June 7, 2012

Show Announcement and Bits

Let's start this post out with an announcement: I am about to send in entries for our first (Dressage) show (as Connor's owner/rider)!  Hooray!  My friend Austen of Guinness on Tap invited Connor and I to go show with them, and offered to give us the all-important ride there.  It will be my first time showing in anything other than "W/T/C reverse" hunter classes, and my first time memorizing and riding a Dressage test, so I am definitely looking forward to it with some nervous excitement.  The show is on the 24th of June, and we'll be in the Intro classes since we don't yet have a 20m circle canter.  I can't wait!

Now for business.  Tonight I learned how important the bit is.  Wait, I already knew that.  Tonight I learned why Dressage people don't ride in single joint hunter D's.  At my Thursday lesson, I arrived to find that the Herm Sprenger Ultra KK double joined loose ring I normally ride in was not on my bridle.  (My trainer owns it, I am borrowing it until I win the lottery I can hide the expense of buying one from my husband my overtime checks I've been squirreling away add up to the $130 required to buy one)  I threw my old D ring onto the bridle and headed out for my lesson.
My old D ring.  Only picture it not as shiny...

Almost immediately I felt the difference.  We have stiffness issues normally, but not like that.  I had zero feel, and the immovable sides of the bit made Connor feel as if he didn't have to carry the bit himself, so he didn't, he just let it sit there in his mouth.  I got him through and connected to a point, but it was difficult and not as effortless as it has been.  Plus, the reins being in the corner of the D gave me an entirely different point of contact with his mouth that just did not feel right.
I missed you tonight, old friend.

Going from hunters to Dressage, undergoing the change in my riding philosophy regarding contact, and switching bits like I have puts me in a really good position to evaluate this.  It's not that the D is bad.  It's that it's designed for a different kind of riding and a different kind of contact.  More than anything, tonight reinforced my belief that the bit is the most important piece of equipment you own, and that dropping some $$$ on a good one is so worth it.  You can work on your hands all you want, but if a poorly balanced bit is working against you, you're killing one of your primary forms of communication with your horse.  Why put all the effort in just to let a piece of tack ruin it for you?  Saddles wear out, bridles break, but a bit you'll own forever, so it's an investment even frugal me is willing to make. (Unless you drop it in lava, in which case, I want to know why your barn is in a volcano.)

In conclusion, bits matter, and as soon as I can bear to push the "Place Order" button on Smartpak's website (yes, I have had it in my cart several times in the last few months and chickened out at the last second.  I'm that guy), I will be buying the KK Ultra.  And may we never have to see that old D ring again.


  1. You make a very interesting point. I have been in your exact position, minus the super nice person who lets you borrow their super nice bit. But I have wanted a better bit and felt it was important but have yet to bite the bullet and click place order button. One reason being without trying bits I hate to just take a gamble that Steady will like it. Hmmmmm this makes me think though that it is high time I made it a priority to sort it all out.
    About the IDS show on the 24th I will be eye ball deep in 4-h week...eeeek, let the chaos ensue. Thank you a ton for thinking of us. We could sure use some Dressge show experience. I live near Richmond, IN if you know where that is. About an hour north and an hour east of you. We will be camping in Brown County state park this weekend trail riding. That is not far from you. One of these days I will have to meet that gorgeous Connor of yours.

  2. Good for you. It will be a good investment. At least you saw a definitive difference which makes spending that money a little easier. One of our KK's got "adopted" by someone, so we are down to one which is too big for Rosemary. She and Comrade use a Korsteel version and an Augean version, respectively. We are having fun figuring out a driving bit for Rosemary.

  3. IDS in Edinburgh? I will be there also :) We should meet this time since I will be showing Intro B! I am still working on my canter, so will hold off on C until later this summer.

  4. Amy - I know the feeling. Luckily, SmartPak will accept returns of anything, so if you do ever want to try one, you could do it that way. They accepted a scratched Stubben Austen tried on Guinness a while back. I also have yet to see a negative review on the Herm Sprenger, so that helps my decision too. I love reading the reviews.

    Nicole - Do you see a big difference between the way the horses accept the two metals?

    Kelly - Yes, IDS in Edinburgh. We should definitely meet up, I'd love to meet Riva! I haven't decided yet whether we're doing intro A or B, but we're in the same place as you, holding off on C for now. I am so excited, I don't know if I can make it til the 24th!

  5. Nicole, I'd be interested in hearing the difference in the way the horses respond to the Korsteel vs. the Sprenger. I've always used Korsteel bits on my horse (save that brief period when he ate a Happy Mouth ...)and been very happy with them.

    Kelly, I met Coralie and her pretty little grey while volunteering at Harmony in the Park (I was the warm-up ring steward). I think your daughter was there too? I'd love to meet you as well, especially since I've been doing some blog stalking!

  6. What size bit does Connor go in? I have a loose ring KK lying around. It's not new and shiny anymore, but I'd make you a deal if you want something for less. No worries if you want the shiny one, though--I get that.

  7. Aimee - I am not at all concerned about new and shiny, that would be great! I will measure his when we go to the barn this weekend, I think it is the 5" or 5 1/4". He has a pretty average horse sized mouth for a pony. What is yours?

  8. I use the Augean on Comrade and he seems to chew more than in a plain steel bit. Not sure what brand that bit is since it came with DaVinci. For a horse that needs encouragement to soften the Augean helps, but like you Austen I have had really good rides on horses in the Korsteel. Korsteel is my first choice since it is much cheaper, then I go from there. I cannot say that I have noticed a huge difference. The style of bit seems to have more effect on my guys than the type of metal. We too used to use Happy Mouths. Rosemary chews through them though.
    KK's are great if you can afford them. Plus remember they come in different weights and widths.

  9. Nicole: Thanks for your input! I completely agree about the shape and style having a large effect. Trying any kind of single jointed bit on my horse results in Mr. McRearingFace :) I think I'm going to be too cheap to ever try the KK's!