For the last two months or so I had been driving by this new sign in Midland, NC saying Tack Exchange. Finally I found the store in the rear room of a beauty salon! I haven't entered a beauty salon in around 40 years, but this one didn't smell too bad so I ventured in. The owner of the salon has started a consignment tack store, with bits, saddles, clothes, spurs, etc., both Western and English, hunt seat and dressage. Since I have most of the tack I need I just checked out the saddles and the bit rack.
She had A LOT of Myler bits, which looked new, at a reduced price (75.00 USD). I had read about Myler bits for years now and I really did not know what to think of them. I had read their little book and I then gave the book to my riding instructor since I did not see how these bits could fit into my riding style. However there was one interesting Myler bit, a full cheek snaffle with a mouth-piece that is reasonably movable when the reins are loose but stiffens into a Mullen mouth equivalent when both reins are applied (a triple barrel Mullen full cheek, with a MB 32-3 mouthpiece.) I have been looking for a bit that stiffened into a Mullen mouth since I started using my Wellep bits, and I've been looking for a bit that gave ME a better signal when I achieve contact. In the heat of the summer time I did not really care that the Wellep bit did not give my hands a steady signal of contact since I figured that the horses could use the cushioning from my hand tremor that the Wellep bit gives. But I had started moving my hands up and down as well as forward and back when I had contact. But now it is cooler and I need to make my hands more stable. The Welleps are wonderful for my summer riding but I needed something with a similar mouth piece but with regular rein attachments for the cooler weather since neither mare was happy with my cool weather adaptions of the Wellep bit. I tried the Myler bit out on my hand and on my arm and it seemed to fill all my requirements.
When I got my beautiful new bit home I started trying to figure out how to make it acceptable to the mares I ride. I put it on my Micklem bridle, looked at it hanging there and I got out an old set of Fulmer snaffle bit keepers (the ones with the really small hole for the end of the bit branch.) It wasn't quite right. Then I finagled it so that the bit keepers were locked into place way down the cheek strap so that the Myler mouth piece would stay still and was not rotated down forward onto the front of the tongue. Then I put on leather bit guards. Then I put the reins in the "rein hooks" (this bit does not have hooks for the head stall), saw that the mouth piece still rotated forward, then I changed to reins so they were put on like with a normal bit and used the "hook" to wind some leather lacing so that the rein would not slip downward. Now I was confident that the bit would be 1) comfortable, and 2) give my hands the "proper" signals so I could improve my hands.
I got to the stable on Friday with my new bit properly on the bridle and excitedly "told" Mia all about it. She was rather gracious about taking it into her mouth and she immediately found that she could move the mouth piece around some. We happily walked down to the ring, I got up, and started walking Mia around on a loose rein. Everything seemed fine, she went calmly and stopped from light rein aids. I started riding on contact.
Then the problems started. Mia would NOT accept full contact. Finally we came to an agreement, I used the lightest contact I had ever used on Mia and she accepted contact. But every time I used a rein aid up her head went. Mia started flingling her head, sucked up, fussed and fretted, and finally told me that if I persisted that she would not be able to control her reactions. On loose reins I went up to my son and asked him to take off the bit guards (luckily mine have a little buckle so they can come right off with the bridle on the horse) thinking that maybe they were irritating her with this bit. There was no improvement. Then I decided that maybe I should use the bit how it was designed, got down, took the bit branch ends out of the keepers and moved the reins down to the "hooks". I got back on promising Mia that if she was still irritated that I would never put this bit in her mouth again. She grumbled a little and we went off on REALLY light contact.
And Mia went behind vertical. Sighing I lengtened my reins, holding them at the buckle, and Mia was STILL behind vertical, plus she rapidly dove her head down almost to the ground. Mia's headset was suitable for modern day Western Pleasure show classes. I hate riding a horse with its head low and behind vertical since I know I have no control. I used my legs, got her head up some, then I halted her, got off, apologized, and I promised her that I would never put that bit in her mouth again.
Yesterday when I called Shannon about riding Cider I told her the whole story and asked if I could try the bit on Cider to see if I got the same results. Shannon had heard about the Myler bits and wanted to see one in action, so she agreed. Cider is a mare who INSISTS on contact, both with a bit and with a bitless bridle, so we both figured that if Cider did the same things as Mia that I should resign myself to putting the bit in the drawer with all the other bits I no longer use. So I put the bit guards back on, put the end of the bit branches back into the keepers, and made it so the reins would stay in one place on the bit (above the hooks.) We got tacked up, I went into the ring and I hesitantly took up contact. Cider cheerfully accepted and willingly increased the strength of the contact when I asked her to. Walking--no problem, trotting--no problem, slowing down--no problem, stopping--she was a little slow to stop, but nothing abnormal. Whew, I didn't totally waste my money! The only time which she resisted the bit was when I was turning in a direction she did not want to go--then she set her jaw a little harder. This may be because I wasn't using my leg as much, but hey, I was testing out a bit. Shannon said that Cider looked relaxed and content. Then, as an experiment, we moved the reins down to the hooks (I kept the keepers on this time though.) Cider immediately decreased the strength of her contact and started sucking back some. The evasions on the turns worsened. We moved the reins back up above the hooks and Cider immediately relaxed and started stretching out again. Shannon said she was willing for me to go on using the Myler bit on her mare, the way I had set it up so it would not irritate the horse. I know I will have to refine my rein aids more to make sure I don't irritate Cider's mouth.
Though I will still use this Myler bit on Cider as long as she accepts it I seriously doubt that I will get another bit from this company. The bit is of marvelous quality, the joints are smooth, the mouth-piece isn't too thick or too thin, and it just looks great. The main reason I had hesitated to use a Myler snaffle bit before is that I did not like the way the mouthpiece was designed to rotate forward down onto the tongue, but when I found this mouthpiece in a full cheek snaffle I was confident I could stabilize the bit in the horse's mouth by using the bit keepers. So as long as I keep the bit in full bondage I can use it for my purposes, but I will never take the bit keepers off again or put the reins into the rein hooks. I am afraid that when I used this bit like it was designed to be used it was no longer suitable for forward seat riding. If I was competing in Western Pleasure it would be different--this bit sure gets the head down and behind vertical even on a loose rein. But for free forward movement, the bit has to be tied down to the bridle and immobilized so that the horse will take proper contact, IF the horse consents to this bit. Cider did consent. Mia didn't.
So one bit, one rider, two horses, and two greatly different outcomes.
Have a great ride.