We Try a Titanium Coated Bit
Since I started riding Coach three weeks ago I have been trying to think of a solution for him grinding the bit between his premolar teeth. To recap, Coach's normal bit is stainless steel and is 23mm thick, I think.
Coach ground the 13mm thick stainless steel Wellep bit between his teeth the most of all the bits I've tried. When we rode off contact it was to the sound of constant grinding and he did not seem to appreciate the mobility of the Wellep mouthpiece. Then we tried my ancient 18mm thick Eldonian Fulmer full cheek snaffle with bit loops. This bit brought some improvement, while he started off grinding it furiously between his teeth when he was off contact, by the end of my 30 minute ride his mouth was calm at a loose rein walk. The second time I used the Fulmer snaffle he ground it between his teeth a lot less than the first ride, and near the end of the ride he only ground the bit between his teeth due to faults with my contact The second ride he even backed up two steps without flinging his head and inverting which was a big improvement over the first time I tried backing him in the Fulmer.
I have been looking at titanium bits recently, but bits made of pure titanium are very expensive, among the priciest English bits made today. I was saving up my money while I was trying to figure out which mouthpiece Coach may prefer (at $250.00 USD there is no way that I can afford to get several bits with different mouthpieces for experimentation.) Then I finally discovered titanium coated bits, where the titanium is coated over a base metal (once brand says brass), which at least gives the horse the taste of the titanium. These bits are significantly cheaper so I can afford to experiment with different mouthpieces.
So I went on Ebay and found a 5” single jointed, 16mm thick curved mouth titanium coated D-ring made by Ovation. Unfortunately these bits are no longer made. This bit has a much duller color than my stainless steel bits with more of a grayish than a silver color. This bit is significantly lighter than the Fulmer snaffle. At first Coach ground this bit between his teeth as he did with the other bits. Debbie shortened his cheek pieces hoping that would help. Coach continued grinding the bit on the way out to the ring, and when I mounted and asked for contact Coach readily reached out to the bit and gave me decent contact. As Coach became accustomed to his new bit he rapidly stopped grinding the bit between his teeth. When it came time to turn I decided to test his contact and I lengthened my outside rein instead of shortening my inside rein, and Coach properly reached out to keep contact with the outside rein, thus turning without me having to shorten a rein (I am talking of 1/8” to 1/2” lengthening of my outside rein by relaxing my fingers.) I find that it works the best if I relax my fingers of my outside hand as the outside foreleg moves forward, returning to normal contact as the outside front leg moves back, repeating this every stride while making sure to keep my contact on the inside rein constant through the turn.
Coach has figured out what it means when I shorten alternate reins as a signal to slow down or halt (I shorten my rein on the side where my seat bone sinks down, which is when the hind leg moves forward.) We had a few halts when I just gave one rein aid with each hand, some of the other halts required me to repeat my rein aids, especially if I was headed towards Debbie or the gate. Coach continued to voluntarily keep contact throughout my halts, with no signs of distress and without grinding on the bit.
This bit looks promising. I will see how Coach goes next week after he has had a chance to think about this new bit for a week. Coach is a horse that needs time to think things over, but at least when he thinks things over he comes to the correct conclusion and is much better the next ride.
I then decided to get Mia's opinion of my new titanium coated bit. I have been riding Mia in my “old style” Wellep single jointed snaffle with the longer cable through the mouthpiece of the bit. Mia has made it clear to me that she prefers this Wellep bit over every other bit I've tried on her (including other type Wellep bits), I think it is because she can easily alter the side to side position of her head when my hands are not sensitive enough to give her the extra rein she wants. Mia was not too sure about my new titanium coated single jointed bit when I put it in her mouth. She grumbled politely all the way out to the ring, I think she missed being able to play with the bit with her tongue like she can with the Wellep bit. When I picked up contact she readily took contact while grumbling under her breath that this bit was not her preferred bit. She did not seem to mind the taste of the titanium, I think she would have been content with a Wellep “old style” bit plated with titanium but the Wellep bits were only made out of stainless steel. Her contact was not as strong with the new bit, but she did not suck back, gape at the mouth or fling her head so my conclusion was that she found the bit bearable. By the end of our ride I promised Mia that I would change back to her preferred bit, anything to keep this ancient mare happy during our rides! At least she did not “cuss me out” as she has with other bits.
I went back on the Web to see if there were any other titanium coated snaffle bits, and there is one company that makes them. The “disadvantage” is that these are not conservative looking bits, the plated titanium is multicolored, looking sort of like a multicolored lava lamp from long ago. I have found three piece snaffles with a lozenge, and a comfort snaffle styled bit which I am ordering today. Too garish for the hunter shows, unfortunately, but since I do not show and since I cannot see the bit when I am in the saddle they should work fine for me. I think these bits are thinner than the Ovation titanium coated bit which Coach might find unacceptable, but I am sure other horses won't mind them at all (except for Mia, of course.)
I have no idea if the titanium coated bits have the same effect of the horses as the pure titanium bits, but I can afford the titanium coated bits which are under a fifth of the cost even with postage from England. Maybe when I find the mouthpiece that Coach prefers (regular, curved, single jointed, double jointed with a lozenge, or French link) and the widths that he prefers (the pure titanium bits can be made with 14mm to 23mm mouthpieces) I can save up my money for one pure titanium bit. Then I will be able to see what the horses prefer.
Have a great ride!