Informed Designs Dressage Bits for Ponies
With the growth in Pony Dressage in the last few years it is becoming increasing apparent that some extra thought needs to be given to Bitting ponies.
Bitting is part of the overall picture of a young rider learning to improve their riding skills and train their ponies well. Finding well made Dressage legal pony bits can be quite difficult, a true range of pony bits must have a variety of legal mouthpieces and cheeks stocked from 4" rising up in ¼" increments up to 5 ¼". The cheeks must be scaled down to look neat on smaller faces and the mouthpieces must be slimmer to fit into smaller mouths. Joints lozenges and plates must be neat and in keeping with the diameter of the bit. Nothing looks worse than a small pony head cluttered by a huge Snaffle ring or a small pony mouth hardly able to close over a thick mouth piece.
It is also vital when you buy a new Bit that you look for well made and well balanced bits. If we are seeking a consistent feel on the end of the rein it stands to reason that the pony should be holding a comfortable well made equal sided bit in its mouth to achieve this.
The mouthpiece is the most important thing about the Bit for any Horse or Pony it is what is inside the mouth the cheek is less relevant because it is on the outside of the face. The Cheek is what we the rider chooses for either the discipline we are riding in or the degree of control that we need. The idea of any bit pressure is that the Pony will yield a little to the pressure and either improve its frame or slow within the pace or transition down.
The French Link should always be a small short plate with small neat joints which lie in the middle of the Pony's tongue the feel for the Pony when rein pressure is applied is a flat pull backwards pressing the tongue with the plate and the two joints so that the Pony yields and lightens to the pressure. It is important that the plate and joints in the middle of a French Link Mouthpiece are not large long and bulky because they can be felt quite severely by the Pony and as you turn the mouthpiece gets pulled slightly sideways across the tongue and the joints can come down on the jaw bone if the plate is long.
The Lozenge as long as the branches of the bit are equal and have a forward curve this actively encourages a Pony to seek a little more contact as the rein is applied the mouthpiece wraps around the tongue and creates a curve that the tongue can move forward into. As there is no gradient between the lozenge and the branches of the bit there is a smoother more consistent feel to the signal.
The Round Lozenge is as it suggests and combined with the forward curve of the branches of the mouthpiece a round feel on the tongue so that as the Pony reaches out into the Bit with its tongue the Bits makes a perfect curve which should encourage the Pony to take the rein forward.
The Flat Lozenge is round on one side but flat against the tongue so although the curved branches of the Bit encourage the Pony forward to the Bit the flat plate should discourage it from leaning too far into the mouthpiece.
The Mullen gives an even feel right across the tongue and can do one of two things either encourage a busy mouth to be stiller and therefore more consistent on the end of the rein or give a firm but fair signal for the Pony not to be too heavy in the rein. This particular Mullen has a generous forward curve so that jaw and tongue room in created behind the mouth and the curve goes with the shape of the tongue not against it. Surprisingly you do not usually loose any lateral feel to the Bit when you do not have a joint or joints in the centre.
The Loose ring is as it implies loose. The advantages are the Pony can move the bit more easily in its mouth because the mouthpiece is loose on the rings and take some the pressure off the tongue if the pressure is too restrictive. The disadvantage is the looseness can make for poor signals and inconsistency of rein contact. As you pick up rein pressure the rein rolls a little on the Bit ring and then the bit ring rolls a little on the mouthpiece and then the signal gets to the Pony so not very slick when you are trying to refine and define the signals. There can also be damage to the corners of fleshy lips because the lip corner gets caught or chaffed between the mouthpiece and the cheek.
The Eggbutt Cheek makes for a more consistent signal from the rein, as rein pressure is applied there is no play between the mouth and the cheek so the signal is more defined and as the mouthpiece smoothly joins the cheek with no gaps the corner of the lips can fit against the cheek without injury.
The D Cheek also makes for a more consistent signal just as the Eggbutt but as the cheek is flatter against the face you get a little more directional support from the cheek.
The Hanging Cheek thought to apply poll pressure which is in reality non existent. What the Hanging cheek does is because you put the cheek piece of your bridle into a small top slot this stabilises the bit in the mouth and takes some of the weight of the Bit from the tongue and sits the bit up. It increases the signal and reward of the chosen mouth piece and gives greater stability to the turn. And a particular advantage you can alter the pressures of the Bit for schooling purposes by adding a curb strap to the back of the cheek to take some of the pressure from the mouth and neatly distribute it onto the back of the jaw encouraging the Pony to tip and yield much quicker with less effort from the rider.
Choosing the right bit should enhance the overall picture, lessening resistance, making the Pony more comfortable which in turn improves the rider's communication, encourages acceptance of contact and follows the scales of training.
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