For a long time I’ve been a huge fan of loose-ring French link snaffles, believing them to be kind and gentle bits. And I’m certainly not saying they aren’t - I still think they’re great. My QH mare wears an Abracon loose-ring French link when she’s ridden English, and she goes wonderfully softly in it.
So, when I was starting to school our TB mare for dressage, I switched her to this same bit (fortunately they wear the same size). She was…….okay, but not particularly soft or accepting of the bit. After giving it a couple of sessions, and some thought, I tried a different French link bit - still loose-ring, but with a thicker mouthpiece, as I thought perhaps the mouthpiece of the Abracon was just too slender for her. A little better, but still not the horse I knew she could be.
Even though I know better, for the final schooling session before our first foray into a dressage show, I switched her bit again, this time to a very thick, heavy single jointed snaffle with fulmer cheeks. The difference was almost instant - she was softer and more accepting, and the very annoying habit of suddenly poking her nose/yanking her head forward was almost gone. So we used the new fulmer snaffle for our dressage outing, and while we didn’t do great, we did place in both of our classes (intro and training level)!
So, the basic point of this short blog entry is that, even when we believe we’re using the one of the mildest bits around, sometimes it’s just not ‘right’ for the horse we’re riding. I know - I know - this shouldn’t be news to me, and it really isn’t, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the basics. While many horses do prefer double jointed bits because it doesn’t pinch the tongue/poke the roof of the mouth (in the most basic of descriptions of the action of a single jointed bit), some horses also don’t like the pressure on their tongue that comes from a double jointed bit.
Not rocket science, I know, and not an epiphany, but it’s always good to be open to changing our approach.