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Non-conventional bits

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  • Non-conventional bits

    Morning everyone,

    I have a non-conventional bit question. I don't have tons of show experience as I only began showing as an adult (a downside of being a lower middle class kid growing up, no horse). I still don't have a horse but I have managed some great connections through my trainer and do a lot of catch riding. I like to show mostly in the schooling circuit due to finances and my catch rides are typically green and just starting out. I am a calm rider and very good for building confidence in the horse. I am going to a breed show for ponies in a few weeks and we recently made a switch to a very unconventional riding bit for one half-welsh pony i am riding. It is a butterfly low port. Honestly it looks like a kimberwicke with fancy sides. We are only using the rein on the snaffle loop for now but it really seems to have been the magic cure for him. It is actually a driving bit. He is a championship driving pony that is crossing over into the breed division hunter/pleasure undersaddle and jumpers. He is very comfortable in the bit.

    My concern is whether you think we will be severely punished for this bit in the breed divisions. My trainer is a jumper trainer so honestly she is not up on all the latest trends in hunter land. haha We are well aware that it is an unconventional bit as it is not a snaffle, pelham, or full bridle as USEF states.

    I read the usef rules for hunter and welsh. It just gives that vague "non-conventional bits may be penalized"

    So what it your opinion. Is it better for him to move beautifully and be attentive in a non-conventional bit or use his conventional bit and risk him completely ignoring me. (he can be a real handful when he gets nervous or just doesn't feel like doing what I ask of him)

  • #2
    If the bit looks like a KW, it's not all that unconventional and would probably only get you dinged in a tie. They never really "punish" unless it is outlandish, like a hackamore or something.

    As he gets further along in his new career, you can probably find a more traditional look for him. Right now, it's not that big a factor as you start to build good show miles and confidence in him-that's more important then a slight chance of dropping down in the ribbons if you are tied.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks findeight. It is a two loop butterfly (not a 3). This is sort of his added career. He is not giving up driving, just something to help him step up further in the NJ breed shows and keep him going over the winter and other times when driving is not realistic. I know most people would just say use a kimberwicke if the other bit is similar but I would rather leave him with something he is familiar with rather than change everything up on him. He is a very nervy pony undersaddle, afraid of the other ponies (not horses or even drafts, just things smaller than him) and pretty much everything else out there. He is a wuss. I will have to post a picture one day when my home internet is back up. He is very cute, too bad he knows that. haha


      • #4
        If it's a breed show? You can always ask the steward to check with the judge ahead of time if it will be that big a problem.

        Me? I'd just go in with it and they can tell you no if they want. At this point, you are not out for ribbons, just good miles, and IMO it's better to leave him in what he is wearing. No sense adding to the stress if you don't need to.

        But do throw something else in the trailer either way so you do have something to change to. At some point he will get competitive (hopefully) and it might make a difference so you will need to change it up somewhere on that journey. Not now.
        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


        • #5
          Just out of curiosity, have you tried a low-port Kimberwicke? Something like this? It seems like it would work in a very similar way, and for only 19.99 it's worth a try at home.

          I know you said you didn't want to change it, but I think the idea behind both bits is the same. One just may be more acceptable for the hunter ring.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks. i will definitely maybe sure we throw the snaffle in the truck. I rode him last year in it, he just has gotten more and more defiant as he has gotten more fit. His owner said he can get the same way while driving which is why he drives in that butterfly.

            I have a low ported kimberwicke somewhere and we will probably give it a whirl if I can find it. I moved in january and there are many things in the storage space. haha

            I am aware that I can change the bit again to something more than a snaffle but also more "conventional" of course I am not a pelham fan so that will probably never be the solution. haha I am looking to take him out and show him off in the equipment that will work best for him at the moment. i will probably adjust before we would take him to a regular hunter show because i feel we are more likely to be severely penalized there.

            Honestly, I am a big fan of doing what works so sometimes that means not complying to the "standards." I took him to a show last year and got slammed by a judge for trotting him into the first fence. He was being wild int he schooling so I found he settled if I trotted him in. It was an adult eq with baby 18" verts. I figured I was riding most effectively by doing this, apparently I was wrong in the judges eyes. She actually placed me below a rider that dropped a pole clearly due to rider error. I knew I did what was right for this pony so I am happy I stuck to my own philosophies.

            I think when you catch ride and end up starting and putting miles on green, young, or crazy horses (haha) you have to be willing to go in and do what is best for the horse on that day in that situation. I don't mind being "looked down on" or even mildly penalized.

            For this show and this pony, I just don't want to set him up for failure if judges would eliminate him based on the equipment. Thanks so much for all your advice and experience.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Fly_High View Post

              Honestly, I am a big fan of doing what works so sometimes that means not complying to the "standards." I took him to a show last year and got slammed by a judge for trotting him into the first fence. He was being wild int he schooling so I found he settled if I trotted him in. It was an adult eq with baby 18" verts. I figured I was riding most effectively by doing this, apparently I was wrong in the judges eyes. She actually placed me below a rider that dropped a pole clearly due to rider error. I knew I did what was right for this pony so I am happy I stuck to my own philosophies.
              That would get you nailed in almost any class I can think of. Some schooling shows have crossrail divisions with the option to trot or canter the course, but you have to pick one and stick to it. As far as doing it for schooling purposes, go for it! Just recognize that the judge will heavily penalize that sort of thing
              The big guy: Lincoln

              Southern Maryland Equestrian


              • #8
                The bit you reference is actually closest to what we in hunter land would call a three ring (also comes in two ring version) or a pessoa bit - it's not going to be mistaken for a kimberwicke although I personally would still use it if it's the thing that works best and you are only going for mileage.

                Trotting in a course where cantering is expected is a major fault (particularly in an eq class) so no surprise you got knocked down below a rider who had a rail. Judges in equitation have the option to ignore a rail completely if they decide it was the horse's error rather than a rider mistake (and that eval is totally subjective) but choosing the "wrong" gait is always going to be considered pilot error, I'm afraid.

                It still may have been the right thing to do from a schooling perspective, but that's not going to win you any prizes from the judge. They reward the best round, not the rider who does the best job schooling the horse/pony.

                If you get to the point where you want to be competitive, you will probably be able to find a D ring snaffle that has a mouthpiece that will work as well as what you are using now without looking so unconventional. I doubt he'd run through a Mikmar, for instance, but you might find a ported snaffle is all you need. Definitely try to find something more conventional for a rated show; most judges won't use a hunter showing in unconventional tack.
                We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks. I honestly didn't realize i would get to slammed on the trot in t the first fence. I have watched riders do it at this same show (different judges and more than once) I figured that I needed to do what was best otherwise I was going to fly around like an uncontrolled pony jumper. hahaha It was a basic schooling show and a low level division, obviously i would not take a horse out to a rated show if it was needing these sort of miles. Even if I had known before hand that i would have been so strongly penalized, I probably still would have done it to make the pony listen but I probably would have tried to canter in on the second course.

                  I ride my trainers jumper in a pessoa bit and I wouldn't say this particular butterfly is more closely related to it. I know there are some longer looped butterfly bits but this one is pretty short. As i am using it on the snaffle loop, I might also compare it to a very short shanked boucher with an extra loop (which I am not using). I am not trying to pass the bit off as a kimberwicke either. I know what it is and as this judge from the breed show can also be asked to judge appropriate breed driving classes, I expect they will know what it is as well. My concern was just how harshly we might be penalized for non conventional bits. I suppose it is subjective, I was just looking for some advice based on this. I will as suggested work on getting into something else if we are going to campaign him more but this show is very rapidly approaching so I don't want to take him too far out of his comfort zone too quickly.


                  • #10
                    If you're honestly just out there to give your guy miles, I wouldn't worry about it. If you have hopes of maybe getting a ribbon, I'd switch him to a kimberwicke or pelham which are more acceptable.
                    Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
                    My equine soulmate
                    Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding