Welcome to EN’s Product Review series! Who doesn’t love shopping… especially when the object of your search is new gear for yourself or your horse? As an enthusiast of all products equine, I LOVE trying out new gear. Which is why I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to try out products, so that I may share my many adventures with all of you! Please join me as I narrate my personal journey of trying out all of the products featured. While I will make no recommendations, I hope that you simply have fun and find entertainment while reading about my many adventures of trying new products, and that hearing about my personal experiences might help give you factors to consider when you are on your own quest for new gear!
Of all of the pieces of tack and equipment that exist for riding, there has been one particular article that has confounded me for years–bits. There are honestly just too many varieties of bits for me to begin to count, or to even try to list them all. Snaffle. Kimberwicke. Pelham. French Link. Full Cheek. Eggbutt. Loose Ring. Ok, so I (started) to try to list them anyway (I just couldn’t help myself, really). With so many combinations of mouthpieces and cheekpieces available, selecting the right bit for your horse can be like trying to see underwater in the Atlantic ocean…up here in the murky waters of ye old Mid-Atlantic states, NOT in the lovely crystal blue waters of Florida.
Or should I say, that bits are something that used to confound me for many years. A short while ago, I had the opportunity to have a fascinating and very educational chat with Olympic silver-medalist Gina Miles, about her philosophy for bitting. In fact, Gina has her very own collection of bits, which are available from Professional’s Choice. While chatting with her, Gina told me that “I don’t just want to sell bits; I want to help to educate.” With that philosophy in mind, Gina has also released her Top 10 Guidelines for Bitting, which is a set of tips to help equestrians with selecting the right bit for their horse.
Armed with the brand new knowledge and guidelines for bitting that I picked up from Gina, I was recently able to start to put my knowledge to good use. I was very excited to have the opportunity to try out a couple of bits from Gina’s collection, including the Loose Ring Double Break Snaffle, and the Loose Ring Waterford bits. Now, let me start out by saying that after I got my first horse, Ripley (with whom I believe you are familiar with if you have been following my series of reviews!), I started riding him in a basic, run-of-the-mill eggbutt snaffle bit. I used this same bit for years, and never really felt the need to change it; sometimes Ripley would get a little heavy headed, but in my mind, I never wanted to switch to a bit that was more severe than a snaffle, considering the abuse that lingered in Ripley’s past.
So after familiarizing myself with Gina’s Guidelines for Bitting, I considered all three of my horses. I thought about where each of them are in their training, and what bits might be good to try amongst the three of them, and I settled on starting with the Loose Ring Double Break Snaffle. I switched over to using a loose ring bit a few years back, when my “middle” gelding, Mark, started his training under saddle–I was told that it was ‘milder’ than a regular eggbutt at the time. The Loose Ring Double Break Snaffle is what I would call the foundation bit of Gina’s collection; it is a great basic bit, that I like to use with all three of my horses. Ripley is low maintenance for the most part; he is well schooled and well behaved for me, so I like using such a mild bit for him, because he really doesn’t need anything more. I also like using this particular bit for my young geldings–Mark is an extremely sensitive horse, and I like to use this basic and gentle bit with him. And as for Rufus–my youngest gelding has just started his training this year. Since he is just getting used to the bit, of course I wanted to start him in something very basic. Which, once again, made the Loose Ring Double Break Snaffle the perfect choice for him! I find that I get a good response to the mildness of this particular bit from my crew.
As I’ve said, I have always been hesitant to try anything beyond a basic bit. However, after becoming familiar with Gina’s Guidelines for Bitting, I definitely can picture certain situations where a slightly stronger bit is needed for safety and/or efficacy. My personal experience of late has led me to also try the Loose Ring Waterford bit, specifically for Ripley. Recently, I’ve started to school Ripley over small fences again. He has been out of practice for several years now, but is super excited to be jumping again. I can tell. Especially since he has started to rush up to fences and try to rocket-launch himself over them. When using the regular Double Break Snaffle, I felt as though I had to drag on Ripley’s mouth to try to get him to slow and collect before each jump. And I really didn’t like the idea of feeling like I was just hanging on his mouth so very much–so, I decided to try the Waterford. =I found that I got some great results.
This Waterford bit is really quite mild–the pieces act in a similar fashion to the double break snaffle, unless you pull back on both reins at the same time; in which case this action causes the bit to lock into a type of solid bar. This action gives it a little bit extra of a ‘whoa’ factor. I was careful while riding Ripley in the Waterford, and was very mindful of the action of the bit; so unless I really wanted to slow him down, I didn’t pull back on both of the reins with much force. The Waterford bit really worked very well to slow Ripley’s approach to each jump though. Just a quick half-halt really slowed him down enough that I didn’t feel like we were rushing the fences. Major. Win.
Both the Loose Ring Double Break Snaffle and the Loose Ring Waterford bits seem like they are of very nice quality. I do like the fact that the Gina Miles bit collection from Professional’s Choice offers a comprehensive line up of bits – whatever you are trying to accomplish, there is a bit in the collection that can help. The entire collection is also very affordable, and the bits in it retail from $34.95 to $69.95 in price. With my new found philosophy of strategic bitting, or switching to particular bits for particular purposes, I plan to keep my own bench of bits to switch back and forth from–which makes using quality, affordable bits very important to me.
Go Bits…and Bitting Education. Go Professional’s Choice. Go Eventing.