To that end, I've been playing with bits. I have a couple that I'm trying out before buying, one that I want to borrow from MT, one that works okay, and one to buy if nothing else is any better. To keep my thoughts straight and my impressions recorded, here's a list:
- Full-cheek snaffle, 5": Meh. Rev argues with it, and it doesn't seem to have any effect either positive or negative. Seems like the corners of her mouth are irritated by it. I've moved away from this.
- Single twisted fat wire sweet iron snaffle, loose ring, 5": This is the bit MT suggests for jumping, especially cross-country, because she was ignoring him and his half-halts while he was schooling her after the Rafter K debacle. She goes pretty well in it, I think. She doesn't argue with it as much, and I don't have to haul on her. I plan to use this (or maybe a slow twist dee) for jumping. Unfortunately, it's not dressage legal, so I need a dressage bit.
- Baucher snaffle, medium weight, 5": Voof, she did not dig this one this weekend. Head tossing, resisting, rooting for the reins, all that. Very stiff in the poll; more than usual. I thought the mouth fit her well, even though it's a 5", but I think she prefers a 5.5". At any rate, this is a no-go.
- Double-jointed, medium weight, loose ring snaffle, 5": This is the one that's currently on Rev's bridle, ready for me to try out tonight and this week. The woman who's given it to me on trial says it acts like a mullen mouth when you take on the reins. I played with it myself for a while, and I can see how that would work -- but you have to kind of shove the side pieces toward the center to get it to lock up. I don't know how that'll work when it's in her mouth. We'll see. I have hope.
- Myler mouth plain dee ring snaffle, 5.5": MT said that his favorite bit to ride her in is a thin, dee-ring snaffle. I couldn't for the life of me find a thin-mouth dee snaffle at any of the tack shops around, just fancy mouth dee rings or fat mouth dee rings. So I bought the Myler, and I made sure to get it in a 5.5" because of the corners of the mouth issue. Rev seems to like this width best -- she doesn't try to rub her muzzle on me after we ride, and there's no evidence of pressure or (god forbid) chafing. The mouth isn't particularly thin, but it's acceptable -- MT's comment when I showed it to him was "well, not quite what I had in mind, but probably okay." This is the closest to neutral/positive so far.
Things I have yet to try:
- Mullen mouth: I just suspect she might like it. I don't know exactly why I think this; call it either intuition or magical thinking. MT has one I can borrow. I'm not sure whether he has only the Happy Mouth or has a HM and a regular metal mouth, but I'd like to try both. I also wonder how the 5" versus the 5.5" will work in a mullen mouth.
- Plain mouth, dee ring, thin snaffle, 5.5" or 5.25": If nothing else is any better, I'm just going to pick this one up from Horseloverz.com. It works for MT. And really -- am I looking for a magic bullet here, instead of learning to ride better? Maybe the plainest, simplest bit is the best after all.
- Copper roller mouth, dee ring snaffle, 5.5 or 5.25": This would be a "what the hell, why not?" bit. I don't know if they're legal for dressage, though.
- Happy mouth elevator snaffle, 5.25" or 5.5": I'm dubious about this one. Rev doesn't duck her head, and she seemed to really object to the slight poll pressure that the baucher offers, so I wonder if this will be useful. Her usual trick for avoiding the bit is to raise her head, not roll it, so ... yeah. I'll try it, if MT agrees, but I'm not so sure. And is it dressage legal?
That's my bitting quandary for now. Like I mentioned, I wonder if I'm looking for a magic bullet that'll solve all our roundness problems for good, in one fell swoop. I know for sure that MT can get her round and forward and engaged. Which means that a large part of the issue is me and my riding and that I need to work more at it. But will a different bit help me get there? Dunno.
We have been having some good success at it, particularly in the walk and a little in the trot. What I'm noticing is that I need to hold my hands a little lower and steadier, and that I need to get on my seatbones in a particular way. I've said that before, and I'm still learning about it. And one thing I noticed Sunday is that when she's round and on the bit, I can stop riding with my upper body almost completely, that I can control her through my seat and leg and weight so much more easily. And she's much rounder and softer when my leg is stretched long and down, when my leg is on between the hip and thigh rather than middle thigh to calf. And I think that's why I have problems in the posting trot: I find myself tipping forward too much in the saddle and my leg moves around.
And I keep saying this -- because it remains true -- this is the sort of thing that will resolve through lots of practice. Balance balance balance. And flexible strength.
And maybe a new bit. (Which would then necessitate a new, dressage-only bridle ... twist my arm ...)