Just a side rant - I'm not an English rider, but it's infuriatingly frustrating how little Idaho tack shops know about anything except down-the-middle Western riding. Seriously, I think ANY loose ring snaffle can pinch lips - I played with it on the way home by putting my fingers up next to the rings and then turning them, and I got pinched every time! And only one person I talked to even know what a freaking French Link was!
I've also found tack shop advice on bits to be worthless.
My mare's mouth is both narrow side to side and top to bottom. Also, like many Arabs her tongue is fat as well. When I first bought her I bought thicker bits thinking I was being kind. In reality, she prefers very thin bits since they have to be thin to fit in her mouth.
Another option besides the french link is this pony Myler bit.
It's here! I paid the $4 for expedited shipping so I wouldn't have to wait too long to find out if this bit will actually work. No, it's not the JP Korsteel (though the site led me to believe it was through the description and URL address), and it came with a giant "Made in China" sticker. I think I might write a complaint about mis-advertising, because they copied and pasted the description for the JP Korsteel, but the links aren't even curved like JPK's. However, it does seem to be something that would work given my issues, and I paid about $25 for it. I did need a few other things for blanket repair, so I felt I got a decent deal. The sides are very small with a nice, big copper peanut. The holes are big enough that it can really bend any direction to bend with his mouth. I don't think there's any opportunity for it to be pinching. I'm going to test it out this afternoon - I'm really excited! Any suggestions for what I should do to evaluate whether this bit will work or not? Should I go ahead and try riding if he looks like he's doing fine?
The issues before were:
1) with a single-jointed snaffle - almost instantly pulling back because, when it rotated downward with gravity as all snaffles do, the joint was poking the top of his mouth (I believe), so I was having problems before I even touched the reins. Then, when I touched the reins, things became a fight because he was so uncomfortable.
2) with a ported curb bit - he was fine with no pressure because the port was laying flat on his tongue. However, when I picked up the reins, even with minimal contact causing the bit to rotate slightly, the port hit the roof of his mouth, so he started gaping, but didn't fight it. Now that I think of it, I believe he was better behaved because the fixed port could only rise so far to hit the roof of his mouth and was smooth and round, rather than a pointed joint. He wasn't grinding his teeth anymore nor fighting and actually responded pretty well, but he still had a gaped mouth.
The pattern seems to fit that my issue is just the bit coming up and hitting the roof of his mouth, especially since I got the same reaction when I stuck my finger in his mouth and barely poked the roof, and, though he seemed fine when I just let my fingers lay flat on his tongue, I still was making a lot of contact across the roof of his mouth because it's so low.
Given that the peanut is so wide and round, and that I don't think it'll rise up to the roof of his mouth but rather lay on his tongue and the sides will come down when pressure is added, I really have high hopes for this bit.
As long as it's not poking him anymore, I think we should be fine. He was ridden in a regular eggbutt snaffle before I got him and they didn't say he had any problems, but then again he wasn't ridden really regularly and, if he did show signs of discomfort, it could have just been attributed to him being green like I thought at first. I'd rather have a big peanut than a little one - that spreads the pressure out more and this one is really round. It's slightly thicker than my fingers, so I think it'll make contact with his mouth, but keep that contact soft and gentle.
He was very slobbery today and has been for the last day or two. Not like "foam when you put the bit in but rather huge strings of thick drool hanging from his mouth. I wasn't sure what was going on....
I brought him up and saddled him, and he was doing really well. Then, I wanted a picture of him with what he was doing before, so I put the curb bit in his mouth and rotated it, but no matter what I did, he didn't react at all. Instead, he just drooled. Interesting....
I put him in the new bit, and it was awesome and crappy at the same time. He rode like he's never done before - that head was automatically in the perfect position the entire time, no throwing his head, no fighting, nothing. And he was doing things for me that he's never done - perfectly responsive to all my cues. In fact, I was riding with a lighter hand than I usually ever have with him. It was great! Except.... He was girding his teeth the ENTIRE time, like 30 minutes straight. It was the strangest thing - how could he be SO good (I was shocked!), but be so pissed the entire time??
Afterward, I gave the side pull a shot, and he rode like normal - head up and very forward, following my cues, but I can't do anything complicated. And it's a constant "up-down-up-down" with his head, which is what I've been trying work on so he doesn't hollow out his back. Pretty normal, and the reason why I want a bit.
Finally, I put the curb in his mouth again out of pure curiosity. He didn't grind his teeth much, but he kept pulling his head down to the ground and fought my cues.
It was like I was riding 3 different horses - and I have video of all three that I'll upload when I have a moment (probably tomorrow).
But the story doesn't end there... During this time, he continued drooling the entire time, and I even saw a hint of what looked like blood after he'd been grinding his teeth for so long. I took a look inside his mouth and couldn't see anything, and there wasn't any more blood, so I just wasn't sure....
I put him back and my BO called me on my way home. We've been talking about his eating habits - he drops a lot of food and seems to have trouble chewing. She'd been watching him eat that morning and agreed with me it wasn't normal and she was worried about him. Between the food issues and the bit issues, we decided it might be good to have his teeth checked again. I called vet #1 who's known him since before I bought him and did his teeth last February. He said he really didn't think he could have a problem with his teeth since he did them, but suggested thoroughly checking my feed for cheat grass. Funny enough, we just switched feed last week, and that's when the drooling started and I think the teeth grinding (in addition to the gaping with a bit) started around then, too. I called my BO and she went and threw them some of her hay (I'm her only boarder and we take care of our own hay). I then called vet #2, who checked his teeth a couple months ago and who I'm much more comfortable with. She took the time to talk to me and thoroughly explain different aspects and hear me out about all my concerns from the hay to the bit to the girding, and she said she'd bet money it's cheat grass in the hay.
Then, things got scary. My BO called - she'd given them new hay in a different bin and he wasn't eating. He kept putting his head down to the food, but never ate anything. This is NOT like him, at all. Especially with straight alfalfa that he'd been eating before I got my own hay last week. So, I prepared a mash with about 2 lbs of beet pulp, 2 lbs of Triple Crown, and a bunch of alfalfa cubes soaked in hot water (he NEVER turns down his beet pulp mash, even if he's stuffed himself) and called vet #2 back. As I was driving with my mash back to my boy, she explained that he was probably in too much pain with the cheat grass in his mouth and it made him not want to eat. I needed to take a syringe and rinse his mouth.
My BO got a 60cc syringe and a bucket of warm water, and I caught my horse. He was standing at the barrel with the hay that likely had cheat grass and looked like he'd been digging through it, but not eating. There aren't any outdoor lights, so we brought him right up to the front porch on the yard. She held him while I inserted the full syringe and emptied it in his mouth... Nothing. It was so strange - where did the water go? We did this a few more times, and concluded he must be swallowing it lol. He just kept letting us stick that syringe in there and give him a drink over and over! What a strange horse... But that's nothing I didn't already know, it just added to his list of strange things he does. Anyway, nothing was coming out, except the same slobber like crazy. After a few more times, I got out the mash, but he sniffed it and turned away. Now I was worried - that is extremely unusual, even if he was somehow full (but we really doubted that was the case). He was acting normal, except just not eating. I'd seen him eat his regular daily mash and drink water just 2 hours earlier. This didn't feel like a colic, but he still wasn't eating at all and rinsing his mouth wasn't working. I stuck him in the round pen with the mash while I called the vet - we decided it probably wasn't an emergency and could probably wait until morning to see if he ate then, so I decided to go with that. Wanting to give it one last go, I went and got him and rinsed his mouth with the same result. I even pried open his mouth before I rinsed it and it really didn't help any. Now, he was getting a little annoyed though. Finally, I did what any mom would have done for their child - off came my nice, warm, waterproof gloves, and my hand went in his mouth. Turns out, if he feels your hand in there, he won't bite hard enough to make it hurt. He was obviously not to thrilled with it, but allowed me to explore his entire mouth (all the way up to my elbow) and get out the crud. There were two main wads of food under his tongue, but I could guarantee after that that there was nothing left in that mouth. And my arm smelled TERRIBLE!! I did feel two rough spots about the size of dimes on the side of his tongue that were different than the rest, but there wasn't any more food in there for sure.
And guess what? After a few minutes, he started stuffing his face with the mash! He truly was just in so much discomfort from those bits of food that it made him not want to eat at all. After a bit, I returned him to the pasture and filled his (and my other horse's) buckets with the rest of the mash. I went back inside and called my husband to tell him I was almost done and that Snickers was doing fine, talked to my BO. And then drove my car out to the gate so I could see what was going on and finish my last job. Snickers was still stuffing his face :) No, there was no way he was sick haha. With my headlights helping me see, I emptied their entire tractor tire that I use for free-feeding of the bale of hay or so that I'd fed yesterday and threw it over the fence. I got it out all the way down to the dirt and felt I did a pretty thorough job, especially for being in the dark. Then, I went and got some of that alfalfa hay that I know he likes and offered him a bite before throwing it in the barrel. He eagerly took it! In fact, more like Snickers than anything, he left his mash for the hay as soon as I threw it in the tire. (Of course, Flash, my colt, was very pleased since he'd finished his bucket and was waiting for a bit of Snickers' lol).
I called my vet back and left a message telling her what I'd done and that he was fine, and she called me back (What a fantastic vet on a Saturday night!). She said those rough patches were probably ulcers, like a bad canker sore, and that that was likely why he'd been grinding his feet the entire time we were riding. Sticking a bit in there just put more pressure on his tongue and caused him discomfort.
Back to the purpose of this thread, though, I think I may have found a bit that works very well for him. I can't ride him in a bit for 4 or 5 days while the ulcers heal (I'll probably give him a week and just use the side pull for now), but I'm excited to see what happens next time we ride in it. The horse I had today when I was using that bit was amazing - collecting, extending, bending, stopping, literally anything I asked and with his head held low and perfectly where I'd like it. It was an amazing experience getting the kind of response with him. So, hopefully, we will be set once these ulcers are gone and I'll have a wonderful and happy horse!
Oh, and I could still faintly smell my arm after a shower and washing it 2-3 times, then covered it with hand sanitizer. I wore gloves I got for Christmas that had a faint dusty smell, and I think that's finally overcome the scent of decaying food in mouth of horse.
... nope, if I smell it really close, I can still pick it up. Something tells me this is one of those smells that sticks with you. But, at least my husband can't smell it atm lol.