Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Bit of a Fathead

My horse is a fathead.

No, really.

Poco has a huge, broad head perched atop a thick neck, connected to a body like a beer keg, short but powerful legs with feathers, and enormous feet almost the size of salad plates. DUH, guess there's draft in there somewhere. Heather has a couple Clydesdales and a Belgian, but Poco doesn't resemble them in build, temperament or movement. As soon as I met O (Sugarbush Harley's Classic O), a Percheron, the similarities in build, attitude, and way of going were plain as day. That is an old and not very good pic of O when he was standing in Ohio. Poco is like a smaller, different color version of O.

I don't remember exactly what kind of bit (I don't know the names of all the different kinds) came with Poco's bridle when I bought him, but Heather said it was too narrow. Besides that, he hadn't been ridden in so long, the entire thing was rusted. I threw it away. She had told me way back then he needed at least a 5.5". Meanwhile, Jaz joined us, and 2 more headstalls and bits came with him. Then an old friend who lost her horse sent me a beautiful English headstall with a French link, full cheek bit. Back then, Poco was still pretty unstable and I lacked the confidence, much less the experience, to ride him, so a bit for him was not a priority. When I finally did jump on him every once in awhile (when it was a good day to die), I just used the one Jaz preferred. Poco didn't seem uncomfortable with it, but in retrospect, it was too mild a bit, and, of course, too narrow for him.

He has always resisted the bit, but my inexperience kept me from knowing if it was because of the bit, or if it was a symptom of behavioral issues. That coupled with a set of teeth the vet calls, "Not the worst I've seen, but not great," was the impetus to give the Dr. Cook's bridle a try.

When I bought the Dr. Cook's bridle, it said "fits most." It fit Poco on the very last hole, although as the leather has softened, I have been able to pull it in. The first time I rode Poco using that bridle, I was amazed at how well he responded to it. I would have continued to use it on him -- it's all I ever use on Jaz anymore -- but I need a little more stopping power for Pokey. I tried again using Jazu's bit, which Poco didn't like, then to the Tom Thumb bit of Heather's, which he did seem to like, until it pinched him the other day. While I had him tied, Heather grabbed a couple bits and we again decided he needs at least a 5.5".

I stopped at Paul Taylor's on my way home from work on Thursday and looked through their (literally) hundreds of bits. It was pretty overwhelming. Out of all those, only 2-3 were 5.125"; everything else was 5". They don't carry a lot of English bits, but they probably had 30, none of which was wider than 5." This is Quarter Horse country, and I guess 5" fits most QHs.
Sarah at PTs recommended I either go online or to an English (imagine that) store down the road in Aubrey, TX called On the Bit.

A funny story: When I was looking for a helmet, I went to PT and asked where they were. Anna Taylor gestured offhandedly and said, "We have a couple, but you know, we don't carry a lot of that English stuff." I laughed and said, "What? English riders are the only ones who deserve to have their heads protected?" I think they had maybe 3-4 kid sized helmets.

I went out to Heather's today, not to ride, but just to spend time with the Boyz. I got a tad over zealous cleaning the house yesterday and my back is paying the price today. I'm glad to say Poco was back to his sweet self and there was no sign of the swelling from a few days ago. Heather and I tried a couple more bits on him and she gave me some instruction on how they work and what to look for when choosing a bit for Poco. Maybe tomorrow I'll stop at On the Bit on my way home from work.


Chelsi said...

Sounds like you have given this bit business a lot of thought. I know horses that have been effected by bits, both good and bad. IMHO- any bit more than a simple snaffle or snaffle with a shank is a finishing piece to be used for finess. I get why people try to use them for control but IMHO if you dont feel safe on your horse, a bigger bit will do nothing to make you any safer or give you anything more than token control. Not saying that is the case with you. Getting a bit that fits is important, for sure, no matter what it is. I just get frustrated with people at the barn who run through bit after bit trying to gain works for the first little while but they always end up back to where they started from.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that your back is bothering you, but it is like i always say, "housework will kill you, if you let it."
And i am a believer in the snaffle bit and a trained horse wrapped around the bit.

Leah Fry said...

I appreciate your input. We're a work in progress. Believe me, I'm keeping it simple. My biggest concern is getting one that fits. Some of the bits I saw online looked like ancient devices of torture -- scary.

Everything of Heather's we tried on him were either snaffles with a shank or snaffles with D-rings, mostly the latter. She suggested I use a D-ring rather than an O-ring.

Wish me luck at On the Bit!

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