Bits From Hell

Saddle seat bits give me the creeping horrors.

Performance horses show in standard double bridles. The length of the shanks on the curb bits are midway between dressage and western, putting them midway between the two in severity. The bits on the work bridles for suit (performance) horses and on the everyday bridles for lesson horses are snaffles. Kind of. The twists and links and spikes fulfill every prejudice I ever had about saddle seat.

The horses are perfectly happy with these bits.

The lesson horses trundle along ignoring the flailing arms and yanking hands of their student passengers. The suit horses get on with their training. Some even prefer the work bridle to the double bridle. I’ve seen more horses resisting and pinning ears and tossing heads with riders sawing away on gentle eggbutt snaffles.

Nor are the saddle seat bits just for decoration. More than once, I’ve ridden a performance horse in a work bridle who refused to start strokin’ until I grabbed a big ol’ hunk o’ rein. I ask. They wait. I take hold. They say, ‘Okay, you’re ready, let’s do this.’

The more I ride, the more mystified I become.

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