I might have a rather significant collection of bits, but I don't use them all. In fact, some of them I've never used. Bits, for me, are a lot like shoes for other women. I just like them and I like to have plenty of options available, just in case.
Since I've had Gabe I've had a variety of bits in his mouth trying to find something he likes. From a big fat loose ring snaffle, to a loose-ringer Myler snaffle, to a double-jointed Myler D-ring, to a regular racing dee, a single-jointed eggbutt, a rubber mouth D-ring, a full-cheek and finally, a Baucher.
Each and every bit elicted a different, not entirely accepting, response from the big, picky guy. He absolutely hated the full-cheek snaffle and has been mildly accepting of the Baucher. He mouths and mouths and plays and gets above it and below it, twists his head and sometimes puts his tongue over it, no matter how little or how much contact I take up. His teeth aren't the issue, they've been checked.
He has a very narrow jaw and a low palate (like many Thoroughbreds) and I got to thinking...are these single jointed bits nut-crackering and irritating his palate and smushing his jaw? Even the double-jointed Myler had a mild port on it, so it would poke his palate.
I've been searching for a very specific bit for quite some time and for some reason, it's not carried by many tack shops. I don't like to buy my bits online, I like to hold them, feel their weight in my hands, examine the action over my arm and run my fingers over the metal to check for any scratches or burrs that might irritate. I also can't STAND a squeaky bit, so the joints must be fully tested, too.
A quick stop in my local tack shop finally struck gold. Of all the bits on the wall, there was only one of the type I was seeking: A double jointed eggbutt snaffle with a copper half-moon, in the right size. JACKPOT!
Even though there was no one else in the shop, I snagged that bugger as quickly as I could just in case it decided to poof into non-existence. I hefted it, folded it over my arm, caressed the stainless steel, tested the joints and listened very carefully for any tell-tale signs of squeakiness. Nothing. It was perfect and beautiful.
I couldn't wait to get home to give it the Gabe test.
Guess what? He likes it! He likes it! So much excitement! After a few moments of mouthing it and sucking it up into his mouth to test it, something amazing happened - his mouth went still and I swear his eyes went soft and accepting. His mouth was completely quiet, his teeth stayed still and his tongue remained under the bit. That has NEVER happened with any of the other bits I've tried. His mouth stayed quiet and still the entire ride and he actually began reaching actively into it, white foam lipsticking his lips beautifully.
Our ride was fantastic. It felt good, he felt good, there was no head twisting or lip flapping or teeth grinding. I rode with very, very light contact and he kept reaching, reaching, reaching for the contact and every few strides rounded actively up into it with his ears pricked forward. Joyfulness!
Happiness is FINALLY finding a bit your horse loves. Especially when it's a nice, gentle, mild bit.