I know this topic will not bring as many laughs as I hope my last post did. I feel though it is a subject that is not discussed enough in the equine world, and is much too important not to be. I recently read the book A Whole Bit Better. My friend Parker was the one who loaned me this book. So, thank you Parker for peaking my interest and furthering my knowledge on the importance of a bit in a horse’s mouth. A Whole Bit Better is a book written by the Myler brothers Dale, Ron, and Bob. These three brothers set out to educate the equine world of how important is to properly bit your horse, and engineer bits to do so. Two brothers Ron and Dale are avid horse trainers/ riders. Bob, however, is the welder/ engineer of the bits. Their goal is to provide a pleasing ride for the horse and allow proper communication between rider and horse.
This book is all about bits, but you probably could have figured that out by now though. When a bit is properly fitted the horse is more willing to perform and do what is asked at all times. Depending on their training of course. Willing meaning the horse is comfortable enough to be responsive to commands, broke at the pole, engaging their hind end, and rounded through the back. I know for non-horse people I just lost you. This basically meaning the horse is supple and willing to perform. The Myler brothers have miraculously accomplished this by taking the time to fully understand a horse’s mouth, and what is most comfortable for your noble steed.
My last visit with Atlas was what got me thinking more about bits. It was Atlas’s first ride back since the ulcers, and his time to show himself off to potential lessors. He was perfect of course, and lazy as ever. Big shocker for Atlas I know. He was better though I had my boy back, and even better he sold himself. Great news for our pockets! My trainer was looking over his bridle/ bit to ensure he was comfortable. Of course, his bridle was too small. What took me back the most was when she said “his bit was too fat for his thick lips.” What? His bit was too fat? That was the first I had ever heard of this. A trip to Dover ensued after this lesson. I wasn’t complaining. I bought Atlas a skinner Eggbutt Frenchlink. Something simple that would relieve some of the pressure off of his bars (see picture below). So far with his new bit, and thankfully a bridle I already had, he is performing very well.
I am your typical crazy horse lady and like to think I know everything about horses, but I am forever learning. A lot of this awesome knowledge I am about to lay on you I got from A Whole Bit Better, and some I knew. I feel it is important to pass along this awareness. So, here is what I got for ya!
How does a bit work? The Myler brother’s keep it simple, “You put pressure on the reins, the reins, put pressure on the bit, the bit puts pressure on various parts of the horse’s mouth and head, and voila! Your horse responds.” Really it should be this simple right? In some ways it truly is when your horse has been properly trained. The way a bit feels in a horse’s mouth can make all the difference. Texture has a lot to do with how accepting of a bit a horse will be. Any sign of resistance could potentially mean the horse is simply unhappy with the texture. In the book the Myler brothers ask you to pinch your tongue for thirty seconds and walk. As you walk to increase the pressure. I tried it, wasn’t overly thrilled I must admit. I got to 13 seconds. Really the hardest part was swallowing. The tongue is the most sensitive thing in a horse’s mouth. The majority of pressure created from the us to the reins, to the bit is placed on the tongue. Of course, a horse’s reward is us as riders giving and relieving that pressure. Depending on the bit pressure is distributed on various parts of a horse’s head and mouth. Basically, bit = pressure = your horse’s response so long as your horse is comfortable.
As you may know there are many different types of bits in this world. Each bit serves a different purpose. A bit’s single intention is to provide a way of communication between horse and rider. A bit, however should never be solely relied on for communication, as your legs, and seat play a role too. A bit is a great training AID, but NOT the only tool that should be used. A bit in a horse’s mouth that is not properly fitted can be painful. I mean really would you want something in your mouth that isn’t properly fitted for you? If a bit is properly fitted the horse is respectful of such and will follow each aid given from rider to horse, or at least try. We all know it doesn’t always go as planned.
What if the bit is not fitted correctly? Horses will begin to show signs of resistance. The Myler brothers say “Horses speak through resistance. The horse is communicating that he is trying to be good, but needs something different.” The Myler’s brother’s solution is to use a softer bit. A stronger, a harsher bit can cause even more resistance. What are the signs of resistance?
- Excessive chewing- Often when a horse is chewing at the bit this can be a sign of worry/ anxiety, or discomfort. Chewing can also mean the horse is having difficulty swallowing because of too much tongue pressure from the bit.
- Head tossing- Head tossing is a sign of the bit being ill fitted, or even the bridle being too tight in certain spots.
- Sitting behind the bit- A horse will round their neck and try to put their head to their chest. Doing this is a way for a horse to completely evade any contact from your hands to their mouth, causing a stiff and heavy horse.
- Sitting above the bit- This meaning the horse is not supple and relaxed at the poll. Thus, causing the resistance for a horse to be responsive to your aids. The horse is not relaxed, and unwilling to perform.
All this talk of Myler bits, so what makes them stand out? It’s a simple notion really- “Each bit has its own system of working in a horse’s mouth, and each system is tailored to the particular needs of the horse and rider combination.”- per the Myler brothers. (I tried stating this on my own, but they said it way better than I could have.) Myler bits are intended to provide the most comfortable ride for your horse, allowing the horse “to relax into the bridle.” This idea comes off as so simple, but can make all the difference in your ride and horse’s behavior. Here are more of my infamous bullet points to break it down for you.
- Myler bits are designed with a curve. A typical bit lies mostly on a horse mouth, thus making it difficult for your horse, steed, pain in the butt, I call Atlas a unicorn (most days), to swallow. This curve allows your horse to easily swallow, thus paying more attention to his task/ commands given.
- Myler bits have different bits for each level of training your horse is at, and the rider as well. What a cool concept right? When your horse first begins training, the bits will distribute pressure on your horse’s tongue and bars, but releases when your horse relaxes at the pole. As your horse advances the bit is changed with less pressure each time. The perfect reward system for your now perfectly trained horse. There are three bits for this training process.
- Independent movement of a bit- definitely one of the coolest features, at least I think. Many Myler bits can move freely on one side, and not have any effect on the other. Putting it simply, one side of the bit moves and the other does not. With this really unique feature in a bit “you are able to isolate and communicate with one side of the horse’s mouth and not interfere with the other.”
While these are just the basic key features that make a Myler bit stand out, I would highly recommend reading the book A Whole Bit Better. This book has greatly enhanced my knowledge on the importance of properly biting your horse. We often ask so much of our horse’s and have great expectations. Each horse is unique in their own way and have their own specific needs to make them happy. With these expectations and great demands we ask of them, it is important to make sure your horse feels relaxed enough to meet these requests. I have never owned a Myler bit. However, knowing that the Myler brothers have such a dedication and passion to make sure your horse is enjoying their job has made me have a great deal of respect for them. It is often difficult in the equine world to find those who really take the time to care, and further their knowledge of horses. The Myler brothers have done this, and accomplished it through experience, watching, learning, and trial and error. While I have just bought Atlas a new bit, my trip to Atlanta this weekend you will find me back at Dover purchasing a Myler Bit.
Work Cited: Myler, Dale, Bob, And Ron. A Whole Bit Better. Toklat Originals, 2004.