I feel a huge box to check off when it comes to horse training is finding the right equipment for my horse! Flynn and I finally found the right bit, and I started utilizing a small spur, and it is already making a huge difference in our rides. The right tack and aides can be tough to figure out sometimes, as it mainly involves trial and error to see what the horse likes and responds to. And of course what works may not always be what works. As a horse progresses through training, they may develop different needs, which is what I experienced with Flynn!
The Right Bit
We had a bit of a bit struggle initially, over a year ago, and I ended up settling on a loose ring happy mouth. Flynn was very heavy through the bridle when I first got him, and the happy mouth helped him to learn to relax and be softer. However, over the past few months that I have been working on getting him on the bit and in a frame the happy mouth just hasn’t quite been cutting it. The trainers I have been working with started riding him a Dr. Bristol’s D-ring snaffle with a lozenge, and saw a lot of improvement. I borrowed it for a while, then went back to my happy mouth and tried a plain D-ring for comparison. There was just no question that he preferred the bit I had been borrowing. So, I got a similar one. I could not find the exact Dr. Bristol’s bit online, so I bought a D-ring with a lozenge in a different brand but he still loves it! He is getting softer, looser, and more supple and responsive with each ride!
Now Let’s Talk About Spurs
Growing up, and learning to ride, in the hunter jumper world it seemed that everyone rode with spurs. Once you had control over your leg, you got spurs. We had multiple lengths, and styles, depending on the horse we were riding.
Then Chance came along. I rode him in spurs a few times, and may have seen my life flash before my eyes. He just did not tolerate them. So, I learned how to ride without them. I would occasionally wear a spur if I rode a different horse, but for the most part, I rode without them for six or seven years.
Flynn is the complete opposite of Chance. He likes his new metal bit, a good amount of feel, and takes a lot of leg. He does not mind a spur at all, in fact he actually seems to like them as I don’t have to constantly be legging him along. Mine are short, and rounded, so they are not super “pokey,” which I think is a good idea for a thoroughbred. I could definitely see Flynn not tolerated a pokey, aggressive spur. A little nub is the way to go, in my opinion!
Do I think spurs, crops, and other aides are necessary for every horse? Absolutely not. Like Chance, for example. But are they cruel? Absolutely not. It is all in how they are used. A happy mouth bit could be too harsh in the wrong hands, while a far heavier bit can be gentle with gentle hands. Using the right equipment for Flynn is helping our rides to be far more productive, without utilizing so much energy. It is so much easier to get him working in a frame, which is the main thing we are working on right now, and once he is there he relaxes and is like, “oh yeah, this feels nice.”