When it comes to finding out ways to eke out extra points in our dressage tests, the Eventing crowd has an all new fervor for getting that competitive score. Gone are the days when you could perform a passable test and finish on that score to win a competition.
Now you have to be a step above the necessary requirements for your level in order to be competitive at all, and that goes for everything from Beginner Novice to Four-Star.
GumBits is a product that has long been popularized in the pure Dressage world, and is just now becoming accepted and utilized in the eventing world. As the key to any movement in a dressage test is a good connection, there is understandably a lot of thought put into how the horse feels in your reins, and how they accept the bit and respond to it.
The idea behind GumBits is simple and effective. Two tablespoons of the tiny pebble sized edibles before a ride helps stop horses that grind their teeth during work, as well as promoting salivation for those equines that are dry mouthed.
GumBits is made from all natural ingredients, and in fact only six items in total make up the product: sugar, beeswax, wheat flour, corn starch, gum arabic and natural flavor. As it is my regular habit to taste test almost anything that my horse eats, I popped a few into my mouth and found them pleasant to the taste.
In short, they are tiny balls of beeswax wrapped in a crunchy layer of slightly honey flavored and sweet material. The horse takes a handful into his mouth and chews them up just like a regular treat, but the beeswax stays on the teeth, which takes all of the joy out of grinding during a ride.
This also encourages chewing activity and, thus, salivation, which are both important to a relaxed and soft connection through the reins.
I don’t have any tooth grinders in my barn, but I do have a few horses with odd relationships with the bit, and one that is a little bit dry mouthed. All of my horses happily crunched up the little nuggets, save one, who is straight off the track and doesn’t understand the idea of treats yet. Everyone else is a glutton, and was willing to oblige the taste test.
GumBits is not a cure-all for ailments of connection, and not a replacement for slow and correct training combined with an educated hand, but it does address several specific issues quite well.
My dry mouthed horse showed significantly increased salivation, and was quite happy during his rides. My dressage coach uses them daily on her Grand Prix stallion, and reports that it has cured him of his teeth grinding and he never goes out to the arena without a few nibbles.
Also important is that GumBits is made with all FDA approved ingredients, and is fully legal for competitions at the FEI level and below. As an FEI competitor, I know that it is important to use the same products at home as you do at a competition, and thus everything must be FEI legal from the start.
Eventers are just starting to discover this product, but it is already having success with riders like Hawley Bennett-Awad, Lauren Kieffer, Matt Brown, and Kate Chadderton. When top level riders consistently use a product on a wide variety of horses, you have to stop and take notice.
GumBits are available widely, in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and even Singapore. A 16oz bag will last you quite a while, and retails for about $37.99.