Bit & Switch
By April Ray-Peterson
I have always been a fan of "less is more" when it comes to bits for my horses. When I worked at Spruce Meadows, we were only allowed to ride in fat snaffles, and it taught me early on how to solve problems without just bitting up.
I also realize that sometimes there is a time and a place – or a time and a horse – that needs something different to make it work. I would much prefer to communicate with my horse in a gentle whisper rather than a loud scream. However, sometimes a stronger bit or even just a different one can be the right path to get there.
When I started Fire Foot MR5, I kept it simple with a fat, loose ring, copper, double-jointed snaffle. As we progressed and she grew to accept having a bit in her mouth, I thought I might try to find something that would be more effective when it comes to half halts and stopping. I had tried her in a Fulmer (pictured) and figured I liked her in it until I rode outside in a jumping lesson and proceeded to get dragged around the ring by a miserable horse. Fire has now let me know she does not enjoy a single-jointed bit and I have (tried to) let her know I don't enjoy having my arms being yanked out of their sockets.
A Fulmer snaffle
I had a few more bits in my locker to try and was wrapping my head around what might work best. But after some thought, I realized that no bit is going to magically cure what ails us. My horse is four and needs some brakes installed and time and mileage to understand what is being asked of her. Patience, time and lots of transitions are what it’s going to take. And then some more transitions.
Sometimes in the horse world, and in our modern world in general, we look for a quick fix. While I have been patient with bringing Fire along, it's easy to get caught up in the feeling that we aren't doing things well enough and fast enough. But I am here for the long haul and want to do what's best for her. While I might revisit the idea of a different bit in the future, right now I need to take it back to basics and work through this hurdle without additional hardware. Just patience, time, and hard work. And repeat as needed.