Maybe She REALLY Hated That Bit

Bear with me in this long ramble.

I started Valiosa in a  super mild” Happy Mouth Shaped Mullen Mouth.  It was very thick – as she came along in the training it didn’t feel very responsive.

Happy Mouth Shaped Mullen Mouth Loose Ring BitLater, she went happily in two different Full Cheek bits.  The first one was sort of thick, the second one thinner, and with copper, once I figured out she prefers a thinner fit.  That’s her in a Full Cheek below.

keeping young horse happy in workOnce I thought it was a good time to leave that bit, I switched to a Baucher .  First it was a Single Jointed Happy Mouth Baucher.  “Icky-Thick”, she thought.

boucher bit fitted too highIn the Happy Mouth Baucher.

Then a Copper Baucher, below, but it still felt too thick somehow.  It’s hard to know, right, since they can’t tell you?  But I thought she looked like she wanted something slimmer in there 🙂  If that’s a look they can have.  Chewing is good, but there was a lot of it.

(Snore, this is WAY too much rambling about bits.  Booooring.  And passé.  OK to fall asleep…)

reasons to use the premium planIn the Copper Baucher.

Next up, the bit she’s had for some time now, a Korsteel French Link Baucher.  That type of middle link just because it was the only very thin bit available.  Yes, dressage legal.  And, even though it’s not copper she foams nicely in it.

dressage training level test 3She wears it very low, – if one hole higher it looks sort of “jammed” in there. 

Why am I telling you all this awful, regular every-day stuff?

Because right before putting my left leg in a walking cast for weeks, I thought a Loose Ring might be great to try with her now, with whichever benefits the Loose Ring offers vs. the more stable Baucher cheek piece.

(Because we’re insane dressage fanatics and everything has to always improve and become more comfortable, simultaneously.)

So, several weeks ago, she got switched from the very thin, Korsteel French Link Baucher to a regular Loose Ring Double Jointed snaffle in copper.

Nose band with flash and snaffle bridleA regular classic fit, looks just like this Aurigan Sprenger on La Prima above, although that one was too big for Valiosa. 

Valiosa’s bit – she has also worked in this bit before just fine, a little more than a year ago.  Here it is:

Double Jointed Loose Ring Bit ReviewThe double jointed loose ring copper snaffle with lozenge.

Also slim, mild, with a nice rounded lozenge.  (Dressage legal bits are never going to be anything else.)

Thought she’d be good with going back to that Loose Ring, and maybe prefer the middle piece to the French Link on the Baucher.   Really isn’t a big deal to switch around.  Besides, many horses like working in different bits.

We had two lovely rides with it.  Then, two rides where she had a complete melt down!

Spinning, stopping, balking in every way, reining back, bucking in place, and yes, threatening to maybe, just maybe, rear if pushed just a little more.

Came out of the blue.  All from the bit?  That’s a tough sell.

I adjusted the saddle, added half pad shims, talked with my saddle fitter, looked over her feed, removed shims, considered whether it could be because she’d had her hind shoes removed, added a flash.  Loosened the girth, removed the flash, smelled her breath, lowered my expectations.  Stared and listened to the way she chewed both grass and treats, raised my expectations.  Asked for energetic movement from the start, made sure to post light and high, and kept an extremely light contact.

Um, yeah no, still an angry little gray mare, and now it looks like she’s just learned a new evasion and it’s going to  be her go-to move…

Some light lunging to make sure she was forward and on the same page as me with the Te-rr-ott command, we tried it again on a new day.

Super wiggly…  These were the least awful screen shots…  Seriously.

horse popping out outside shoulderPopping out the outside shoulder.  Worse the other direction.

horse curling back and evading the bitAngry curling back.

horse falling out in cornersFolding up and running through the shoulder.

getting left behind when ridingSuddenly bursting forward, and still somehow managing to completely evade contact.  I’m left by myself on a different planet here.

I’m still not convinced this was all just because she went in a different snaffle…

Once we had a few decent minutes together, I ended it for the day.

riding straight without hind end falling in

In the short video she was opening her mouth a lot more than usual.   Which she can since the noseband is loose.

So, back to the Baucher!  Better now?  Took several days, but I think so…

It’s tricky sometimes – she can be a sensitive tulip, and sometimes completely dull, and lazy, all at the same time.  Once she comes up with a new evasion it sticks for a while.  Now we’re in this period of stopping and balking type of evasion.  For X amount of time.

But I think she just really HATED the very kind snaffle.  Why?!  Vet and dental check in 3 days!!

Feels so much better after venting about all this.  Thanks for hanging in there to the end 🙂

Hey, we’re on a roll with the blurry mobile video shots!  That kind of pictures will be all I’ve got to offer until the end of the moth 🙂  More next time.

25 thoughts on “Maybe She REALLY Hated That Bit

  1. You are paying attention – good for you! It absolutely could be the bit. Or not. All you can do it change ONE THING AT A TIME. That’s the really hard part. Just one thing. And then give it a ride or two (if that’s what it takes, although sometimes you know more quickly if it’s a NO). Sometimes what we think is a “kind” bit really feels awful to them. Or maybe it’s a little high, a little low. I have the darnedest time finding how high/low to put bits in Star’s mouth, and she’s fussy no matter what bit I put in her mouth. Admittedly, LESS fussy when I have her going correctly through her back, but always active in the mouth (just less so when the back is engaged). Still not sure I have the right double bits or that they are at the right height, although my trainer claims they are. Humph, say I, the horse is not agreeing. Oh, so complicated.

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    1. Nailed it – it’s changing it ONE at a time that is the key. Which I did not, since the new behavior was powerful in it’s message 😉 (I even dewormed her, thinking maybe a bot fly had burrowed in the tongue. She was just about due anyway.)
      The confusing thing is that it seemed to be a new “trick up her sleeve” that surfaced overnight. I simply wasn’t sure this was entirely a mouth/back/in heat etc. issue. Maybe just a “young horse” new evasion that was extremely successful.
      Plus, we had two rides where for the first time she felt so soft and active and really under herself in the canter – so maybe she was simply tired. Argh! Haha, who knows… We are better now…
      I hear you on the difficulty with fitting the double. For many horses it seems to take a long time to find the right fit. And I’m just like you – with a too active mouth, I’m always concerned I haven’t done 100% right with the set up just yet 🙂 Keep me updated on how it goes!

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      1. Yep. Still fiddling with the double and worrying about it. We’ll see what new trainer has to say about the adjustment of those bits. Meanwhile, I did try lunging first yesterday and that really improved the ride and the contact (it loosens up her back, and so many contact problems start with a tight back). Of course, I had her in the snaffle. Current trainer says: lunge her in the double today (put the lunge line through the snaffle ring) and it will help your ride. So I think I will try that if I have time. It is a good idea. Star may just be a bit tight in the back right now and need a 10 minute pre-lunge ride for the next week or so. It’s cold right now, she just got clipped, etc., etc.

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        1. From my experience – every trainer is always going to discount what previous trainer said. I think it’s in a secret written rule book 😉

          Good thought with the light lunge. I have done this with Valiosa ever since her “melt down” two-day stint. It’s not to rid energy at all, rather to loosen a little, and build up energy. I walk with her (or gimp), no side reins etc, and she spends a few minutes walking with a really good over track and then trotting and some canter transitions. Normally I don’t lunge her at all, but just like you say – I think in winter time they need more moving around. She can get a really tight and ugly weird canter – and it seems as if she can do just a few voltes of that on her own, she’s then totally fine with me asking her to use her self better with me on top.
          Finger’s crossed Star will feel the same! Winter is so short here anyway. By February mornings we already have sunshine in 1/3 of the arena…


          1. Today I put the Back on Track blanket on her (after taking off the warm blanket) while I picked feet, brushed mane, and brushed the parts of her that were not covered by the Back on Track. Then I tacked her up. No lunging. And she was amazingly soft in the back and easy to ride. Was it the Back on Track? Or was it because we had a good ride yesterday? Or was it the phase of the moon? I don’t know, but I’m going to repeat the BOT experiment…Of course, soon she’ll be wearing that blanket a lot of the time so her back should be nice and loose all the time – I hope!

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          2. I’m becoming a serious believer in the Moon Phase Theology… Or something.

            Please keep experimenting with the BOT, with, without, during full moon, etc – it will help greatly in the decision if I “have” to own one 😉

            And we all know I probably would, if you say it’s the ticket!

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  2. There are just so-o-o many things it could be. Just like us, she could have simply woken up on the wrong side of the stall one morning. Or be in heat. Or have a bug bite in the wrong place. Or, as you have mentioned, the feet, the saddle, the pads, the bit…

    One thing I’ve found is that when my horse is at a point in training where she needs to be rebalanced in order to accommodate the next step of progress she can be quite resistant until she figures out where her body is supposed to be. Saying this because you have a young horse who will be going through a lot of changes as she goes up the levels.

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    1. That’s the difficulty, right?! Knowing if something has to be changed, or if it’s just a stage… I appreciate you pointing that out, because it’s so easy to forget. In a way, it’d be easier if we regularly rode SEVERAL horses in a day. Then we wouldn’t have to be so invested in having that ONE ride go well on a particular day with a horse – easier to move on, and try it differently next time…
      The only thing I know for sure, is that she’s 100% percent sound 🙂 This girl is finally moving with some power, when worked from the ground on Friday, she actually looked like she really knew what she was doing!

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  3. Sometimes the loose ring bits can pinch the lips. They are also less stable so she might not like the change in contact. I am in a quandary because Carmen likes the double jointed bit with a lozenge but for her size (5 1/4) I can’t find an egg butt. BUT I did just order the Stubben with ‘wings’ that’s supposed to make the bit more stable. Why they couldn’t just make an eggbutt in 5 1/4 I don’t know but I’m hoping it will make things more stable for her.

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    1. The pinching is always a concern for me, I even used “pony style” bit rings in the beginning, to make sure it couldn’t happen, as she was green and I had to use an “opening rein”. I think the fit is completely correct now though, so should not pinch.
      I didn’t know the ‘wings’ created more stability but makes more sense.
      I thought it was really more for pinch prevention, for horses with a fleshier ‘fit’. Good to know! Hope she’ll like it! Let me know how it goes. I know it’s not a low priced bit…


    2. Hey, heads up Teresa! I just had another comment where I ended up looking over the rules again. The wings are not show legal! Eeek!
      Great bit to school in, but just wanted to give you a heads up, because I know you’ll end up in the ring one of those days with your pretty mare 😉


    3. I switched Stella from her loose ring to an egg butt this summer and her love for it was obvious from our first ride in it. I think sometimes as dressage riders we’re brainwashed into thinking we need a loose ring, but Stella really needed the stability of an eggbutt. Of course I had to pay a fortune for it and have it ordered in to fit her dainty little 4 3/4 mouth). Oh, and on the topic of bits causing meltdowns, once I switched my older mare from her french link loose ring to what I thought was a really lovely thick rubber D ring, and she had a total and complete meltdown. Like, to the point that my coach made me get off. Switched the bits back, no more melt down. Bit? Phase of the moon? Who knows. That blasted bit has sat in the bottom of my tack box ever since.

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      1. Thank you Pam for confirming yet again I’m not waling around all alone in the Crazy-Bit-Reaction-Swamp!

        Oh, and and a 43/4 mouth on Stella, that is small! Didn’t know she had such a dainty little pucker 🙂

        I’ve seen those thicker ribber D’s. Often on post race horses in training for a new career. And yeah, they are THICK! Not for everyone, that’s for sure 🙂


  4. I’m impressed with your bit collection! I pretty much exclusively use full-cheeks for the youngsters and stiff ones, and an eggbutt with a french link later on. I briefly considered switching to the baucher with Shiloh (which I think would have been perfect for him), but I ended up selling him before I could try it out. Ugh! Running out the shoulder is my number one pet peeve. It’s Cooper’s biggest issue right now and it’s hard to correct by just using the outside rein and outside leg! I had to start carrying one of those short jumping bats and giving his outside shoulder a little boop when he drifts.

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    1. My excuse is that I’ve owned 3 horses, and of course they’ve all had different sizes. 5 1/2, 5/14, and a 5. Then of course, depends if it’s a loose ring, or a stable cheek piece, like an eggbutt, where the size will wary by 1/4…
      So, that’s a good excuse, right 😉

      The Baucher is not my favorite by the way. Way overrated and if I could justify an eggbut purchase right now I’d go there instead!

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      1. Good to know about the Baucher. At the time I was desperate for anything that could help keep my hysterical giraffe listening to me at the canter. As for equestrian equipment hoarding, there’s got to be some unwritten rule that if you sell one horse, your next will not fit into any of the clothing or tack!

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        1. Some time ago I really felt it was the right bit for her. And you know, perhaps it was. They go through stages, and are always changing. But in the end, I’d like a simple loose ring, and a light connection. Well, one day…

          And yes, for each horse, a new fortune spent. I now own more horse blankets than I have shoes for myself… (Hanging head.)


  5. hmmmm….bits! They can be tricky. And as you have said it could be the bit or something in the poll or shoulder all of which can present as a mouth issue. I’ve always used loose ring sniffles: some with the lozenge and one with a copper roller ( not legal in dressage). With Biasini I tried about six different curb bits for the double. It would be ok for a month and then he would ignore it. Then I found a neue schule (spelling??) And that has worked for thelast year. Go figure. You have the right idea to try one thing at a time and good idea to get teeth looked at. Keep us posted!

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    1. In the back of my mind, I’m also keeping the idea of alternating between different bits down the line. Similar, but with slightly different pressure points and/or mechanics. I know some horses where this works really well. (And then of course several where they go well in ONE kind only haha!)
      The whole business with curbs is absolutely mind numbing. I dread the day I’ll be trying them. If you’re lucky, you have several friends where you can at least test it. I don’t have a huge amount of friends riding at the upper levels ( 🙂 ), so I fear I’d have to buy them all… Ugh!
      Tomorrow we have the Vet Dental. Can’t wait!

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      1. Don’t buy a collection of curbs. I think Dressage Extensions has some you can “rent” and it you like it you keep it and buy it. Let me know when you get to that stage and I’ll send you a few of the ones I had for Biasini!

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        1. You are too sweet! Good reminder, yes I DO think Dressage Extension have a bit rental thing going. They are awesome to do business with! I once shipped a saddle to them (they are able to do adjustments on Keiffers with a special machine.) and they were fantastic.

          We’ll contact you in 15 years when Valiosa may finally be ready for the double haha 😉


  6. The happy mouth in the pick has raised ridges which I believe is not allowed in dressage and can be an issue with some horses. I use a Nathe (soft flexible rubber bit) and it has been a life changer for me. Great post though!

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    1. Yes, the shaped mullen mouth from Happy Mouth, is not what would be called a true Mullen Mouth, and would not be allowed to show in. The straight one is, from Training through 4th I believe. I see it mostly as a “baby” bit 🙂 I’ve had a Nathe, but never had a horse that liked the thickness of it. Valiosa looked like I’d tried to put a broom handle in there 😉
      Love your comment – reminded me to go in and check on some others. Turns out the Sprenger snaffle with wings is not legal! Didn’t know this. Good thing I never bought one.
      In case anyone else is looking – here’s a quick link to a document published through USEF :


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