Tag Archives: equestrian

Let’s Talk About b(It) – Choosing the Right Bit for Your Horse

Since the domestication of horses, there has been a considerable amount of headway on the topic of bits and their practices, usage, technology, and understanding for what may be “best” for each horse.

What was at one point a simple rope across a horse’s tongue has been refined to specially formulated metals to increase salivation. In addition, varying schools of thought on the types of bits and practices used when biting a horse has evolved over the centuries, and the development of Master Loriners (metal workers for the use of bits and spurs with horses) has given access to further knowledge and advanced technology for the development of more complex mouthpieces. Now, more than ever, riders have a virtually endless amount of information available at their fingertips to add to their toolbox to further enhance their understanding of bits and enhance their relationships with their equine partners.

Rotti uses a jointed Blue Sweet Iron Pelham with brass rings to play with and encourage a soft mouth in the Hunter ring

With so many different types of bits available – including assorted cheek pieces, mouth pieces, materials, Curb/Leverage vs. Snaffle, and other factors – it can be overwhelming to decide which one to select. This blog will dive more into the different types of bits used in English disciplines, and the varying types of functions that each are used.

How Bits Work

Depending on the construction of each bit pressure can be extended to 7 different points.

  1. Tongue – The first point of contact when using a bit on a horse, this area will feel the pressure, weight, and effects of the bit being used. Depending on the number of “breaks” or joints on a bit, the size and depth of a mouth piece, more or less pressure can be administered.
  2. Bars – Evolution favored the domestication of horses by allowing a natural resting point between the front incisors and molars on a horse where a bit rests. Most bits will exert some pressure here on the gums at some point.
  3. Corners – When rein aids are applied, the corners of the lips on the mouth where the bit rests against will transmit pressure (depending on the mouthpiece and the rider’s hands, the pressure can be gentle to more severe). This creates a “smiling” effect and where a “wrinkle test” can be done to see if a bit is adjusted to the right level on the bridle. There is always pressure on the corners of the mouth when using a bit, with the exception of a Hackamore or “Bitless” bridles.
  4. Palette – Otherwise known as the roof of a horse’s mouth, pressure is administered via ports for a response. Depending on the shallowness of some horse’s mouths, certain bits may cause irritation and should be used with extreme caution and advanced hands (ie: those with high ports, etc.)
  5. Chin Groove / Lower Jaw – When a curb chain or strap is used in conjunction with a curb bit, that piece will apply pressure to the underside chin groove when rein aids are applied. In addition to creating pressure, the curb strap or chain also prevents the bit from sliding back and rotating too far in the horse’s mouth – particularly for ported bits. Note: It’s crucial to have the curb chain fitted without twists and that two flat fingers can be inserted between the chain and skin of the groove. Twisted chains or incorrectly set chains (going through the bit) can cause damage to the horse’s jaw, bars, and tongue.
  6. Poll – This point is located at the top of the horse’s head and will have pressure applied to it by the main part of the bridle. Generally, poll pressure is known to release endorphins but should be cognizant of how much and how often pressure is used, as the types of bits used to apply pressure to this area are usually for more advanced hands (ie: curb/shank/Pelham)
  7. Nasal Bone – This extremely delicate area along and across the nasal bone area can be utilized via specialty bits (Hackamore) or training equipment that will use various types of nosebands to apply pressure for a desired response. In this instance, you may see tools used like drop nosebands, flashes and figure 8 attachments.

Different Bits for Different Trips

Depending on your discipline (Hunters, Jumpers, Dressage, Eventing, Pleasure Driving, Field Hunting, Etc.), there are commonly found bit types for training and showing in.

Hunters: Known for its upholding of tradition throughout various horse and rider presentation, jump styles, and more, hunters are typically seen in traditional Snaffle or Pelham bits. Currently, many horses are seen in a King Dee Ring, a snaffle bit featuring a larger-styled Dee cheek piece, or a classic Pelham bit, which can feature various mouthpieces and metals such as “sweet iron,” stainless steel, composite synthetic rubber, and more. Unconventional bits such as Hunter Gags, Hackamores, Kimberwickes may be subject to penalty during judging, however may not be eliminated. Occasionally, double bridles are seen in the ring.

Jumpers: While there is no black and white rule for what bits may be used in the ring, you will typically see various combinations of fixed mouthpieces (as opposed to a loose ring which allows more mobility for the bit sliding along the horse’s corners) and various Curb and Leverage bits. When horses are expected to adjust their balance very quickly and efficiently between maximum jumping efforts, certain bits like the Gag and Hackamore allow increased poll pressure (generally encouraging the horse to drop his head) and giving the rider the ability to have an upper hand against the horse’s neck strength for better control and quality of aids. Lower level jumpers may use a Kimberwicke (with a curb chain) or Wilkie/Bevel bit for a combination of light leverage plus a Snaffle effect with the mouthpiece distributing pressure along the tongue and mouth.

Dressage: Throughout the various levels of showing, Dressage is known to have strict requirements of what can and cannot be used for showing purposes. For lower levels, a plain Snaffle bit is permitted. Third and Fourth Levels may use the same Snaffle bit or use the addition of a double bridle (Bridoon) with a curb chain. For FEI tests at national competitions, a plain snaffle bridle or simple double bridle may be used. However, for some qualifying classes and divisions, a double bridle is mandatory. The most common mouthpiece among dressage riders is a double-jointed bit (otherwise known as a Lozenge bit). Different pieces such as rollers, French link, or Dr. Bristol can add play and different levels of control are available in Lozenge bits.

Eventing: When going cross-county, especially over large, solid fences, it’s vital for any rider to feel comfortable and in control of their horse. In addition to making sure your horse has the proper fitness level to balance jumping and galloping over varying terrain. A lot of event riders prefer something with a little more leverage and added control for the cross-country phase like a 2- or 3-Ring Elevator, or Pelham.

Pleasure / Carriage Driving: A lot of driving bits use a Mullen (straight-bar) mouthpiece, to evenly distribute pressure throughout. These bits can use varying ports depending on the level of control desired. Another type of bit seen in driving, particularly with horses and ponies, is the Half Spoon/Half Check Snaffle bit. Designed to prevent sliding into a horse’s mouth, these bits can either be designed with a Mullen mouth or single-joint mouthpiece. The Wilson Snaffle and Coronet Berry Bits can apply more corner and cheek pressure with the different ring set-ups available. For larger horses in Carriage or Team Driving, 2- or 3-Loop Butterfly Bits act as a leverage and snaffle bit combination with the ability to apply more or less severe pressure to encourage the horse to break at the poll, depending on where the driving reins attach to the fixed loop, while the curb chain applies additional chin pressure. Straight, ported, or double-jointed mouth pieces are available if more or less bar, tongue, and palate pressure is desired.

*Note: It is always a good idea to check with your showing or breed registration for the most up-to-date rules and restrictions on certain bits for showing. For example, in hunter divisions, the only bits that are deemed “conventional” and free of potential penalties from Judges are Snaffles and Pelhams on traditional full bridles.

Take a Test Ride

Big Dee’s Tack offers a unique ability to allow riders to “try before you buy,” on various bits here in the store, including multiple manufacturers to allow you to Test Ride some of the most popular bit brands like Myler, Herm Sprenger, and Neue Schule. We have several expert guides on staff to guide in your selection that take the worry out of selecting the perfect bit for your horse. With over 130 bits available to Test Ride, you’ll be sure to find one that you, your horse, and your wallet will love!

Myler Level Best For Your Horse Book And Dvd Value Pack
The purchase of every Myler bit (including Test Ride options), you’ll receive a free booklet and DVD discussing the various levels Myler offers to allow further education to select the perfect bit for your horse through his training.

Words of Wisdom

The key to selecting the right bit for your horses is more than the selection of the bit alone. Training between legs, seat and hands is the most important factor in communicating with the horse. What may be appropriate for an upper-level Dressage rider on a Grand Prix mount will differ greatly for a beginner pony rider developing her aids and steering control.

Often, the problems perceived as resulting from not having the correct bit are usually due to issues in riding training, or could be an issue resulting from a horse that may need its teeth examined and routinely maintained. Some common reactions to an incorrect bit fit, selection, or incorrect hand pressure include head tossing, shaking, “dull-mouthed,” to the more severe reactions like refusing or rearing. Generally, inexperienced horses often have not been schooled to the desired responses certain bit cues requested and may be overwhelmed, confused, or become irritated by severe bits.

Regardless of what you bit you choose, it’s crucial to experiment with bit selection to determine which bit works best for each horse and rider combination. As horse and rider’s relationship, fitness levels, and experience grows, the bit you may need one season could differ from the next, resulting in different needs to address. As always, working with an experienced professional trainer, veterinarian, saddle fitter, and other professionals in the industry are all parts of finding a winning combination.

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Ariat Spring/Summer Apparel

Ariat has always been known for its fantastic colors, materials, technology, and performance in each of their apparel and footwear items – and the latest Spring/Summer 2020 Collection did not disappoint! Read on to see some of our favorite pieces and Pinterest-worthy looks to add to your must-have wish list.

Golden Hour

Inspired by the rich hues of a Sedona sunset, the eye-catching Ariat Tribal shirt pairs beautifully with the authentic Turquoise and Copper matching Cross earrings and necklace set. This ensemble is perfect for a night out after a hard day’s work, completely balanced in feminine touches and fabulous style. Pair the Round Up Bella boots with your favorite pair of jeans for a statement look that goes with any outfit.

Cowboy Up

Who says you can’t work hard and play hard at the same time? Fashioned from 100% cotton, the Jupiter shirt brings a new twist to the classic Pearl snap front button down with its extended arm seam for maximum mobility. Stay comfortable and flexible with the gentle stretch of the Ariat M4 jeans in its sharp dark Indigo wash. The Sierra boots prove you can have function and fashion together in a work boot, with added features like an oil-and slip-resisting sole and Goodyear Welt construction on this square-toed option.

Wide Open Spaces

Bring out your inner cowgirl with this fun, vibrant pairing! The bright, sunny colors in the Ariat Fatbaby Aztec boots are sure to stand out with your equally sunny personality, while the comfortably stretchy mid-rise Ariat Whipstitch Jeans are made to move and groove with you in and out of the saddle. The Ariat Puff Print tee is flirty and fun with its delicate v-neck and breathable cotton keeping you looking and feeling cool while running barrels or relaxing with friends at a bonfire.

Home On the Range

These steel-toed boots are meant for those that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, with its lightweight, composite shank offering the stability and protection needed. The Ariat M5 Legacy Jeans are guaranteed to be your new favorite pair of pants with just the right amount of stretch and iron-clad durability. Whether you’re riding a steel horse (or an actual one), this polished look of the Jurlington shirt is perfect from 9-to-5 to date night.

What Will You Discover?

Ariat has been a long-standing favorite among our customers and Big Dee’s Family, for good reason. It doesn’t matter your age, riding discipline, or whatever lies ahead on your daily adventures, you will be sure to find something to love!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Those Little Moments

I have always been horse crazy – and I am incredibly fortunate to have family that supported (and continues to support) that passion; from my grandmother teaching me horse colors on my toys, to my parents who gave me every opportunity they could to be around horses. My “horse crazy” has never gone away. Through the years, I’ve had some incredible experiences that both inspired and humbled me in the equestrian world.

Wizard’s Baby Doll “Roxy”

Like most great stories of “I knew someone, who knew another person”, that’s how I not only got to meet Roxy and her owner, but also was allowed a very brief ride.

I used to work my 4H horses every day, and a kind neighbor who enjoyed watching me ride reached out to me about a “famous horse”. She offered to take me to meet this horse because the owner was a family member – and she was willing to share this privilege with me! Of course I jumped on the opportunity, and not long after, I got to meet the legend that is, Wizards Baby Doll. Roxy accomplished so much in her lifetime with trainer Stacy Westfall, but the most known was her win in 2006 at the All American Quarter Horse Congress for Freestyle Reining.

Her owner was incredibly kind to not only take time out of his day to let me fangirl over Roxy, but to also let me hop on. She was a kind, calm mare that really just wanted to graze but allowed me shuffle around a bit and smile for a picture. Those few moments with her felt timeless, and really gave me a push towards wanting to learn more, experience more and go outside of my comfort zone..

As most of you know, Roxy tragically passed away in 2012. I met Stacy years later and reminisced about Roxy.
Afternoon Deelites/Popcorn Deelites

Through my years of riding, making barn friends and drooling over beautiful horses – I found myself “owned” by a scrappy senior Off-Track Thoroughbred. I discovered his sire, Afternoon Deelites, a Graded Stakes winner with earnings over one million in his race career, was at Old Friends in Kentucky! Bonus, another relation, Popcorn Deelites, one of the horses that portrayed Seabiscuit in the movie, was also there!

I can’t emphasize enough how incredible Old Friends and our fabulous tour guide was. When I mentioned I would love to meet both Afternoon Deelites and Popcorn Deelites, her eyes lit up and she went on to give us more than the standard tour. It turns out that Afternoon Deelites has the same charismatic and playful personality as his son. They could have also been twins!

You might recognize Apache (left) as he’s modeled for Big Dee’s in the past! Afternoon Deelites (right) passed his good looks and quirkiness onto Apache.

Popcorn Deelites was far more easy going but just as handsome. Popcorn was used for the breaking from gate and race scenes in the Seabiscuit movie since he was a natural sprinter. The visit to Old Friends was remarkable on it’s own, but meeting two horses that held a sort of sentimental value to me made it that much more special. To be in the presence of a superior race horse and a movie star made me appreciate all that off-track horses have to offer us.

Cinderella Horse

While I never got to meet the “Cinderella Horse “, better known as Snowman, I did get to meet Harry de Leyer. I have never been a Show Jumper, my riding career has mostly been rooted in Dressage, but I knew there was something to learn from Harry. In all honesty, I just listened to him tell his stories. I didn’t know the full Snowman story until I read the book, but hearing the memories recounted in person was fascinating and truly humbling to be sharing the same space with Harry. I wish I could have listened for hours, but we unfortunately had to part ways. He left an inspiring note that I like to look back on when I’m having a hard day – whether it be a hitch in progress for my goals or a bad ride.

Over the twenty plus years I’ve been around horses, I’ve realized one really important thing – there is always room to learn more, you never know everything. Roxy encouraged me to take lessons to improve my riding ability, Afternoon Deelites and Popcorn Deelites proved to me that racehorses are capable of so many great things after their racing careers and Harry taught me the patience to listen, absorb, and learn. Those little moments with each role model helped shape me into the equestrian I am today.

Who have you met (horse or equestrian) that inspired you?

Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie

Winter Woes – Keeping Your Horse Clean (and Healthy!)

My horses LOVE to roll in mud, and it is especially muddy in their winter paddock (thanks Ohio). So every morning they go out relatively clean, and every night they come back in various shades of mud. Sometimes if I’m really lucky (insert eyeroll) there’s a little bit of precipitation and that mud really burrows into their winter coats.

While the majority of their body stays mostly clean thanks to their turnout sheets, I have some really messy legs and necks to deal with. Keeping them clean isn’t just for looks, it’s also for their health. Mud is just a mixture of water and earth (soil, organic matter, etc). That means that the slop out in the paddock is a thriving breeding ground for all sorts of nasty bacteria. That bacteria can find its way into your horses hooves (thrush), onto your horse’s skin (Rain Rot and Scratches) and even infect any open wounds. Doing daily body checks and regular grooming is the only way to help prevent possible skin problems, and even then, it might not be enough. Treating the problem before it gets out of hand can save both time and money.

My Grooming Process
Make sure you clean your grooming tools often – dirty brushes won’t help you get a clean horse!

Step 1 – Mane & Tail
I always start with the mane and tail using my trusty Cowboy Magic Detangler and gloss it over generously. I like using brushes for this rather than combs – like the Oster or the Mane and Tail Brush. These allow me to glide into the hair without pulling strands out, and really makes quick work of cutting through the tangles and dirt. The Detangler also conditions the hair while repelling dirt and dust.

Detangler is a must-have in my barn! Not only does it help speed up the grooming process, it also helps stop hair breakage and adds a nice shine.

Step 2 – Cutting Through All that Dried Mud
Next step is getting all of the big chunks of mud off with a simple Rubber Curry. It’s gentle and conforms to their body so I can really work into the mud spots, without fear of digging too roughly. After the big chunks are gone, I go back in with my Wahl Stiff Body Brush and work more of the dirt out. Next up is probably my favorite barn tool invention – the Epona Tiger’s Tongue! This little sponge might look deceivingly small, but once out of the package, it turns into a fabulous multi-use tool. I prefer to use it dry, and it helps pick up the last little chunks of dirt and dust. It’s gentle and functional enough to use it all over – head, neck, body and legs!

Helpful tip – it’s a lot easier to clean off dried mud than fresh, wet mud. If you aren’t in a time crunch, wait a little for the mud to dry, then start grooming.

Step 3 – Out with the Stains, In with the Shine
After the bulk of mud and dirt it gone, I go in with a waterless shampoo. My go-to is Cowboy Magic’s Green Spot Remover, but I also love the new Argan Oil Waterless Shampoo as well as Showsheen Stain Remover. I spray generously in particularly dirty looking or stained areas, then let it sit. While it sits, I clean out hooves with my favorite hoof pick – the Combo with a Brush! Talk about a deal;  for only $1.75, this sturdy little pick scrapes out the dirt then can go in and brush out the sole. After the hooves are picked, I go back to the dirty spots I sprayed earlier, and wipe away with a rag. Just like that, the staining and dirt it gone, leaving a soft, bright grey underneath.

A grey owner’s constant struggle – poop stains! With a good spot cleaner, a rag and a few minutes of your time, that stain can be removed!

Step 4 – Final Touches
Now that the majority of the of the body is cleaned, I go back in for coat conditioning and a quick brushing from a soft brush. My all-time favorite coat conditioner is the EQyss Avacado Mist – not only does it smell amazing, the second it’s sprayed on the coat, you can feel it work into hair. Conditioning the coat after cleaning help moisturize and reduce hair damage – and it also helps if your horse sometimes gets “zapped” by blanket static. An honorable mention in my grooming locker is also the Tenda Sheen – I usually keep this handy for a quick shine and it smells refreshing. When using a post-groom conditioner or shine, I spray onto the coat, then spray onto a cloth. I use the cloth on the face so I can easily shine up gently. I always take care around the eyes, but also wipe down the jaw, ears and muzzle.

You can’t go wrong with a good stain remover and conditioner!

Step 5 – Treatment and Prevention
If at any point along those steps I find a wound, scrape, signs of thrush or a skin condition, I have a locker full of treatment and prevention options! My most essential item during the mud season is Kopertox – I use it for both prevention and treatment of thrush. It is a little more than other brands, but it definitely does the job – and quickly! It can be a little intimidating to use, it stains very easily (let’s not even talk about the smell) but there are ways to make it easier. I actually pour my Kopertox into a spray bottle which helps me get the entire sole and pinpoint certain areas with relative ease.

It’s always a good idea to have a few first aid and skin/hoof care products on hand!

If I notice any wounds, I will first clean them up (usually with either just water if it’s a scrape or a diluted iodine solution if it’s a little bit deeper). I like having two different types of wound treatment on hand – something in a cream form, like the Banixx Wound Care, and something in a spray form like Vetericyn Plus. I like using the Banixx for easy to reach and small scrape wounds. It helps soothe and heal the skin while protecting it. The Vetericyn is perfect for hard to reach areas and bigger wounds. A simple spray and protected!

Last, but not least, my favorite skin condition product to use is the Coat Defense. It comes in two forms – Paste and Powder. The paste is perfect for clearing up fungal and bacterial problem areas. I use it on my gelding’s hind legs as both a prevention (in the mud season) and a treatment (in the Spring when they get a little bit of dew scald from the grass). The paste continually dries out, and since bacteria thrives on moisture – it keeps working well after applying.

Coat Defense Paste is easy to apply, simply scoop a chunk with your finger and wipe on. It works in the cold and heat without issue or hardening.

The powder form works fabulous as a grooming tool and treatment for larger areas. It’s very easy to shake on, then with your fingers or a curry, work the powder into the coat. The results are immediate! A clean, fresh coat, and no dirt! The powder works great for my horses in the summer months when they sweat in the heat and humidity, a little bit of powder on the forehead – problem solved! It’s also a great way to help treat rain rot and other fungal/bacterial skin conditions in the muddy season.

The results are immediate with the powder! It help keep horses “fresh” when bathing might not be an option in the cold months.
Conclusion

Having the right tools, supplies and awareness can help make the gloomy season easier to bare. Simple body checks and grooming habits will make sure your horse is comfortable while enduring the rain, wind and mud – and though it may seem never-ending, bright sunny skies are just on the horizon!

Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie Huprich

How to Keep Your New Years Resolutions (and Not Drive Yourself Crazy)

With the arrival of a new year, and a new decade, I’ve wracked my brain over the final days of 2019 to figure out, “What do I need to do to become a better me?” especially when it comes to time at the barn.

Year-end reflections can be a daunting thing… So making a list of what went will and what you hope to avoid for 2020 will make your goals that much more attainable!

If you’re anything like me, a busy, working adult trying to keep the career, bills, riding, sleep – oh, and MAYBE a social life – all in check, you know how overwhelming and chaotic it can be. Add owning a horse into the mix, let alone trying to find time to ride in between managing shots, deworming schedules, farrier bills, massage appointments, Reiki sessions (because Millennial) and it’s downright exhausting. To be honest, there are days (or weeks) that go by that I do so much FOR my horse that I don’t actually get to spend time WITH my horse!

This is Rotterdam, or “Rotti,” my 2010 Westphalian gelding. He’s a total chunk and a total HUNK!

So on January 1, I made a list of New Years Resolutions of all the bad habits I will break…. and within the first week of the new year I broke them. And I realized, instead of putting myself under all this pressure and stress (with a side of lingering guilt) why not put my energy into making a list of the things I WANT to do and a list of things I absolutely DO NOT want in 2020 that keep me from enjoying myself at the barn.

So here’s the list I came up with:

  1. Ride at least 3 times a week, including 1 lesson
  2. Get smart! Read up to become a more well-rounded horsewoman (like this one for my fellow English riders!)
  3. Attend at least 2 clinics – whether an auditor or a participant
  4. Submit my application for the 2020 RRP Project (Retired Racehorse Project)
  5. Get measured and order a pair of custom boots. I’ve been dying to get a pair of custom DeNiro’s for years to replace my current tall boots and would love to do something crazy like a patent leather toe and boot crown!
  6. Ride in the Cleveland Metroparks or on the beach at Lake Erie!
  7. Groom for one weekend at the Chagrin Hunter Jumper Classic
  8. Attend one show every season (winter, spring, summer, fall)
  9. Be a better boarder – if that means being 5 minutes early for my lesson, bringing my farrier a heating pad when he’s stuck putting shoes on in subzero temperatures, and being a positive role model for the younger girls that ride with me.
  10. HAVE FUN!
On the list for this year is to get measured for custom DeNiro tall boots! Even though I know these are by no means acceptable in “Hunter Land,” I LOVE the patent accent at the top combined with the sleek, dress boot design.
Janet Foy is one of my favorite horsewomen of all time! Her no-nonsense and easy to understand explanations and diagrams in this book are perfect to apply to any sort of riding.
The Chagrin Hunter Jumper Classic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio is one of my most looked-forward to equine events each year. As a competitor or a spectator, watch the action unfold July 2 – 12, 2020!

I think whatever your goals are for the year, whether you’re an active participant in any discipline or the World’s Best Cheerleader, it’s important to be mindful of the time you spend. So often, we get stuck in the daily routine – and while it’s comforting – it can also be limiting. Growth and positive change never happens by standing still. It doesn’t matter if your goals are riding once a week or qualify for Washington International Horse Show or cleaning that moldy bridle that’s been sitting in the corner of your basement.  Just give yourself something to shoot for, write it down, and GO DO IT!

So relax. Hug your horse. Trust you’re doing the best you can. And remember to check in with your inner horse crazy child, to remind yourself why you fell in love with these amazing creatures in the first place.

What’s on YOUR list to make 2020 your best horsey-year yet?

Enjoy the ride, Colleen