Friday, October 3, 2014

Bits Part Two: Jumbie


So Jumbie (Cabin Society) is a seven year old Irish mare. I started Jumbie under saddle as a three year old and have ridden her ever since. Jumbie moved up to training level this summer and we plan to move her up to prelim next summer. I currently ride her in a loose ring myler on the flat and a loose ring gag with tow reins jumping.

I start all young horses in a double jointed loose ring snaffle, I have found it to be pretty soft in the green horses mouths. So jumbie started in that bit but she was very unsteady for quite awhile (mostly just from being weak/young). There was a time where I rode Jumbie in a d-ring snaffle, this created a little more stability and helped her learn to be steady and consistent. Once Jumbie got a lot stronger and more capable of sitting and lifting, she became much steadier. At that point I felt like I could use a little more softness, so I went back to a loose ring. I tried the myler because it fits the shape of the horses mouth well and is just thin enough (without being too thin) that horses don't want to lean on it. I fell like Jumbie is very accepting of the contact in this bit I can be very soft with my hand.

As far as jumping goes, it took a little while to figure out what bit worked best. As with flat work, all my horses start jumping in a snaffle. It isn't until they start doing more cross country and cantering full courses that I ever feel like I need a stronger bit.  If they can stay in a snaffle great, I don't think that every horse needs a stronger bit just because they start doing cross country but I also don't think people should feel like they are failing just because they need more bit.

Jumbie can be a little blasé and so I have to generate a more active, forward canter when jumping. When I do this, sometimes it then becomes hard to bring her back and adjust her. I found that I was not going forward enough because I wasn't sure if I could bring her back, that's when we decided to try another bit.

The first bit I try after a snaffle is a wonder bit, it gives you a little leverage with a soft snaffle mouth piece. It's pretty mild and I didn't get much reaction from Jumbie. Denny is a big fan of Tom Thumb Pelhams, so often that's what we try next. This seemed to work really well for Jumbie, for awhile. I found that I could gallop more confidently forward and get her back when approaching the fences. After a little while, I found it was almost too much and when doing a stadium course, she would suck her head in when trying to make turns. I had started having a hard time keeping her head up to the fences and started loosing the adjustability. A big part of it, I think, was the curb chain, even though I used it pretty loosely I think it was too much for her.

One jump school when I was telling Denny my concerns with the Pelham, my friend Lila told me I should try a gag, that's what her two horses go in. I hadn't ridden in a gag much, and honestly it sounds much worse than it is. A gag has a snaffle mouth piece and uses leverage by the reins attaching directly to the cheek pieces. You do have to be pretty light with you hand but when used properly it can be very effective.

I decided the gag was worth a shot and the first time I used it, I had never felt Jumbie jump so well! She stayed up and had a much better bascule over the fence. I was able to ride forward and keep her up as approached the fence. At the time I only rode her with one rein but she became a little more sensitive, so I put a snaffle rein on the bit. This gave me the snaffle rein to us most of the time but the gag (or curb) rein to use when needed. I have ridden her into his for over a year now and I am very happy with it. This doesn't means she won't need to switch her bit out at some point in the future, but I don't see any reason to change anything right now.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bits part one: Rosie's Girl

I was asked to write a blog about the bits I use on the horses I am currently riding. I decided I would do a blog on each so I can discuss what I use, why, and what I have tried in the past. I'm not saying I'm an expert on bits, just giving my opinion on what I've tried :)

I thought I would start with Rosie since she is the most straight forward. Rosie is an ottb mare who can be quite sensitive, she has successfully made the move up to preliminary this summer.  I currently ride her in all phases in a loose ring snaffle, with an oval piece in the middle. Her dressage bit is a KK, but her jumping bit is a much cheaper bit that looks basically the same. I have never needed to try anything stronger on Rosie because she is very light in the bridle. I think if I tried anything stronger at this point, it would cause her to get tight and would make her bounce up and down more in the canter. I could also see her becoming afraid of her mouth being touched if too strong a bit was used.

I do ride her on the flat in a Micklem bridle. With the flat work improving and asking her to sit and lift more, Rosie was getting a little tight in her jaw. She wasn't really crossing it but I had heard the Micklem could possibly help. I decided to try it and I really like her in it, I tried it jumping and it was a little too much. Rosie can be more sensitive in her mouth jumping than she usually is on the flat. She jumps in a figure eight bridle that she seems quite happy in.

At some point in the future I wouldn't be surprised if I need a slightly stronger bit cross country (I would probably try a wonder bit if I needed more control), on the other hand part of me could see her going the rest of her career in a snaffle. Since she is a thoroughbred who likes to run it is possible I may need more but I am quite happy to keep her in the snaffle as long as possibly. She is very rideable and confident, so if I can keep her that way as she moves up the levels a snaffle may be just fine.