Bits used in our program
By Victoria Shoopman
Trainer/Owner of VS Natural Horsemanship
In the past three years of training for clients, I have been asked the same question numerous times when the horse is getting ready to go home. “What bit did you use?” My answer varies from two different bits. My starting bit and my finishing bit.
The bit I start all my horses in is a Myler stainless western dee sweet iron copper roller bit. This bit features inlay of copper in the mouth piece with promotes lubrication in the mouth by producing saliva, a copper roller which gives the horse something to fiddle with if needed, as well as adding more copper into the bit. The bit has three joints, which prevents the bit from breaking in one position and pinching the tongue or putting too much pressure on the roof of the mouth. When we look at the pressure points in the horse’s mouth, we have the tongue, the roof of the mouth and the bars. The bit I start my horses in, has a slight curve to the bars of the bit, so it sits comfortably and easily in the horse’s mouth.
It’s important to remember, that the bit doesn’t make the horse. Your training and riding abilities are what allows the horse to perform. I like this bit because it doesn’t break in one spot, therefore doesn’t pinch the horse’s mouth. I am a firm believer that if you can’t get it done with the simple bit, you need to evaluate your abilities. The horse will only be as soft as the first touch you give them, regardless of what type of bit you’re using.
I hate the riders who think they need to up the severity of the bit because “My horse won’t stop” or “He just isn’t soft in the face”. Both of those examples are fixed, not with the bit, but with ground work and basic training. Never once have I used anything but the two bits I describe in this article, and never once have I had a horse that can’t stop or isn’t soft. These issues are different than severe issues that need a correctional bit, which will be discussed later. If you haven’t watched the 7 clinics series by Buck Brannaman, I strongly recommend it. His theory fits exactly with mine. If you can’t get the job done with the simplest bits, you need to revamp your abilities.
I will ride my horses in my entry level bit until they are completely comfortable and efficient in neck reining. If the horse is young enough to participate in snaffle classes, I will ride them in a snaffle until I have to ride in a shank bit. If you can’t complete the task with a snaffle, you won’t be able to with a shank.
The bit I used in my finished horses is a step up from the bit above. It features a low port, again with the double joints to prevent pinching. This bit is a level one Myler Bit, which is an entry level bit. This bit has the same features as the bit I start the horses in, such as the copper inlays. I like this bit, because it works well with the low port, provides just enough pressure to get the response from the horse without needing a severe port or any other gimmick. I use these two bits from Myler. Myler offers other bits that are all good bits, and if a more severe bit is needed for safety purposes, they do make one that will help. Correctional bits are sometimes needed for cases where there are behavioral issues that put the rider’s safety in jeopardy.
The bridle needs to be adjusted properly for the horse. I don’t like my bridle to be tight in the corners of the horse’s mouth; I like the bit to fit loosely in their mouth. I want the slightest pressure from my hand to tighten the bit/bridle just slightly, therefore getting a response instantly instead of having to increase my pressure to overcome the initial pressure from having the bit tight in the horse’s corners of the mouth. This is more applicable with a shank bit, since a shank bit uses pressure from the poll to operate. When you pull back on the reins with a shank bit, you are pulling the bottom of the shank towards you, therefor the top of the shank which is attached to the bridle. It’s important to realize that every horse is different, and some horses prefer the bit to be tighter in their mouth.
If you’re having a lot of issues with your horse, it’s important to get your horses teeth checked. Wolf teeth need to be checked, because these teeth can cause serious issues with the bit, and can cause tissue damage in the horse’s mouth if they go without being extracted. If you’re still having issues with your horse, have a chiropractor look at your horse. A lot of issues with the horse come from either the mouth, skeletal or muscle structure. If I have a horse that is having issues with performing, I will look into their mouth first. I will gently put my finger in their mouth and check for the presence of wolf teeth. The wolf teeth are in front of the first molar on the upper and lower jaw. It’s important to check the upper and lower jaw on both sides, because not all horses get 4 wolf teeth, they can get anywhere from 1-4 wolf teeth. I will also check for odor beyond normal smell. This can imply an infected tooth.
If I don’t find an issue with their teeth, I will spend some time and gently massage them from poll to hock paying attention to their body language and looking for tender spots. If I suspect any, I will call a chiropractor to have them look at the horse. 9 times out of 10 they will be out of adjustment. It’s important to get these issues eliminated before you expect the perfect horse.
In conclusion, it’s important to set your horse up to succeed by choosing the bit that best suits that horse, his abilities and him. Adjusting all tack to fit the horse its being used on and checking health issues before resorting to a corrective bit and preparing your horse properly are all ways to set your horse up to succeed.
I’d also like to note, that I am in no way sponsored or endorsed by any business, I choose the brands I do because they work.
Posted by Victoria Ann Shoopman. Posted In : Training