By: Traci Gagne
I was blessed with a gift of a horse at age 25, it was a dream come true and a lot of work ahead of me. All I knew about horses was that they can be fun and dangerous, the rest I had to learn.
My first horse was not a good fit for me, neither was my 2nd, but the 3rd, well, he was amazing! His name is Omega. He is now a 9 year old paint gelding that I wouldn't trade for the world. I have had the pleasure of bonding with him for about the last five years.
I have had him boarded at 2 different facilities, and I am friends with both owners which was a nice advantage. I had the privilege of using tack and learning about horses right at my finger tips.
In our first summer, we went out riding a few times and besides me being green and not knowing but the basics of riding, Omega did well. I even let my friend take Omega on trail rides when I couldn't go so he would keep his manners under saddle. However, after about a year he would start tossing his head a little when riding. My friend told me to tug a little on his mane and tell him to stop and he would. Ok, simple enough, right? It seemed to work, and he was fine with it.
About 2 years later, we moved back to my hometown, and so I brought Omega with me and took him to my other friend's house. I no longer had tack to ride, so we didn't. As time passed, I realized it had been a year and he needed to be ridden. I no longer had access to an extra saddle that I could use, so my friend offered to tack him up for me and I could ride him around the pasture. How nice, I thought, until he started tossing his head, popping up in the front and would go any which way but forward. So now what? Teeth! I had his teeth done, they were in need of a good float and a little work. So all should be well, right?
Nope! Same thing, he just did not want to ride. So I talked it over with my friend and we decided that since he sat for so long without being ridden, I would send him out for a tune-up. While he was getting back into riding, I bought a saddle, bridle, bit etc. The trainer (self proclaimed) used her bridle. I didn't find out until later that she also rode him with a tie-down, and thought maybe that was it. But, he wasn't popping and tossing like he used to. Perfect...let's ride!
All three of us were somewhat friends now (me, my boarding friend and the trainer) and would go ride whenever we could. And I would say it was 50/50, that Omega would act up (toss and pop). I was frustrated. This shouldn't be happening. And why is he being so herd bound? Constantly wanting to stay put. I spent all that money to ride again. What's going on? So I thought and though and thought. Light bulb! Let's try a different bit! His dentist recommended a dog bone bit, mouth and something smaller might help. Ok, I can handle that, the search began for the dog bone bit.
When I told my friend about my decision, she acted as if it was a good idea. Then I got this text message out of now where from the trainer I had used about me wanting to change his bit. Now I haven't talked to her in month.'s so how did she know? Well the texts said "a different bit wasn't going to change anything, and I don't know what I'm doing because I'm green. And all I was gonna do is ruin my horse and waste money." That's right, RUIN my horse! This caused friction between my friend and myself. I did not appreciate her talking about me and my horse in that manner, but I let it go.
I finally found the bit I was looking for at the horse fair. I couldn't wait to try it. But every time it was mentioned I was told, "It's not the bit, it's me" and "the one he has is just fine." But I just had a feeling that something wasn't right. By now I felt that I wasn't qualified to may ANY decisions for Omega, because I was going to ruin him and I didn't know anything.
Well, I got the same response from Omega with that bit. I wanted to scream, cry and sell him all at the same time. Maybe my friend and the trainer were right. What did I know? Well, I knew something wasn't right, and over the years I had learned a lot from hands-on and reading and didn't have the heart to give up on him. Then I saw this article on Twitter from Tack 'n Talk about "The right size bit." So I read it. WOW! Measure the mouth? Why? No one ever mentioned they measure a horse's mouth! You buy the standard for their age/size/breed....right? Absolutely NOT! And then there was hope again.
So my next step was to measure his mouth. But, with all the comments and lack of support, I wasn't about to measure his mouth or do anything bit related when anyone else was around. I just didn't want to deal with the comments.
The day I went out to the barn and measured Omega's mouth I just about fell over. His bit was too small! I just couldn't believe it. So once again, I was on a search for a different, but bigger bit. he was tolerating at times a 5 inch bit, but he really needed a 5 1/2 inch bit. So when I did find the right size, I purchased one bit and the tack shop owner let me borrow another one for a trial to make sure I didn't waste any more money.
I was so excited to take Omega for a test drive in his new bit. When I had the opportunity to tack him up and try it out, I was shocked. It took him a minute to take the bit, but he did. And he didn't mess around with it in his mouth like he did the others. And he wasn't making funny faces with his mouth wide open. It fit! And I could see how his body language changed. My "green" gut instinct paid off! I got on my horse and he didn't toss his head, he waited for a cue. And I was so happy for the both of us! I never did mention any of this to my friend and I haven't heard a peep from the trainer. How could that have been overlooked if you are a trainer?
Now that I have the knowledge of how to properly fit my horse for a bit, and I want to share it with others.
This winter Omega and I will be at a new facility, one with an indoor arena and other tools we can benefit from. I'm so excited to ride again, the way we should. I always told Omega..."Someday you and I will do great things." I believe that and that someday is coming soon!