We Change to Titanium Double Bridle Bits
Over a month ago I learned about Fager Bits (https://www.fagerbits.com) on the COTH forum. When I went to their site I learned that they had titanium bits (at least the mouthpiece is titanium) and, wonders of wonders, they had titanium double bridle bits that would fit Bingo (115mm Weymouth curb and 120mm bradoon.) It took me several weeks to save up my money to get them, they are expensive but at least they are not as expensive as the Lorenzini titanium bits, plus Fager bits company has free shipping worldwide as versus up to $40.00 USD for shipping alone. I could not get exactly what I wanted (a ported curb and an eggbutt bradoon), but since I had not found any 4 1/2” titanium Weymouth curbs at all, I got really excited. The Fager company has one titanium Weymouth curb available, with a choice of widths—115mm, 125mm, 135mm and 145mm. This Weymouth only comes with a Mullen mouth, this company does not seem to produce any bits with ports.
They have two titanium bradoons available, one with a center joint (which I bought) and a double jointed bradoon, also with a choice of widths, 110mm, 120mm, 130mm and 140mm. This is a much wider selection of widths for titanium Weymouth and bradoon bits that just seem to come in 5” and bigger from other companies. The Fager bits is in Sweden and they say they make their bits in Sweden (they say the bits are hand-made too.)
I have never seen a bradoon made in the style of the Fager bradoons. The cannons of the mouthpiece of the bradoon are not curved at all, if I lay the bradoon on a flat surface all of the cannons of the bradoon lay flat. The Fager bit people had an explanation for this departure from normal, to quote from their site “due to the straight design and low weight, your aids will be more direct and precise”, and later on the page “We design them that way to keep the balance point on the mouth. If you have a bigger bend forward, you will also move the balance point forward and slowing down the process of your aids. More stable and less confusing for your horse.” I think that the translation is not as good as I would want it to be from Swedish to English. The bradoon also will not bend more than 90 degrees at the center joint, and the center joint is so small that it does not hit the horse's palate. It is also a loose ring bradoon and my stainless steel bradoons were eggbutt, another change he had to get his brain around.
My bits arrived Thursday, too late for my lesson on Wednesday but just in time for my “homework” ride on Friday. I changed the bits on my double bridle with just a little bit of frustration in getting my leather bit strap through the eyelets on the Fager Weymouth curb.
When I got to the stable they were busy, this weekend they are putting on a C-rated show, but Debbie took one look at me and my husband and dropped everything to help us get Bingo groomed (she is a very kind riding teacher!) When Sam helped me by bridling Bingo she had some difficulty in getting him to open his mouth, I guess the titanium bits smell different than the stainless steel bits I had been using. Bingo was not too sure about his new bits, I had used titanium coated snaffles on him some but he was not used to having two titanium bits in his mouth at the same time. He was not too upset though, he drank water readily when my husband took him to the water trough. Bingo balked several times on the way to the ring, then we had to spend a minute or so to get Bingo through the arena gate, Bingo does NOT like changes!
By the time I mounted Bingo seemed to accept the presence of these strangely shaped bits in his mouth.
But acceptance of their presence in his mouth did not translate into considering that my hand aids meant the same thing no matter what the bit is made of. The first time I tried to halt it was “Huh? What could you possibly mean?” and it took me three halts to finally explain to Bingo that my hand aid meant halt whether the bit was stainless steel or titanium. He did finally get the message, somewhat.
Turning was not hard since I could back up my hand aid with my leg aids, he figured that one out pretty quick, but I could tell he was not totally certain about it. When I finally got to the turns in place (turn on the hindquarters and turn on the forehand) he seemed to have figured it out and I had minimal difficulties in getting him to do what I wanted. On the other hand the leg yield was a complete bust, he just could not understand me even though the ride before this one he had improved his leg yield. Backing him up was hard, and when I finally got one tentative step backwards I stopped asking him and praised him mightily.
Hopefully next week he will be better in my lesson.
Bingo seemed to think the bits were OK, there was no gaping, setting his jaw hard, no head flinging, and while the bits felt foreign to him he did not get upset about that (and this horse really shows it when he is upset about something.) He kept contact with his new bradoon fine if a bit lighter than before, but the bradoon has such a different shape in his mouth I sort of expected that. He had no problems when he stretched out his neck when he met the bits, he just kept on stretching his neck out gently without any hesitation. Bingo did improve from the beginning of the ride to the end of his ride, and after a few more rides he will probably decide that these bits feel nice in his mouth.
This inability to adapt to change quickly is just part of what Bingo is as an old dun QH with not so good initial training. I think his brain is set up differently than all the other horses I've ridden and trained in my life, and it is up to me, the more intelligent one, to figure out how to explain stuff to him in a manner he can understand. He is not “defying” me, he just really cannot understand how an aid with one bit means the same thing with another type of bit, and once he understands that he goes back to his normal responsiveness (sort of reluctant obedience.)
Since it was hot and humid, with sweat running down my face, I did not try trotting him. I am saving the trot for my lesson next week when I hopefully feel better.
Considering everything that Bingo is he did quite well this ride. While he did not understand my aids at first he was willing to learn them (all over again.) This is Bingo, and while I might feel impatient and wonder if I will ever get through to him he is actually pretty good, when he figures stuff out.
All people, horses and other animals have to learn how to learn something. I have run into this problem before, and then I got to teach the horse how to learn, how to draw the correct conclusion even though something has changed. I do this with patience and praise when the horse finally reaches the right conclusion—as in this aid means this in this circumstance. Since he is in his twenties his brain is sort of set in its ways and I am sure that he thinks that I am a really challenging (and unreasonable) rider at the walk and trot. If and when I ever get strong enough to canter again I am sure I will have to go through the entire process again.
Bingo is a challenge. The best way to become a good rider is to ride these challenging horses. Once I can get through to them I know what I do is correct and acceptable to the horse.
Have a great ride!