So, if you recall, my next step after pissing off Jack (by demanding he not go hollow before jumping) was to purchase a gag bit, specifically, the Stubben Easy Control 3 Ring Gag Bit. Try saying that one 3 times fast!
Luckily, Riding Warehouse had exactly what I needed. I didn’t want to spend a fortune (defined as >$100) on a bit, and I really didn’t want to have to change out the cheek pieces on my bridle to accommodate a more traditional gag. The latter mostly because we have fussed with Jack’s bridle setup so much that I didn’t want to do it all over again.
The 3 ring gag allows for you to attach the cheek piece to the small ring, and the rein goes on the bottom, larger ring. The gag action is then only activated when enough rein is applied that the edge of the mouthpiece cannot slide further up (or down) the shaft. To describe it more fully, RW’s description states thus:
When the reins are engaged with light pressure, the mouthpiece acts as a snaffle, but as pressure increases, it functions as a mullen mouth. The ergonomically shaped mouthpiece fits comfortably in the horse’s mouth, while the three-piece design eliminates the nutcracker effect or palate pressure for a more comfortable ride.
The unique cheekpieces offer the traditional “gag” action through a sliding mouthpiece which promotes stronger poll pressure, providing the rider with more control. Also, a stronger lateral effect is achieved due to the center connection of the mouthpiece to the cheek pieces. This aids in avoidance of the bit and provides correction to resistance of direct rein pressure. The sliding gag mechanism is quicker due to the center fulcrum for enhanced communication between horse and rider.
This works well for us, since on the flat Jack has a very nice, polite mouth and a stronger bit isn’t needed. When the gag was activated as we approached a fence, however, he was definitely surprised.
I admit, the first lesson trying out this bit over fences wasn’t pretty. All of the sudden I did have so much more control, and he was no longer charging at the fences like a lunatic giraffe. Instead, we were able to quietly canter up to each jump, then Jack would occasionally throw his head up, hit the gag, surprise himself, but still jump the fence. By the end of the lesson there were less ‘surprise’ fences and overall Jack was learning that using his back in a bascule was a much more pleasant experience for us both.
While the bit is obviously well made (I trust Stubben in many things, and this piece of equipment is no exception), my only complaint was that it seemed on the small size for a 5.5″. While it fit well enough to test, I ended up going back to the site to check into exchanging it for a larger size. And sure enough, saw this fine print in the Product Details that I had missed:
Please Note: To protect your horse from possible pinching, use one size larger than your normal snaffle.
Yup. Thar she blows.
In yesterday’s lesson, I had him in the larger size of the bit, but with the addition of bit guards to keep a close feel on his mouth. You can see he’s still fighting with me a bit, particularly when I go to push him off my left leg/flex him left, but overall it’s a HUGE difference from the monstrosity that he was just a month ago.
Overall, this bit may be our saving grace. I give it a hearty A+, for giving us the ‘easy control’ it promised!