Ben and a bit

When I got Ben, I was told he was always ridden in a simple, jointed snaffle bit. So that is what I gave him. He has a soft mouth, which was a nice surprise as I expected worse after his hunting career. But he would shut his mouth against the snaffle bit and when I rode I would see the side of his tongue protruding slightly. I thought that the joint of the snaffle was probably clunking against the roof of his mouth and also that there was more bit in his mouth than he had space for.

I tried a bitless bride. Sandra lent me a Dr Cook’s bridle and he hated it. He went behind the contact and tried to evade whatever pressure came from it and I put minimal pressure on. I thought it was probably due to the poll pressure from the cross under design.

Now I use a Myler comfort snaffle. It is shaped to the curve of his mouth and can not clunk against the roof of his mouth. Ben likes it. He opens his mouth for the bit and today did even more.

We went for a ride with Sandra and Cassie again. Ben has always yawned when the bridle is produced: some sign of tension I suspect. I had my hand around his head holding the bridle, with the bit just below his mouth when the yawns started so I waited, thinking I would let him get these yawns out of his system before proceeding. Ben stretched out his lips, seized the bit between them and pulled it up into his mouth.

I would like to try a bitless bridle with a different action, maybe like a lightrider bridle, just out of curiosity, but Ben seems to be telling me that he is more than happy with his Myler bit.  He also tells me, so often, in so many different ways, that he really likes to just get on with things and what I see as considerate behaviour on my part he sees as QUITE. UNNECESSARY. FUSS.


He walked well without hoof boots again today; still searching for verges where possible, but with greater confidence starting out than last week. I wonder will I need hoof boots at all.  The roads were also quite icy today and I would have hesitated to ride out had Ben been shod.  As it was I could leave negotiating the icy spots to him as he was more than capable of feeling his way along.



Filed under riding, tack

16 responses to “Ben and a bit

  1. Keil Bay hated the Dr. Cook’s too. I have several snaffles and he seems fine with them – the thing that made him the happiest bridle-wise was when I removed the cavesson. He lifted his head and jingled the bit around in his mouth, opened his mouth wide, yawned, generally seeming to be saying “wow -freedom!”

  2. I think horses take a bit eagerly because of everything it represents to them: “freedom” to move, go see places, and that is more natural (even with the rider) than staying in the same, usually quite a small area comparing to wild horses.

    I also believe that the bit in itself represents “possibility of pain” and is therefore a tool of fear-based control, even when most horses learn to tolerate it very well. When you take away that piece, it kind of changes the principles in whole idea of riding in horses point of view. You also let go of your imagined control and give more freedom. So that is puzzling for many horses!

    I think BB works best when there is more freedom and every time there is even a slight pressure in the rein, it always means something. I don’t understand the concept of contact in reins because I believe that horse should carry itself and everything I want to tell my horse, I can do without contact in rein. It changes so many things in horses point of view when there is nothing in the mouth, I think it is interesting to see how many things horses have learned only through/with bit.

    BUT I am really not a rider at all, I just sometimes sit on my horses back and try not to harm her in doing that 🙂 and I do not mean that this is the thing with Ben and you but I do believe that this often is the case.

    • Jenny, I do agree that, in Ben’s case, getting that bit in his mouth represented being able to go out, which he loves and needs to do. He can go far further, and faster in better weather, if I am on his back than if I am not. He also needs to. He is a horse in captivity (unfortunately) and as you say has nothing like the space to roam that his instinct desires.

      However, I am not fully convinced that a bitless bridle is the only answer. It is a tool to be used by human hands. It is also a restriction, capturing a horses head and imposing control, no matter how lightly used. Ben is very sensitive to poll pressure which was why he was so uncomfortable with the Dr Cook’s and, as I said, I would be curious to try a different type. But I would still be imposing direction with it, which is necessary if we are to ride out together and it is still just as artificial as a bitted bridle.

      My solution, in all these questions, is to ask Ben and thankfully, he is well able to give me answers. There is nothing like having a communicative horse!

      • I forgot to mention: I am using Marylot Flowers, they feel (to me!) a lot like bits.

        It is wonderful to have a communicative horse, I agree. They will tell us what they like or do not like, but we have to provide options for them to be able to choose.

        Olga for example is taking something (rein usually) in her mouth when I put her (bitless) bridles on, but I still don’t think she actually would like to have something in her mouth when I am riding her, I think it is a habit only. And of course all “head gear” is somehow a restriction, but without bit it is quite difficult to cause pain unintentionally.

      • I will have to clarify because I sound rude, I blame the language barrier!

        “They will tell us what they like or do not like, but we have to provide options for them to be able to choose. ”

        You are providing options as you mention above so this was not meant to sound like an accusation 🙂

  3. I forgot to mention that I have the Rambo Micklem Multi-bridle for Keil and that one he is fine with in the bitless configuration that functions as a side-pull. There’s a site that has some very lovely sidepulls in different colors of leather that I can dig up if you are interested. I can use the Micklem for Cody but the pony could use a sidepull and I’m also thinking about getting the donks started ground driving this year. (although Rafer Johnson seems to want a bit in his mouth – he goes around looking for things that are “like” bits – like the buckle on the lead rope, etc. and puts it in his mouth like he’s one of the big boys. 🙂

    • Clever Rafer Johnson!
      Billie, that is an interesting point about removing the cavesson, which can often be quite a point of pressure for horses. I will definitely give that a go with Ben and see how he reacts. I had to fiddle with the buckle of it yesterday and he did not like that, I think because the fiddling pushed the cavesson against his nose. I only had to fiddle with it because of his winter beard.
      I would be interested in that website if you can find it.

  4. Hope this link is not too long:

    Keil did not like the flash initially (this was his bridle that I bought from the woman who had Keil before me) so I took it off. Then I realized that my buckling the cavesson also caused him to fidget, so I took that off too. Keil has always been one to reach for the bit when I was bridling but then fuss a little as I tried to buckle the cavesson – I don’t know why because I was always a maniac about never making it tight. He goes well in the bitless sidepull too, and that has a cavesson but it is much lower down than the one on his bridle was.

    • Billie, thanks for the link. So many bitless bridles out there. I have started looking at them again. There is a brand new one on the market in England called the transcend bridle from (no idea how to put a link in here) just to add to the mix. It works on a chin strap.

  5. Jenny, thanks for the link. That is an interesting type also. I am keen to give Ben an option. So far the only option he had, Dr Cook’s, he rejected, very definitely in Ben’s way.

    • Also forgot to mention that Olga did not like that type either. It was a copy of BB, not the real deal though but I don’t think it got stuck ( which seems to be a problem with many copies).

      • I think it’s something about the whole head hug. Ben leaned into it and then hyperflexed and looked very cross. At this stage I was just sitting on his back and taking up the lightest contact just to see how he found it. I have always had the sense from Ben that too much around his head makes him feel trapped. He is also very sensitive to poll pressure. I tried him in a myler hanging cheek snaffle and he hated that too – because of the poll pressure I am sure. He is happy with the myler I have now.

        However, I have just ordered the lightrider bridle so, hopefully, he might take to that. It works differently – there is a chin strap which is where the pressure goes.

  6. I really like the Myler bits. Since I ride Western, my headstalls don’t have a noseband, I keep a loose rein , and both Silk and Siete never complain or fuss with their bits. If Ben is comfortable in his Myler, I’d say don’t fix what’s not broken. He lets you know when there’s a problem, I’m sure.

    • Victoria yes, it may just be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I will try taking off his noseband however. I keep it so loose that it really is just for decoration!

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