the PeeWee bit fine, he can move the mouthpiece where he wants it, it releases pressure promptly, and the lower side pieces give me some hope in combating his stiff, thick throat latch. I had tried the single jointed Wellep snaffle bit on him, but he seemed to react better to my hand aids with the PeeWee bit. When Debbie bridled him Bingo realized that the Wellep double jointed snaffle bit was quite different from the PeeWee bit, and he happily started rolling the mouthpiece around in his mouth. By the time we got to the ring he was quite happy with his new toy! When I asked him to reach out for contact he was cheerful about it, keeping a nice steady contact without any fussing. He turned readily with minimal reinforcing leg aids, though he was still a bit difficult to halt. And every time I loosened my reins he happily went back to moving the mouthpiece around with his tongue. That day he was not too terribly stiff, and after our warm-up when I trotted him he felt fine, then I asked him to lengthen his stride some and it felt like he was FLOATING over the ground! A big change from his normal shuffle.
My next lesson was not quite as great because Bingo was extra stiff. It took me a long while to get him warmed up enough to ask for a trot. This time he did not float over the ground, but Debbie was quite pleased how I got his hind legs to track up at the trot. Debbie was so impressed with how Bingo did with this bit that she decided she would use her own Wellep bit (single jointed) on him when she uses him for her riding camp next month. As proven by me, with my MS handicapped hands, the Wellep bit seems to be the only bit that minimizes the effects on the horse's mouth from less than ideal hands.
And now we come to Mia, the super fussy 31 or so year old Arab mare. I had been using my Wellep Full Cheek single jointed snaffle on her lately since this was the only bit with which she would peacefully accept contact and my rein aids. Like I indicated earlier I was using my rainbow rubber reins for the first time on her, figuring if there was anything she did not like about the new bit she would get even more irritated than usual and be sure to tell me all about it! I had NO problems with Mia with the new bit. She cheerfully established contact and she let me keep contact for longer than ever before, even when I got tired. She did not fuss about my firmer hold on the reins either! After we meandered around the ring for a while I decided to back her up. Normally, when I back Mia up, her hind end wavers from one side to another and I have to use restraining leg aids to get any degree of straightness. Well, wearing my new bit, Mia gave me the easiest, smoothest and straightest back up that she has EVER given me. I felt like she was backing up on greased rails, she kept contact, I did not have to use my legs at all to keep her straight, and her back was supple instead of stiff, stiff, stiff. WOW!
I like this bit! Now, instead of using three different bits on the three horses I ride, I will be using my Wellep double jointed full cheek bit on all three of them. This double jointed Wellep bit seems to be more comfortable for the horses, and it seems to ameliorate my hand faults better than any other bit I've used. The release of this bit is absolutely wonderful, I can go from set hands, with the Wellep bit imitating a a Mullen mouth snaffle, to a loose and mobile mouthpiece whenever I relax my fingers. This bit encourages that most necessary (to me) component of good contact, a relaxed and mobile tongue. The horses like it, my hands like it, and I think I will have many happy rides with my new bit.
Have a great ride!