Winter Grooming Guide

Genevieve Faith
Sponsored Event Rider Genevieve Faith shares her Winter Grooming Secrets

It’s that time of year again when boiling water can freeze midair and you’re unable to bathe your horse for what seems like eternity. I promise though, it’s only a few short months! If I’ve learned one thing from enduring the harsh Minnesota winters with horses, it’s that taking your time when grooming and cooling out is worth the cold fingers and toes.

Here are some helpful hints to keep the winter blues away and keep your horse’s coat shiny and healthy:

Clipping: If you know how to clip your horse or can afford to pay someone to clip, I truly believe this helps with not only pre-ride but also post-ride grooming. Even a simple trace clip can help the horses cool out quicker which shortens your time at the barn. This also helps you see any new cuts or any inflammation on your horse that you may not have seen before with their long hair. You can then feel their legs and pasterns for scabs or scratches much easier than if you are running your fingers through long hairs. You’ll also be able to feel heat if there is any inflammation anywhere. If you decide not to clip their legs, I suggest trimming up their fetlocks/pasterns to make it easier to feel anything new.

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Blanketing: The next best thing if you can’t clip your horse. Blankets create a barrier between the hair and dirt/mud that a horse may encounter. Mud can cake easily onto long hairs whereas it falls easier off a horse with shorter hair. With a clipped horse, blanketing becomes a necessity, but as mentioned it does give an advantage versus an unclipped horse. See below for my blanketing schedule for different temperatures. If your barn is not insulated and is extra cold, consider folding back the blanket while grooming the front half of your horse and do vise versa for the hind end. Your horse will stay a little warmer for longer. I like to keep a cooler nearby if I am tacking up a horse early to put over the saddle to give an extra layer while they are standing around.

Waterless Shampoo: My favorite secret weapon during these long wintery periods. A good waterless shampoo will help repel dust, but it should also add hydration and reduce static/electricity. I use my favorite waterless horse shampoo myself, at shows after taking off my helmet. I cannot count the amount of times people have told me that my hair had an extra glow to it… I simply had to giggle under my breath!

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Leave-In Conditioner: If you’re trying to grow out your horse’s tail or trying to keep their tail moisturized through the winter months, a good quality leave-in conditioner is a must. I separate the hairs at the base of the tails and spray the detangler deep into the hair and do that daily. I don’t normally brush out the tail more than 3-4 times a week to prevent pulling hairs. Put your favorite leave-in conditioner in a squirt bottle for easier access. I squirt some into my hands and separate the hairs on the tail (or mane) and rub it into to the base to moisture it and then continue outwards.

Curry, Curry, Curry: One of the best things you can do to lift the dirt that is deep under the hair (if unclipped) is to curry it like you’re the Karate Kid. Wax on, wax off -vigorously.  I like to spray waterless shampoo on tough soiled areas and then use a towel to rub vigorously but if you don’t have this, a good plain curry comb will work. If you have access to hot water and a towel, wet a corner of the towel and rub any super dirty spots in a circular motion to help lift dirt. If your horse loves mud and isn’t blanketed, continuously change the water so you’re not putting dirt back into the water. Make sure to have a cooler nearby so your horse isn’t sitting around wet and catches a cold.

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Cooling out: Always make sure your horses veins are ‘down’ before putting blankets back on your horse. When their veins are still visible ‘up’ it means that they can easily heat back up if they return outside with their friends and run around. There is nothing worse than putting a wet horse outside as they can catch a cold even quicker.

Sweat Marks: After every ride you’ll typically have sweat marks regardless if you have a clipped or unclipped horse. On a clipped horse it’ll be less noticeable but it’s still important to give the area under the saddle a good cleaning before putting back on their blankets. I mix up a sweat mark spray bottle (that you can also use pre-ride if you wanted) to help get rid of funk caused by dirt and sweat build up. I buy an empty spray bottle and fill it ½ way with water, add about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of witch hazel/or apple cider vinegar (you can eye the amount), and some sort of waterless shampoo or detangler to fill to the top and then I give it a good shake. You can play around with different products but having some sort of alcohol-based product will help treat any skin funk underneath the hair. In the winter, the dry air sucks oil out of the skin; therefore, the skin has more trouble producing the oils which create that healthy glossy look. Help the skin by adding more oil—add a little bit of baby oil to the spray bottle and shake it up every time before you use it to keep it well mixed.

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Baby Wipes: The secret key to sweat marks on the face and legs. Most horses don’t like their faces being scrubbed in the summer, so they most definitely don’t like it being scrubbed in the winter. Baby wipes are my favorite go to as they are alcohol-free, fragrance-free and soft on the horses’ skin. Baby wipes also pick up dirt underneath the hair so it’s good to use them daily to prevent sweat build up which later can create issues. I also like using them on the legs as you can feel their legs for any new bumps/swelling while also getting the dirt.

Skin Funk: It’s hard to go a winter without some sort of cut or skin funk but there are ways to get rid of these without giving your horse a bath. If your horse gets a skin-funk or hives, make a mixture in an empty spray bottle of a 1:2 ratio of water and apple cider vinegar and/or witch hazel. You don’t have to rinse this off after spraying it onto the location. You can also use this as a daily grooming spray to help keep skin problems at bay.

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Clean Tack, Pads and Brushes: It seems obvious but clean tack also means a cleaner horse. If you don’t clean your tack, this allows bacteria to linger on the leather and for fungi to accumulate. Therefore, when you put back on the girth or bridle, you’re going back full circle. It’s also easy to forget about clean saddle pads in the winter versus summer as your pads may not get as wet but I suggest using a clean saddle pad every day. I can understand that this isn’t always possible so try and use a new clean pad every 3-4 rides (weekly at the latest). Changing your pads more often is better as saddle pads can also hold dirt and bacteria on them the same as tack can. If you’re worried about getting too much hair in your washer, vacuum off excess hair and then wash your pads.

A helpful tip for YOU to keep warm is doing a few jumping jacks to warm your muscles back up…but be prepared for an odd judging look from your horse!

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Yoga for Riders: Pre-Riding Warmup

Nicole and Ginny
Nicole and Ginny prepare for an Eventing competition 

We all know what it feels like to enter the barn and start riding again after a long winter rest. Toklat Sales Representative, avid Eventing/Endurance competitor and former competitive mountain trail runner, Nicole Musmanno Vinzant walks us through her favorite Pre-Riding Warmup Yoga routine. Whether she is at home or on the road competing, this quick 10 minute yoga practice will lengthen the entire body and help center you for the ride and day ahead. Nicole is a RYTT-200 Yoga Instructor with additional certifications including addiction and trauma. For information on personal practice, you can message Nicole at Go West Yoga, by Pi on Facebook. Follow Toklat and Go West Yoga, by Pi on Facebook for additional rider fitness articles and videos to keep you feeling your best in the saddle.

Did you like this video and want more? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our blog!

Our Myler Experience and the Levels We Use

 

In our final installment of the Myler Bitting Series, the Toklat sales staff will share some personal stories of our experience with our horses and which bits we use and how Myler bits have helped us reach our goals in our respective disciplines.

Chelsey & Lexi

Chelsey & Lexi

Our first rider trains and competes her personal horses in AQHA and ApHC rated shows in the Western All-Around classes as well as the occasional Hunter Under Saddle classes. All of her horses currently ride in Myler bits and she will share her journey with Myler bits and how they helped her current project horse.

Lexi – Big, Pretty, and Sensitive

My Myler journey originally started with my three year old Appendix Quarter horse mare when she was just being started under saddle. She is a big, beautiful mare with a ton of cadence and a super willing personality, but we had one major problem. She would not settle down when bridled. From the time you put her headstall on, to the time you took it off, she would fidget, chomp, stick her tongue over the bit, and fling her head. I spent months lunging and ground driving her trying to get her used to a snaffle with no avail. I started her in a single jointed snaffle (like many horse owners do) and she was very unhappy. We had her teeth checked and the chiropractor look at her and found nothing concerning.

I finally talked to a co-worker about my big beautiful mare that I could not for the life of me get to be happy in a bridle. She was very green with maybe 15-20 rides under saddle, but resistant and unhappy when you tried to make contact with her mouth. The first bit my co-worker suggested was a 04 Combination bit.

My initial thought was – “No way will this work, my mare is a mess with her face and not nearly far enough along for a ported bit!”

After a few more weeks of having unsuccessful rides in the single jointed snaffle, I had her fitted for the suggested bit and took her for a spin. The difference was immediately noticeable, even from the ground. Her eye was much softer and the chomping stopped. Under saddle was night and day. Instead of fighting to retain any sort of contact, she trotted around the arena in a collected frame, on the bridle with her mouth soft and quiet on a very light contact. The Combination bit asks primarily with the noseband pressure and only asks from the mouthpiece if they do not respond to the noseband. This means that they can respond as softly as they are willing to. She never engaged the mouthpiece the entire ride. I rode her for a couple more weeks and then she was turned out for the winter to grow (she was roughly 16.2 as a three year old!).

When she came back to the training barn in the spring, I started back with a 04 western dee ring. She went around as softly as she did prior and was happy to work – not once did she gape her mouth or get her tongue over the bit. My mare is currently five years old and even with consistent riding and training she has remained exceptionally willing and soft in the 04. Now that she has a start on lateral work, body collection, and leg placement – I believe she will be ready for a 36 (Level 2-3) in the next couple months. I still can’t believe the horse I would have deemed “hard mouthed” was in fact very sensitive and needed more tongue relief. Knowing that not all horses are created the same and some need more tongue relief from the start has definitely helped me recommend bits for other people. I feel like the 04 mouthpiece (Level 2) can be very appropriate to ride green or started horses in that are good minded and willing. Absolutely a tack room necessity!

Maggie & Melody

Maggie and Melody

I grew up riding hunters – in my home town there were only hunter/jumpers and western riders and I was drawn to jumping – and still get a thrill flying over an obstacle even though I do not jump much anymore! I have had varied equestrian experiences as an adult including working as a groom to both hunter/jumper and dressage professionals, learning to play polo, going horse camping, and working on a sheep and cattle ranch. I enjoy working on the technical side of riding, but nothing can beat a good free gallop out in the fields!

A Bitting Journey with Melody the Morgan

My horse Melody is physically built very upright like many Morgan horses and tends to naturally move inverted. She often tries to do her best impression of a giraffe if startled or excited. This has made teaching collection and self-carriage a difficult task. Personality wise she is both highly opinionated and sensitive to discomfort, which makes it hard to figure out the cause of her resistance – is the saddle pinching somewhere? Is the curb strap too tight or too loose? Or is she just in a bad mood because the pony looked at her wrong during feeding time?

When I first got Melody I bought a pinchless single jointed snaffle based on my trainer’s suggestion; it being the “mildest bit”. After some time I realized she was obviously unhappy with the bit and I switched to a lozenge double jointed bit that a friend loaned me. Melody did not seem as resistant but was always very chompy; you could hear her across the arena like a person chewing gum with their mouth open. It was fairly embarrassing but I chalked it up to personality and tried to move on with training. However we kept getting stuck and not progressing.

When I got hired with Toklat I was introduced to the Myler approach and immediately wanted to experiment with different bits. I grabbed the first Level 2 bit I found – a 32 mullen eggbutt. The first time that I tried it on her, there was a shocking change. She held the bit still in her mouth and there was no chomping and fretting – the silence was deafening and she seemed relaxed. I got really excited and put her in a 36 (Level 2-3) with hooks to give her even more tongue relief.

At first Melody went really well, but after a few rides she would flip her head and act like something was pinching her. I checked the bit – nothing. I checked the curb strap and rode with it tighter, then looser, then not at all, but she kept flipping her head. She would also go behind the bit when I asked for collection and to work from behind. For the life of me I could not figure out why she did not like the bit. The 36 was supposed to make her happier! I brought up my issue to a coworker who had previously trained horses professionally, and she suggested that I try going back a step to a Level 2 bit, specifically the 04 without hooks, as she did not think Melody was ready for a Level 2-3 bit since she was not able to collect consistently.

Well she was right! I have been having fabulous rides with Melody in the 04, and she is more readily willing to lift her back and be in front of my leg. She still chomps when asked to do a particularly demanding task or something that she does not understand. But when she does “get it” she is soft and responsive. We still have a journey – I am a less than perfect rider after all – but this bit has given me such a valuable tool in training and communicating with her.

 Judy & George

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I purchased George when he was 6 months old from a friend who bred pinto Arabians because…spots! He was adorable. By his 4th birthday, I was ready to start his education. Still in graduate school, I decided to try starting him myself. Fortunately for both of us, he turned out to be brilliant and honest and very brave. Of course I started him in a snaffle, a dee I think, because my local tack store recommended it as “a mild bit.” I didn’t have a round pen, just a dirt road, where we did some lungeing and ground driving. I don’t even really remember the first time I hopped on him, but away we went! He did his first competitive trail ride that year and won. We did a little endurance, but I quickly developed a love of long distance trail riding—being out in the wilds for long hours at a time. George was an athletic machine–he could trot 10 mph all day long. In fact, he insisted on it. We climbed mountains, crashed through forests, fell off the occasional cliff.

Despite all the time I spent in the saddle with this amazing horse who would do anything I asked, I was obsessed with his bit. Something wasn’t right. He was obedient, he was steady, but he wasn’t relaxed and he wasn’t happy. Looking back, I can’t point to a specific behavior that made me think this, but there was something. This was back in the days before Google, Wikipedia and YouTube, so I watched tape after tape of my favorite clinicians and trainers, I talked to trainers, and I consulted with the staff at my local tack store. I tried a long list of bits: the original single jointed dee, a single-jointed Kimberwick, a single-jointed Pelham, a French link loose ring and finally a short shank with a single joint (aka a Tom Thumb). There was probably a full cheek and a couple other bits in there somewhere too. I ended up with a pile of bits and no satisfaction.

Toklat was just launching the Myler line around this time. I worked for a retailer and I was fortunate enough to go to a tradeshow where they had organized a clinic with Dale Myler for a large group of retailers. I went to the clinic, sat in the back, and watched Dale actually transform the horses that came into the clinic. More importantly, everything he said about how bits work and how horses work in bits made sense! It was just basic physics and anatomy—no gimmicks, no woo woo. Logical and straightforward. I went home and dragged out my bucket of bits, laid them out in the aisle of my barn. Eureka! I saw the problem immediately. Although the bits looked different to me, they felt identical to George—all the same single-jointed mouthpiece, just different cheekpieces. I also realized that the Kimberwick, Pelham had been the more successful not because of the mouthpiece but because they dispersed the tongue pressure over various pressure points, instead of concentrating all the pressure on the mouth—tongue, lips, bars.

I contacted Toklat and based on the info I gave them, they recommended the 43LP. George was 10 years old, a well-seasoned trail horse at this time. The 43LP offered ample tongue relief with just a little tongue pressure on the outside edges of the tongue and of course the independent side movement. Wow! What a difference it made the first time I used it. He seemed much more relaxed, more willing to give to the bit. We went down the trail for a couple of rides with this bit, but the feeling started to creep back that he wasn’t doing as well as that first ride. This time, though, I knew what I was looking for and easily recognized resistance. He would get a little heavy, a little busy in his mouth, go a little above the bit. Nothing dramatic, but it was there.

I decided to try the 33—it offers a lot more tongue relief than the 43LP. My logic: obviously if he’s resisting the 43LP, then he must need MORE tongue relief. Wrong! Let’s just say a very forward, athletic Arabian does not need a bit that offers that much freedom and leave it at that.

Back to the drawing board. He seemed increasingly uncomfortable in the 43LP, albeit much better than he had been in the single joint. I tried going back to the Tom Thumb just to see what would happen—he was having none of that! He wanted tongue relief, but something about the 43LP was still making him unhappy and the 33 definitely did not give me the communication that I needed. I went back to Toklat. They suggested the 41PB. It’s an unusual mouthpiece—it has a port roughly the same size as the 33, so tons of tongue relief. But the port is hinged and it collapses on the tongue when you engage both reins. It’s a “correctional,” a common term for a ported bit that collapses like a single joint.

Correctionals are typically used to correct a problem (hence the name), and that problem is usually not stopping. They offer a lot of tongue relief, but they can also apply a fair amount of tongue pressure as they are almost always on a shank bit. Because of this, correctionals are not intended to be used indefinitely—correct the problem, go back to a curb bit, and keep the correctional for the occasional tune up. The 41PB is a little different—it has a staggered port, where the top of the port is a little narrower than the middle and the base. When you engage the reins, the port very slowly rotates down on to the tongue, much more slowly than a standard correctional, because it has to travel farther. Ample tongue relief, very mild tongue pressure, but really refined communication—the perfect combination for George. I also believe he preferred the broken style of mouthpiece over a solid one because I had ridden him for most of his life in a broken mouthpiece. He had gotten used to the flex even though he couldn’t handle the tongue pressure. The 41PB fit the bill perfectly and it’s the one correctional that can be used indefinitely because of the degree of tongue relief and the very moderate tongue pressure.

George is 27 now, semi-retired for the last 2 years thanks to a squishy heart valve, but still has lots of go. He’s been in the 41PB for the last 13-14 years, in a cavalry shank (that we no longer offer, so don’t ask!), and goes down the trail quite happily in it. I have since trained three more horses using the Myler approach to bitting and have really enjoyed a developing a relationship with each horse that isn’t based on conflict.

Holiday Stocking Stuffers

Need last minute stocking stuffer ideas? Toklat has you covered! Keep cozy with winter riding gear or keep your horse clean this winter with a new set of Jammies! Shop our entire website here.

blocker tie ring

#1 Blocker Tie Ring – The safest and easiest way to tie your horse! Great for use in aisle ways, out on the trail, or attached to your trailer.

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#2 Jammies – Keep your horse dirt and shavings free with our large selection of printed and solid Jammies – available in shoulder guards, tail bags, and full neck hoods.

 

#3 Woof Wear Winter Riding Sock – A cozy wool blend sock that is padded from heel to toe for extra comfort while riding or cleaning out in the barn.

#4 Chinchillaah or Himalayer headbands – Keep your ears and head warm while riding in a stylish Chinchillaah or Himalayer headband without adding bulk or messing up your hair!

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#5 Roeckl Winter Riding Gloves– Keep  your hands warm without sacrificing fit or grip with Roeckl Riding Gloves, designed with fit and function in mind! The Weldon Winter Glove pictured above is one of the few winter gloves with Touchscreen Compatibility; the thumb and index finger were designed using the sophisticated 3D cut for quicker and easier use of the touchscreen without compromising warmth and comfort. Paired with a reinforced silicon palm for secure grip, the Weldon is the perfect riding glove for chilly riding days!

Myler Bitting Series Part II – Bit Levels and How to Use Them

Welcome to Part II of the Myler Bit series dedicated to helping you make a better bit choice for your horse. We started the series off with Understanding Bit Resistance. In this blog, we will discuss the Myler Bit Levels, what their intended use is for, and how this relates to your horse.

The Myler Approach to Bitting 

In Understanding Bit Resistance, we explained that the primary source of bit resistance is excessive tongue pressure – most commonly from a single jointed or double jointed mouthpiece (ex. french link). Our goal is to give him as much tongue relief as he can mentally handle and respect under saddle.  

When you start working with a horse, whether it’s newly started, green broke, or a seasoned competitor – this approach applies to each one equally. When we start any horse, the first thing we work on is teaching them to give to pressure. The first bit we use will apply pressure to the tongue and we look for a positive reaction called  “giving to the bit” or flexing at the poll and softening the mouth. As the horse’s understanding of giving to pressure grows, we start to ask for more advanced maneuvers, building off of the initial foundation of giving to pressure.

What we often fail to realize is that the more educated our horse is, the less contact, pressure, and guidance they need (and want). Think back to your first Driver’s Ed class. The instructor gave you frequent commands and corrections, which was extremely helpful and taught you how to safely travel the roads. Now picture that same instructor riding with you on your daily commute.

“We are approaching a stop sign”

“The speed limit is 35 mph”

“Remember check your rearview mirror!”

A tad irritating?

When your obedient, responsive horse becomes unresponsive, irritable, and resists your cues after an extended period of time, remember the analogy above. Some horses seem to “start” off with this mentality. We begin to feel like our horse is working against us or is starting to have an attitude under saddle.

No two horses are mentally or physically identical. Basic training principles may apply, but you can’t work every horse the same from start to finish. Some take more time, some require a soft hand, and some can be downright difficult. Bits will not always fix a horse that is determined to be difficult, but they will give you the best chance in communicating with him in a positive manner. Bits don’t train horses, people do. A bit can only do two things, create interference or promote relaxation. The Leveling System was created in an effort to produce the most effective and positive communication, no matter what experience level your horse is.  Below we will start to break down the different levels and the types of horses that usually fit these Level profiles.

 

Level 1 Bits

Level 1 bits were traditionally recommended for horses being started under saddle, are very green, or challenging. These bits have a middle barrel that prevents the bit from collapsing in a “V” shape, eliminating the nutcracker effect. The bit collapses in a “U” shape, allowing the tongue more room to sit comfortably and reducing the amount of tongue pressure applied compared to a single jointed snaffle.

These mouthpieces are also made for disciplines with rules regulating the type of mouthpiece you can use – often found in dressage. To view all dressage legal bits (of all levels) click HERE.

Because the Level 1 mouthpieces apply the maximum amount of tongue pressure out of all the Levels and offer the least amount of tongue relief, we rarely recommend them. Tongue pressure is useful when introducing a horse to the concept of yielding to pressure, but once he has learned this, the Level 1 mouthpiece doesn’t offer much benefit compared to the other Levels. If you are considering a Level 1 mouthpiece, we would strongly recommend moving up to a Level 2, specifically the MB 04.

Level 2 

 

Level 2 bits are great for green horses with trustworthy dispositions or challenging horses that are showing signs of bit resistance. The Level 2 bits introduce a little more tongue relief  than the Level 1 – perfect for sensitive mouthed horses or horses advancing in their training that are starting to resist their current Level 1 bit.

Level 2-3

When you look at the examples of the Level 2-3 mouthpiece, you will notice that all of these mouthpieces have ports. The port gives the tongue room to move, offering increased tongue relief. Some of the mouthpieces are solid (like the 06, 36, 43LP)—these are considered curb bits, which means they don’t use the tongue as a primary pressure but use the bar, lip, poll and chin (if there’s a curb chain or strap). Some of these mouthpieces collapse (like the 41PB, 27PB); a ported bit that collapses is called a correctional. Basically it offers increased tongue relief with a port, but the collapsing action will use the tongue as a pressure point when both reins are engaged. They are used to “correct” a problem, hence the name.

Level 2-3 has the widest variety of mouthpieces, balancing increased tongue relief with varying degrees of tongue pressure.

The Young and Sensitive Student

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You take your next shining star into the barn to be started under saddle or perhaps just purchased a green broke youngster with the basics. You take them out to the arena in a single jointed snaffle or Level 1 bit and it is evident that they are heavily resistant to the bit and fidget restlessly. You feel perplexed on where to go from here. This is a perfect example of a green horse that is good minded that needs more tongue relief. The best step up bit being the MB 04. This bit can be used on its own, or in the combination bit series to offer tongue relief while still providing the control that you need.

The Tenacious Teenager

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This horse usually has a decent amount of education and has started his career in a particular discipline. He shows a lot of promise and talent but often has his own thoughts and ideas about how his training should go. You have ruled out any pain from saddle fit, chiropractic work, or dental issues. He is resistant in a single jointed snaffle or in a Level 1, but you worry about giving a challenging horse too much freedom. The Level 2 and Level 2-3 bits are great for this situation. Just because we have a horse that definitely needs to have a good handle on them, doesn’t mean we want to leave them in a Level 1. We would suggest a MB 04 for a horse coming from a single joint or Level 1, or perhaps an MB 36 (Level 2-3) if you have a horse currently being ridden in a mullen or MB 04 that shows resistance.

The MB 04 will give them the tongue relief they are looking for, but will still collapse and apply tongue pressure as needed. This is the ideal transition bit if your horse is showing resistance in a single jointed snaffle or a Level 1 mouthpiece. An MB 36 works great for horses that are seeking more tongue relief but still need adequate control. The MB 36 is a mullen mouthpiece with a forward tilt. When you apply pressure to the mouthpiece, it will roll forward onto the tongue instead of collapsing, giving a soft and more subtle cue.

The Seasoned but Stubborn Steed

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Whether he is a veteran trail horse or a world champion reining horse, sometimes he just can’t have as much tongue relief as the MB 33 (Level 3) provides as he takes advantage of this freedom. This can mean that he doesn’t have the responsiveness you need in the show pen or you still need a way to remind your forward trail horse that you are in control. The MB 06 mouthpiece gives a good amount of tongue relief while still giving you control when needed. If your horse performs well in a correctional bit but it is still showing some signs of bit resistance, our MB 41PB is an excellent mouthpiece because it offers the same amount of tongue relief as a Level 3 – but applies tongue pressure when needed for control.

Level 3 Bits

 

Level 3 mouthpieces offer your horse the most tongue relief out of all of the levels. These mouthpieces are best suited for very good-minded, trustworthy horses that have enough training that they don’t need “looked after” under saddle. It is very important to note that with maximum tongue relief comes maximum freedom. This gives ultimate comfort for the seasoned athlete, but can be unsuitable for a challenging horse that tries to take advantage of his rider. Our two most popular Level 3 mouthpieces are the MB 33 and the MB 33WL. Both bits offer maximum tongue relief and are considered the mildest mouthpiece that we offer. The MB 33WL was designed specifically to be USEF and FEI dressage legal.

Steady Eddy

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This horse can be a seasoned show horse or your go to trail horse, either way, he is solid, safe, and knows his job. He doesn’t take advantage of his rider or become impatient. He knows and enjoys his job and doesn’t require much direction. This horse would be the perfect candidate for a Level 3 bit. The MB 33 will give him ample tongue relief and will cue mostly off of the lips and bars of his mouth, giving him freedom and the most comfort overall – the perfect reward for your trusted partner.

Still wonder which category your horse falls into? Stay tuned next week for our final part in the Myler Bitting Series where we talk about some of our personal horses and what bits we ride in. You can also visit our website and fill out the Myler Bit Wizard for your bit recommendation!

 

Toklat Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for gift ideas for the horse enthusiast in your life? We have compiled a list of gift ideas with every horse and rider in mind from English to Western! To shop all of our products, visit our website.

 

T3 & Matrix Saddle Pads

Whether you need a work or show pad, our T3 and Matrix pads are designed to protect you and your horse from the impact of schooling and competition. Available in styles for every discipline and level – ranging from high impact to low impact performance protection.

 

Myler Bits

Looking to treat a friend or even your four-legged partner? Myler Bits have created a whole line of bits with your horse’s comfort and performance in mind. Designed to eliminate bit interference and correct bit evasion through the use of tongue relief, Myler Bits encourage positive communication and a relaxed mind for horses of all levels and personalities. Need help selecting a bit? Complete our Myler Bit Wizard for our best recommendation!

 

Bucas Recuptex Therapy Blanket

 

Made from an extremely fine stainless steel mesh that reflects the magnetic fields created inside the body to stimulate blood circulation and oxygen flow through the horse’s back and body. This reduces swelling and inflammation and promotes faster healing when used as a therapeutic treatment

 

Woof Wear

Wanting to add a pop of color for fun or need a protective boot for your competitive rider? Woof Wear offers a wide range of boots for every rider. School in our fun Sport Brushing Boots or compete in our high tech Smart Tendon or Smart Event boots for optimum leg protection.

 

Irideon Riding Wear

Stay warm this winter with Irideon Riding Wear! Offering a wide range of must-have layers, cozy breeches and water-resistant (and waterproof!) jackets to keep you comfortable during the unpredictable winter weather. Click HERE to see the entire Fall/Winter 2017 line.

Myler Bitting Series Part I – Understanding Bit Resistance

Whether you enjoy a leisurely trail ride or compete at a high level, using a bit that does not work for your horse can not only reduce the quality of their performance but also negatively affect your relationship over time. Chances are good that you’ve experienced bit resistance at some point in your riding relationship with your horse.

What does “Bit Resistance” actually mean?

Resistance is any behavior the horse employs that puts him in conflict with the actions of the rider, often to evade that action. In this article, we’ll go over the most common Signs of Resistance and what they mean, but knowing how to address resistance speaks to the root cause of resistance: excessive tongue pressure.

Tongue Pressure

The primary cause of most bit resistance is essentially tongue pressure, most commonly from a broken bit, such as a single joint or three-piece. When the rider engages the reins on a broken bit, the bit collapses and applies pressure to the tongue. The tongue is a big, thick muscle connected to other muscles in the neck, shoulders and back. When it can’t move, the horse can’t go forward easily (the same is true for people). When it becomes more than he can bear, he will be forced to find a way around that pressure. The result? Resistance.

How to Recognize Bit Resistance

Horses can express bit resistance in many different ways but before you make any changes to the bit, make sure your horse is not experiencing dental or chiropractic issues.

Myler correct form

This illustration shows a horse in a good collected frame, with his head perpendicular to the ground for optimal movement. Ideally, this is the position you want your horse to travel in when you are riding. Resistance occurs when the horse leaves this position in reaction to the rider’s rein pressure.

Once dental and medical concerns have been ruled out, you can comfortably conclude that you are dealing with bit resistance. Do you recognize any of these behaviors?

Above the Bit

Going Above the Bit

When a horse goes “above the bit,” his head comes up and his nose goes out, often accompanied with head tossing. As a result, the bit slides back over the tongue, freeing the tongue and distributing the rein pressure to the lips and bars of the mouth. He may carry his head high for a   few strides and then come back into frame, or he may continue with his head held high. As long as he is traveling above the bit, the rider has little to no control.

Behind the Bit

Going Behind the Bit

This horse is showing the same type of behavior as the horse Above the Bit, but is avoiding the pressure by tucking his head behind the vertical, allowing the bit to slide over his tongue and applying the pressure to his lips and bars. As long as he has his head tucked behind the vertical, the rider has no recourse but to release the pressure and try to encourage him back on to the bit.

Rooting

Rooting

Rooting is a very common sign of bit resistance that also has varies in severity. Some horses seem to reach through the bit and become very heavy in the rider’s hands; others will take the bit in their mouth and pull down towards the ground or run through the bit. This will reposition the bit onto the lips and bar, while the pressure is relieved from the tongue. Severe rooting can easily pull the rider off balance.

Tongue Outside Mouth

Tongue Over, Outside, or In Throat

Moving the tongue around is a very common sign of bit resistance, although these behaviors can be more easily observed from the ground. If a horse chronically puts his tongue over the bit or sticks his tongue out the side of his mouth, it can look comically playful but it signals severe discomfort. More difficult to see is when a horse brings his tongue up behind the bit into his throat—the rider feels as though she’s pulling on a brick because the rein pressure is entirely engaged on the lower jaw.

In all three of these situations, the horse cannot tolerate the amount of tongue pressure being applied to his tongue and he is willing to cause his own discomfort to avoid it. When bringing his tongue back into his throat, he even significantly cuts off his own oxygen supply.

As a precursor to these behaviors, your horse might have a busy mouth, with gaping and chewing. Recognizing this busy mouth as an early indication of bit resistance will go a long way to preventing more severe resistance.

Why is Tongue Movement Important?

No one enjoys going to the dentist and for some people, it can create a lot of anxiety. Imagine being at the dentist office: as they begin working on your teeth, you need to swallow. Instead of allowing you to freely swallow, the dentist holds your tongue down so that they can continue to work on your teeth. Without the ability to move your tongue, you are not able to swallow. At this point, panic and anxiety kick in and you begin to struggle. If the dentist doesn’t allow you to swallow soon, you will begin to panic completely and try to make yourself comfortable by getting away from the pressure. Now imagine that you are running a mile with a 20 pound backpack uphill and you are unable to move your tongue or swallow. Sounds unpleasant?

Riding in a traditional broken snaffle (single joint or three-piece), when you close your hands and make contact, the bit collapses into a “V” and rotates downward onto the tongue. As long as you have that contact, the bit will inhibit any natural movement of the tongue. As your horse salivates and begins to work harder, he struggles to regulate his breathing and swallowing because his tongue is restricted. You might notice you have the hardest time maintaining collection at the trot and canter–these maneuvers will require more effort from your horse, his respiration goes up, and he needs to swallow more frequently. But he can’t because the bit is interfering with his ability to move his tongue. You can test the pressure of a traditional bit using the “arm test.”

What is the solution to bit resistance?

Now that we can recognize the problem, how do we begin to search for a solution? The Mylers’ approach to bitting is that as our horses become better trained, they deserve more tongue relief and freedom to perform the job that they are now educated to do. They earn your trust as they prove themselves more responsible and reliable. It’s much the same as a child learning and growing. You treat a teenager differently from a child in elementary school because that teenager has earned your trust and proven more responsible.

When looking at where to start in regards to bits; there are 5 important points

  • Confirm there are no impeding dental or chiropractic issues
  • Know what bit you currently are riding in and how they are reacting – this is ground zero to making a better bit choice.
  • Know how your horse reacts in stressful situations – Is he reactive? Spooky? Easy-going?
  • Be honest about his/her personality and how trustworthy they are under saddle. Is your horse anxious and insecure? Or dominant and challenging?
  • Do you compete and have bitting regulations that you must follow?

Knowing how your horse reacts in unusual situations indicates his level of self-control and obedience. This is key to bitting selection because the more tongue relief, the more freedom. Going back to elementary school – if you have taught two children to use scissors, and one tends to be unpredictable and run off and another very cautious and careful – you can relax the amount of supervision you give the cautious child but you will probably increase the amount of supervision with the mischievous child. Again, same goes to your horse.

We try to offer each horse as much tongue relief as that horse can mentally handle. Bitting a horse is always a balance between offering tongue relief but also maintaining communication and control. Understanding your horse’s disposition will go a long way in helping you make a better bit choice for him.

Tune in next Saturday for Part II of this Myler Bitting Series: Myler Bit Levels and How to Use Them for a detailed explanations of what the Myler Levels mean and how you can use them to make a better choice for your horse.

Don’t want to wait? Click here for the most comprehensive overview of the Myler approach to bitting.