The Thick Flexible Mullen Mouth Snaffle Got a No
I had found a $20.00 USD thick flexible black rubber Mullen mouth snaffle on Ebay. I bought it to try on Coach because it was cheap enough that I would not be out much money if Coach gnawed it to pieces. I also liked that it had a thick, gentle mouthpiece and that it did not taste HORRIBLE to me. Trotting is coming up and I worry that with Coaches expressive impulse I will “fall back” and hurt his mouth with the bit. This bit is the Centaur brand, it has a 20mm mouthpiece, and it looked like a possible solution to some of my worries. It is also very light in weight, much lighter than any of my metal bits.
Coach, surprise, surprise, did not particularly like this bit. As usual on contact Coach was fine, he took good contact and was responsive to light hand aids. But off contact Coach was VERY expressive, he kept on worrying the bit with his tongue, he gaped off contact, and he just kept on grinding this bit between his molars. Off contact his mouth was busy every nanosecond of our walk.
It was not all bad by any means, he actually improved two movements, the super slow “counted walk” and backing up. I have been working on slowing down his walk as part of the three speeds of the walk exercise. The counted walk is SLOW, the horse moves each leg with deliberation and it feels like the horse moves his leg because of a conscious decision instead of the automatic movements of a regular walk. While I had been able to slow Coach's walk down considerably in my earlier rides I had not gotten the “feel” of the counted walk. This week Coach finally got it, every movement was slow, precise and deliberate and Debbie praised his more collected walk. Because of the flexible Mullen mouth I switched from alternate tweaks of my little fingers to tweaking both my hands at once, as Coach's head moved upward, immediately relaxing my fingers.
Earlier in my riding career I mostly used jointed snaffles. Now that I am using a Mullen mouth snaffle on a persnickety horse I find that I have to change how I use my fingers. Alternating twitches with my little fingers work better with a jointed snaffle (one or two joints). They do not work as well with the Mullen mouth snaffle because when I move one side of the bit the other side moves directly in the opposite direction, which irritates the horse some. My slowing down/halting aids are still light, and I apply them as the horse's head comes up with the normal head motion of a horse at a walk and I relax my fingers immediately.
His backing up also improved, not as much as his counted walk improved but he showed a lot fewer signs of resisting the bit. Previously every time I backed Coach up he either inverted or I could tell that he was thinking of inverting, both the action and the thought can mess up a good backwards movement. Coach kept his head down, his back was more relaxed, and his backward movement was not as stiff as usual. It was a big change from the “I do not want to back up, why do you want me to back up, backing up is uncomfortable, I DO NOT LIKE backing up!” that I usually get. I just backed up one stride before I sent him forward, he was doing it right and I did not want to mess that up.
This was the eighth bit I tried on Coach. By his actions off contact Coach prefers the titanium coated “rainbow” Mullen mouth snaffle. He does not seem to like stainless steel bits, with these off contact he grinds incessantly and HARD. The flexible rubber mouth Mullen mouth snaffle also incited grinding, not quite as constant as with the stainless steel bits though. The titanium coated Mullen mouth snaffle incites some grinding, but it is occasional instead of constant off contact, and he does not grind as hard. Debbie finally told me that she thinks that he is still sprouting his permanent teeth and that we all would do our best if I just stuck to the titanium coated Mullen mouth snaffle and accepted that, for a while, him grinding that bit between his teeth some while I ride him off contact, just like he was a teething baby.
When we unbridled him I was expecting my new bit to show major damage because he was grinding it between his teeth so much. I am happy to report that he did not take any chunks out of the bit and that he did not even leave any tooth marks on the bit, so I will be able to use it again on another horse.
When I rode Cider last Sunday she started grinding the Bombers titanium Happy Tongue bit on the right side of her mouth. She improved a little bit when I REALLY CONCENTRATED on keeping my hands even and giving my hand aids with both hands at once, but if I did not satisfy her she would start grinding the bit again. When I got off I asked Shannon's permission to try the titanium coated rainbow single jointed Baucher snaffle on Cider tomorrow. This is the first Baucher snaffle that I have owned, and I have never ridden a horse in one before. From what I read some horses greatly prefer a mouthpiece if the bit has the Baucher cheek pieces, apparently they suspend the bit in the horse's mouth differently than the regular snaffle rings. I'll just have to see what Cider thinks about it tomorrow, and I will tell you next week what her reactions are to it.
Coach is the first horse I've ridden in over 47 years that shows his objections to a bit when off-contact. Every other horse has shown me its objections to the bit when I rode on contact. Coach is also one of the most OPINIONATED horses I've run into in my riding life. From tight straps across his lower jaw, not liking any covering on his ears, picky about his girth, hating my fly whisk, not liking the taste of the stainless steel bits, to being super fussy about mouthpieces that move in his mouth, when riding Coach he has communicated a seemingly unending recitation of all the things in the world that IRRITATE the poor dear. He has shown his objections without a trace of meanness, he just states his objections and then goes on to give me a good ride as long as I LISTEN to him and try to reduce his state of irritation. In return he forgives me my handicaps, my bad balance, my hand tremors, and he has never taken advantage of the fact that I am very weak physically.
He is a GOOD BOY!!!!
I am coming up with a tentative hypothesis about why the horses go better in the titanium coated bits. Titanium is “bio-compatible”, which I think means that the body does not see titanium as a foreign invader and does not react with an immune response. No immune response means that the horse's mouth does not initiate swelling, extra heat, or any allergic reactions. Could the reason that the horses will react better to the same mouthpiece with a titanium coated bit mean that the horses' bodies and immune systems are not REJECTING the very idea of the titanium bit in its mouth? Could it be that the titanium bits do not feel foreign in the mouth? If a horse feels like a bit is a natural thing in its mouth, not natural like food which brings on immune cells to deal with possible micro-organisms, but natural like a baby sucking its thumb for comfort, the titanium bits may cause less whole body physical distress and inflammation. This is the only reason I can think of to explain why the horses accept the same mouthpiece in a titanium bit that they reject with a stainless steel bit, even with my imperfect hands in the heat and humidity at the end of a Southern summer.
Have a great ride!