Trying a New Bit for Orion

I announced on Facebook earlier today that I was trying out a new bit on Orion; one that had more leverage and a slightly higher port, which required a well trained horse and a rider with light hands.

I was asked by several people why I was doing this. Most seemed to think I was doing something wrong. ;>

Since some many lovely ladies are asking I will explain my reasons here for trying this bit with Orion.

“Doesn’t he go fine in the bit he has now?” I am not sure we mean the same thing when we say “go fine” in the bit he has now.

“The lightest bit needed, is what I say.” The lightest bit needed to do what?

“Other ways to do collecting…” Yes, there are many number of ways to achieve collection, and as many opinions as to the best way to get there. ;>

I may be wrong, but what I am detecting here is a shared opinion that I am moving to this new bit because I am trying to correct something and feel I need more force for this. It is commonly believed that is why bits with longer shanks or cub chains or ports are use… to gain more power over the horse, to combat an unwanted behavior or to get a result the rider is unable to achieve with a “lighter” bit.

I view the choice of bits differently from many in that I think one does not move away from the simple snaffle until the horse is “going fine” with it. You do not move to a “harsher” bit to fix a problem.

The Bit
Myler Ported Barrel Bit

When I say this is a level 3 bit, (actually it is a level 2-3) bit, I mean it is designed for a horse well on its way to being finished, if not completely finished. It is in fact not a harsh bit at all, but not intended for a green horse or any horse not already completely comfortable with the use of a level 1 or training bit.  The horse must have basic training established, relaxed at the poll; holds position when rein is released and possesses more complex skills such as bending, collection, side passes and lead changes, etc.

This bit has a “comfort snaffle” barrel, this provides tongue relief, that double as a port effectively and it is made so as to allow each side of the bit to move independently when the shank is moved, allowing the rider to pick up each shoulder of the horse independently. Yes, the curved shank design does provide more leverage IF I use the bit that way, but it also provides a very clear input on the barrel with very little movement of my hand. The combination of the barrel design, the shank design and the curb chain allow me to ask Orion to set his head very clearly, without a lot of force being applied and to do it with a loose rein, in one hand.

Riding with one hand, while wielding a weapon in the other, maintaining a head set, flex and collection, with a minimum of force is the goal here.

Some say “Given enough time and “proper” training you can get a horse to bend and the poll, flex laterally, stop, back and wheel, all with just the lightest touch on the reins in a side pull, so why use such a harsh bit?”

Barrel Front and Top Views

I reply first, again this is not a harsh bit if used at the right point in the training of the horse by someone with sufficiently light hands and secondly, this is part of the training process, not the end goal.  This bit is just another tool to help Orion to develop the physical abilities I want him to have and to understand what I am asking him to do with the least amount of input. I have no intention of using the bit exclusively during his continued training nor is it it likely to be the bit we finish with. I just believe it might be the right bit for this point in Orion’s training. Judging by today’s ride, I think I am right. He responded quickly and easily to every request, held his head set and flexation, turned with a thought and stopped with next to no use of the reins. Only time will how long I continue to use this particular bit, but now it seems a good choice.

Thanks everyone for your concern for Orion’s well being. As many of my friend know well, you are unlikely to go broke betting Troy is making the wrong decision.  Way to keep an eye on me. 😉


  1. Troy,
    Please do not feel I am trying to correct you. I understand the logic behind what you are doing. For me, I have never put a bit in Katie’s mouth and am riding her with a bitless. Having seen various training methods, I am following my heart, and may change my method as things progress. I am a huge fan of Klaus Hempfling and am planning to to Denmark next year to study with him. I got sick of rollkur and watching folks shoving horses on the bit all stiff and full of resistance and am taking my path in the more natural direction. I have great faith in your skills and intelligence, so please take my comments as suggestions only.
    Much love, Melissa

  2. That was exactly how I took it my dear. ;>

    I am by no means closed to other ways, but I felt it a good idea if I explained in detail my thoughts process here.

  3. Hmmm.
    Yes, understand it all. I get it, understand why and etc., but… for ME, not for you or your horse or anything, it has never been unnecessary. You (generic ‘you’) can train a horse to turn on a dime with slight touch of a rein on a neck, or a tiny touch with a heel in the right spot. Which I know you do. For personal reasons, I wouldn’t use a bit like that – but that is not to say it shouldn’t be used necessarily. I have always used either a hackamore (yes, I know all the stuff about noses, pressure, shanks, chin straps, and etc.) or light curb, or a halter with a lead rope.

    That kind of bit. Yes, I rode a horse for a long time in CA who was unrideable without it. Far ‘harsher’ than the one you’ve got here, in fact. And of course 23 years later I’ve forgotten what it’s called… super high port, long shanks. The lightest touch – just a thought, really, of what you wanted the horse to do, he would do. It was actually quite remarkable to ride him with that bit – and the response was incredible, instant, and wonderful. I have also ridden other horses with halters that responded just the same.

    So, yeah.
    And, I’m not worried about how the horse is going to be treated – I know you, and know what you’re talking about here. Just my thoughts.

  4. If this is your approach, why not go the classical route instead of Myler? They make perfectly okay bits, but they are not anything better than going from the classical route of snaffle to double bridle. You get more finesse and refinement with a double bridle and have better tools in your kit. Polo player weld weapons and ride one handed with two reins. Granted, usually it is in a pelham, but it can be done. Not judging, just asking.

  5. I have enough trouble with one set of reins. ;> Seriously though, I will try a pelham bit at some point just for the experience.

    Double rein set ups are used extensively in modern dressage I know and in the right hands achieve great results for that sport. I feel they are simply not the best choice for riding with one and sometimes no hands, which I must do.

    Polo, while a fine sport, does not reflect well what I want my horse to be able to do, or the needs of my interests, except in that the bit I need to use for mounted and crest combat must be safe for very close contact with the bit and bridle of other horses. For this I will continue to use a Kimberwick, which is also used extensively in polo.

    No, the sport that most resembles what we do, at least as far as the ability of the horses and the control by the rider, is Working Equitation. The style of bit I have chosen is similar in many ways to what is commonly used in that activity.

    I am using this particular bit because I am interested in seeing how it works with Orion and because it was given to me to try and I liked the look of it.

  6. Yes, can be a very bad experience for a horse with the wrong rider, as can just about any bit, but I can’t see myself using a spade bit either.

    That being said, this style of bit is used effectively by many riders.

    “There are many roads to Rome.”

  7. Not what I meant…only used polo as an example of using one handed riding and 2 sets of reins.
    Classical dressage, as well as, modern does use a double bridle. There are 2 bits involved. It is the highest level achieved by a set of good hands and seat. If you are ever interested I would love to loan you some great books written by the “masters”. They were military men as well as riders. It is great reading. =)
    Oh well. Good luck with the bit and I look forward to reading about Orion’s progress.

Comments are closed.