BY JESS CLAWSON
There are many great things about riding young horses and thoroughbreds off the track, but the young horses come with challenges. One challenge for many horses is teaching them to accept contact, and then to use that contact productively.
This process involves a lot more than equipment—the horse has to be mentally and physically prepared over a period of time. The rider needs to have a good feel for when to add pressure and when to remove it as well as educated hands.
But the bit also makes a difference. Conformationally, it has to fit the horse’s mouth properly and be appropriate to their training level. You wouldn’t put a waterford or a twisted wire in the mouth of a horse who is struggling to connect. For these horses, The Perfect Bit is a great choice. I tried it on two thoroughbreds, one recently off the track and one who is well into his eventing career.
They offer different mouthpiece choices, and I tried the one with the link in the middle. My initial impression of it was, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” The ball joint attachment of the mouthpiece has an innovative look. As an event rider, I’ve certainly learned that traditional looks are less important than function, so I gave it a go.
The first horse I tried it on is Mo, my 10 year old event horse. The biggest challenge we have had over the course of his career is keeping him steady in the connection. I hoped this bit, with its unique response to rein pressure, might be more inviting for him. After his characteristically cranky warm up, Mo relaxed into a nice trot and held the bit well. We worked on some dressage movements (although the bit is not legal for dressage at this time, it is under review) and I found that keeping him connected in his shoulder in and renvers was easy.
Then I jumped him in the bit, and it went well. Mo jumps anything put in front of him, but can be very tricky to reorganize on the back end. The Perfect Bit allowed me to use less of my own strength to collect him without being harsh.
Next, I put it on Ty, an 11 year old who has been off the track for a year. After 94 starts, he has a lot of opinions about how to do things, and who can blame him? But he’s a good natured fellow and always seems up to trying new things.
Ty’s greatest difficulty is closing his mouth around a bit and relaxing into it. He likes to play with the bit, push it around with his tongue, and hold his mouth open. He’s also very particular about bits and will sometimes just refuse to move if he doesn’t like it, even if the reins are slack.
I was surprised at how much he liked the bit. While it didn’t immediately solve all of his connection problems, he seemed happy to hold it in his mouth and stayed nice and steady in the connection. He moved forward willingly, and even did some nice baby lateral work.
Ty is very green over fences, so I thought I would see how he handled some easy turning exercises in a small course—challenging for the ex-racehorse. Instead of being distracted by the bit, I found that he locked in on his fences and listened to my input.
Bits are personal between horse and rider, but I would recommend trying the Perfect Bit if you have a horse who struggles to accept contact or who gets flustered or distracted by the rein aids. They have a variety of mouthpieces, so if you are in the market for a single jointed bit or a twist—they’ve got you covered. It’s a well-made bit with unique features that just might help you and your horse progress in your training.
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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