We ask our horses to do this on an almost daily basis. Please put your head down, open your mouth, and politely put this piece of metal in your mouth. Just think about it, the closest we come to that experience is when we wear braces and, for some, the dreaded headgear. Now think about how much thought you put into the current bit you are using? No really, how much? Was it the cheapest? Was it used by the former owner who claimed it was the only bit that the horse would accept? Did you find it on eBay? Did you close your eyes and order the bit that your finger selected?
I don’t think any of us would trust ourselves to put on our own braces, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an easier answer for bit selection. Selecting the correct/best bit for your horse can feel like heading out on a quest for the Holy Grail. Checkout any website that sells tack and you will see page upon page of bits. So many shapes and sizes. Lots of different alloys and types of metals and polymers used in the mouth pieces. Which mouthpiece size, thickness, or cheek piece is best??!! Oh yeah, then check out the rulebook for your chosen sport to make sure the bit you have selected is legal for competition. Calgon, take me away!
If you have followed Ike’s adventures, you know my struggles with giving Ike a correct half halt and Ike’s difficulty responding to my efforts. He has had a tendency to hang on the bit and run through my aids to the point that it physically hurt to finish my ride. We started with a JP Korstel loose-ring with a French link that quickly transitioned to a basic loose-ring snaffle with a medium thickness for the mouthpiece. It seemed to work for a while, but the stronger Ike has become (read: bigger muscles and more stamina), the less effective the bit and I became at giving clear aids. Where to go next?
Enter a Level 1 Myler bit with a loose ring cheek piece. Now we were getting somewhere. Ike was much more responsive and apparently can carry himself. What a shocker. Why didn’t I know about this sooner? We still struggle to get the correct flexion and struggle even more at getting Ike’s body in correct alignment, but those are young horse issues, not a bit problem.
And then I was offered an amazing opportunity to try a European brand of bits that are just entering the US market – thank you to the Florida reps for the Neue Schule Company [German for New School and pronounced “Noya Shoola”] for allowing Ike and I to be American guinea pigs for your products. I shared details of our adventures with the representatives – Ike’s age and training, what bits we have tried before, and how he feels while I ride. Yes, I even told them that I feel like I have to carry him around the arena. Based on the information I provided, they sent us their Verbindend bit to try: http://nsbits.com/global/index.php/dressage-legal/verbindend.html.
The mouthpieces of their bits are made from an alloy called Salox® Gold. For you science geeks out there (don’t take offense, I am one too), there is a great explanation of the science that went into the engineering the alloy used on their website: http://nsbits.com/global/index.php/technology/the-science.html. Who knew you could combine your love of science with your love of horses? Awesome. What I have found thus far is that Ike salivates A LOT with this bit.
The Verbindend bit is designed to help those who have horses that tend to be heavy on the forehand. I’d say Ike falls into that category when he allows me to carry him…not exactly the feel we are going for in dressage. This bit is designed to “greatly emphasis the signals through the reins.” The Verbindend bit definitely has helped me better execute a half halt and since using it, I’ve not had stabbing pain in my arms and shoulders during my rides. Ike carries himself and I’m able to execute a range of half halts from two fingers to a full squeeze and feel Ike give a response to the aid. Oh, so that is what an effective half halt feels like. Ms. C even had us playing with working trot to trot lengthening and back to working trot and showing clear changes. It is a new concept to Ike, but one that was made relatively easy since he was clearly hearing my aids. We even toyed with walk-canter transitions with some success.
This guinea pig is a big fan of the Neue Schule Verbindend bit. Can I say that it is the be-all-end-all for every horse and rider out there? Probably not. There are honestly too many variables in equine conformation, equine age, equine training level, rider skill level, and riding disciplines to say that there is one bit that is always going to work on every horse. But I will say that you should consider this brand of bit if you are in the market for a new bit. My best advice is to contact the company representatives for any brand you are considering. They are very knowledgeable about their product lines and want you to be pleased with your purchase. Be honest with what you tell them and you will find that there just might be that perfect bit for you and your horse.