Bentley has now been in training for about 2 years and the progress has been tremendous! But, after seeing how quiet and relaxed she was with the trainer, I started to question what I was doing wrong? Not that I think she is bad, but there are areas for improvement for both her AND I. I started to wonder whether I had the best bit for my horse. I approached the Myler team, and they put me in touch with Mr. Dale Myler to help me through the process of choosing the right bit. He sent me their bitting questionnaire, followed up with more specific questions, had me take some measurements & pictures, and then we decided on a bit.
First step, the Bitting Questionnaire:
As you can see, my responses are in orange. This was a great exercise to reflect on my experiences with Bentley. Since I don’t currently show my horse, it’s very easy to get on and ride without really thinking about what needs to be worked on or work on something then got off and not think about it again. This questionnaire put me back in the zone of thinking about how Bentley responds to certain situations, and that there are still things that need to work.
I’ve had Bentley since she was 1, so I’ve gone through many bits to try and find one that she responded well to. I have to admit my knowledge of bits is very limited. Talking with Mr. Myler was really helpful. This questionnaire is to help him understand my horse, how I am, and how we are as a team. He had a few follow up questions after I sent over my filled-out questionnaire. He wanted to know:
Bentley, being a mare, can at times be a little temperamental or just mental, whatever you want to call it! Kidding! That said, I answered 7A pretty spot on: under normal circumstances I can hop on her and have a pretty chill ride. BUT, sometimes I can hop on her and the garage door at the end of the arena (that we always ride in) can be absolutely terrifying to her! Thus, my answer of calm, steady, reliable, trustworthy, flighty, and nervous pretty much covers all of it.
7B: She spooks in unexpected situations by taking flight or bucking; she will shy away quickly from whatever is scaring her, and only ever does a hop/kick out versus an actual buck. I can easily gain control of her during these “tantrums” by redirecting her attention and disengaging her hindquarters. This method is helpful for every horse to learn, young or old. A horse’s hindquarters are much more powerful and have a wider stance to resist your pressure. If you disengage their hindquarters, you take that power away from them and regain control. To hind-quarter your horse to the right, you pull the left rein back to your belly and slightly lift upward. This shifts their weight back. Then once they have collected and have tipped their nose to the left, you add slight pressure with your left leg between the cinch and flank area. Your horse should move their hind-end to the right, crossing the left hind over the right. Vice versa for hind-quartering to the left, right rein with right leg.
Photo credit: https://horseandrider.com/training/disengage-hindquarters-15954
Next, he had me measure Bentley’s mouth to see how wide of a mouthpiece she needed. His recommendation on how to do this:
“A good way to measure a horse’s mouth is to take something like a wooden spoon, or a wooden dowl, then add a piece of twine or something to make a makeshift headstall. Bit your horse up exactly like you would usually do. Let him relax. Then, take a pen and mark right at the corner of each lip. Once you’ve marked, take the makeshift headstall off and measure between your marks.”
This technique would’ve worked great...but I didn’t have a wooden spoon handy. I only had twine, so I improvised. I tied a knot on one side of the twine (that way one side was already “marked”), then pulled it through her mouth where the bit would normally sit and marked the other side. NOT the best method here folks, I recommend doing it Mr. Myler’s way because it’ll be much easier. Anyways, I was able to roughly tell that she measured 5 inches. Mission accomplished!
Finally, he asked for a picture of the current bit I was riding in and a picture of how she rides in it. The bit I was using is a short shank correction bit. As you can see, in the picture, it has a jointed copper port and short, swept back shanks. Honestly, I was always told that you couldn’t go wrong with a correction bit, and she rode decent in it minus a bit of resistance. She would only be resistant during our downward transitions and turnarounds, which I told Mr. Myler.
Once I sent him all the information requested, he was able to recommend the Myler MBT Shank With Sweet Iron Ported Barrel Mouthpiece. This bit has a 5” mouthpiece and 5 ½” shank. He felt that this was the best fit for both my horse AND me.
Side note, the mouthpiece is for the horse and the shank is for the rider. Different types of mouthpieces focus on different pressure points, the thickness determines how harsh the pressure is, and solid vs jointed have different purposes as well.
The length of the shank determines the amount of control you have; the shorter the shank is, the softer the response will be. A longer shank provides a faster response from rider to horse as well as a quicker reward. If you have quick hands like I do, a shorter shank would be better. Another component to keep in mind for selecting shanks is the curve of it. The more the shank is curved, the milder the leverage will be. The signal time between rider’s hands to horse’s mouth will be delayed.
Taking everything into consideration, I felt that his bit recommendation was spot on. I went ahead and ordered it. Once I got the bit, I was SO EXCITED to go to the barn and try it out. I’ve now ridden in my new bit for about 3 weeks and have noticed some changes already. Bentley seems more relaxed. I can tell because she doesn’t gape her mouth as much during our downward transitions and she is softer to guide around. I’ve noticed that this bit is really mild and balances out my quick hands. After reading up on this mouthpiece in Myler’s book, “The Level Best for Your Horse” by Dale, Ron & Bob Myler, I understand why my horse is reacting to it the way she is. Since the mouthpiece does not rotate on to the tongue and the wider port, it applies little to no tongue pressure. This combined with a shorter, flat shank that offers a more delayed rein-to-mouth response is the perfect combination for my horse.
It is reassuring to be riding her in a bit that actually makes sense for HER, and not just using a certain bit because that’s what I've always been told to ride in. Buying a bit is much more than getting the flashiest, coolest looking one on the shelf. It is an investment, not just financially, but also for your success. So, take the time to choose the correct one!
If you would like help picking out a Myler bit, visit https://www.toklat.com/Page/Bitting_Assistant and you’ll be sure to find their recommendation available on One Stop Equine Shop.
To shop the entire collection of Myler Bits on our website click here.
For more information on the Myler MBT Shank With Sweet Iron Ported Barrel Mouthpiece that Mr. Myler recommended for me, click here.