Until August, he had been going in a Micklem with an eggbutt french link. I briefly tried a nathe that he was pretty soft in, but JT didn't love the idea of him in that bit, so he's been in the french link since then. We switched him out of the Micklem after the end of August when his constant mouthing caused a rub on his chin from the piece of leather that goes under the buckle. He did seem much happier in the plain cavesson, so I had been thinking about buying him one that actually fit his face because the Bobby's Tack bridle I threw him in was definitely not sized for his face (highest hole on cheekpieces and noseband, too tight in the browband), but fortunately had not bit the bullet yet.
He's generally a pretty sensitive horse and has excellent brakes even though he is also nicely forward. But he would really like to hang on the contact rather than truly soften to it when asked to bend and lift. So one day JT suggested trying him in her horse's bit/bridle combo. It is a HS NovoContact Double-Jointed Eggbutt bit in a PS of Sweden Pioneer Bridle. The interesting part about this bit is that the edge mouthpieces of this bit are rather flat front to back. This makes it soft when they are soft, but when pressure is applied, the mouthpieces rotate a bit to give it a subtle edge.
Smart Pak's description of the bridle: The PS of Sweden Pioneer Bridle features a classic noseband redesigned. The pioneer has a drop noseband that offers unsurpassed comfort for your horse and also modern styling. Thanks to the cross-sectional design, the cheek pieces are kept away from the eyes and the jaw strap is extra padded for increased stability and comfort. The noseband has rawhide on the inside to hold its shape away from the sensitive nerve endings of the nasal bone. It also features a built in soft pillow to increase the noseband's stability and is decorated with a white seam. It closes easily with the padded pullback strap featuring a ring for greater freedom of the jaw, and an easy on/off snap that is easily removed. This bridle is recommended for horses that are young or inexperienced, need extra support and stabilization, or tend to travel inverted. Reins not included.
And after mouthing the bit for 2-3 minutes, he got quiet in his mouth. It wasn't angels singing magic of softening and bending while I sat and did nothing, but it was much quieter. I rode him in that combo a few more times before deciding that this would be worth the investment because he did feel much more comfortable. I asked JT which was the more important piece to find first and she said the bridle actually seemed to make the most difference.
It took a bit of hunting to track down a cob sized black bridle, but I eventually found it direct from the PS of Sweden website (although now it isn't even listed on the website at all!). The bit was easy to find at Dover. Smartpak is my usual go to, but they didn't have the 5" in stock. The bit came in first, so I set it up in my standard cavesson. He seemed quieter in his mouth, but did actually lean on it a bit more than without the PS of Sweden bridle. Odd, but again JT knows what she's talking about.
Once the bridle came in, I oiled it multiple times with the tiny sample conditioner they sent. Then struggled at reassembling it, but finally got it back together properly. The range of adjustability on these bridles is definitely much smaller than in most other brands, so it is pretty important to get the sizing right. JT made some small tweaks to it after I set it up, she recommended the two cheekpieces be parallel. In the noseband/jaw strap there are 3 different areas that can be adjusted - the jaw strap, the noseband, and the pieces between the two.
|Not parallel here|
|Properly adjusted here|
Now that it has been in use since we schooled at FHP, he has a complaint about the drop noseband. I'm not sure what it is because I can't find a rubbed spot, but as I go to do it up he flips his nose each time. It may honestly be pulling/trapping his whiskers, because I got the same reaction when I test pulled on a few whiskers... I'm not sure how we'll address this one. I have been tightening it to the point where I can slide two fingers underneath of it still, so I don't think it is overtightening. He does feel mostly fantastic in the combo though and usually produces a soft white foam on the bit. I'll continue brain storming on the noseband and testing out different ways to adjust it. In the mean time I do enjoy looking at his face more in this bridle than I did in the poorly fitted Bobby's Bridle. And fortunately I sold the micklem, the bobby's bridle, a sheet I'd hardly used, and a few other random things on FB marketplace, so I didn't end up actually "spending" that much on the new bit/bridle.
Dressage saddle woes up next...