MYLER BITS and the Dressage Bitting Rule Changes
A huge step
forward in bitting updated March 23rd, 2017
updated March 23rd, 2017
The FEI and British Dressage recently added the following Myler mouthpieces (on acceptable cheeks) to their list of permitted snaffles:
· MB04 Low Port Comfort Snaffle
· MB06 Ported Mullen Barrel
· MB36 Forward Tilted Barrel
On the double bridle front, they also passed the first 3 above – the MB04; MB06 and MB36 - as bradoons, as well as the MB02 Comfort Snaffle and the MB32 Mullen Barrel.
Also now added to the rule book is what is termed the “Myler Weymouth”. High and low ports were submitted and the principle which has been accepted is Myler’s special Independent Side Movement on a Weymouth mouthpiece.
These changes are immense in terms of the advance in horse welfare and performance. They are also unprecedented in that a specific brand of bit has been mentioned for the first time in the rules.
(NB: The FEI also list the MB33WL (wide low) as a snaffle. This is a lower port version of the MB33. This was designed for the US market when the US Federation allowed ported snaffles with a particular height limit. Now the regular height MB33 is permitted we see no need to stock the 33WL in the UK, a view which is supported by Dale Myler.)
Myler Bitting System was invented by 3 American brothers, who were looking for a gentler, more effective way of communicating with horses.
Comfort and Welfare
The Myler Bitting Philosophy is based on making the horse as comfortable as possible in its mouth, so it can be relaxed and concentrate on what its rider is asking it. As all horses are different in their anatomy, disposition and behaviour, and as their needs change throughout their training, there are 30 different Myler Bit mouthpieces and a wide choice of cheek styles, to make sure that there is a suitable choice of bit for each individual horse and its rider.
Part of the Puzzle
No bit will hurt a horse on its own without someone hauling on the reins. Equally, no bit will train a horse, or make up for impatience or poor riding. Effective bitting is only part of the whole approach to good horsemanship, but just like every other part, it needs careful and informed attention. The Myler Bit range enables the rider to choose the most comfortable bit with the clearest signalling action for each individual horse, so the communication between horse and rider is as smooth, effective and efficient as possible.
Not being able to talk, horses are able to communicate with us only by resistance or relaxation. The main reason horses resist bits, in whatever way, is to escape the pressure on their tongues, which prevents swallowing, (try pressing your finger onto the centre of your tongue and trying to swallow).
Generally, bit pressure works on the tongue and the bars (and the head in some cases), to control and train the horse. Most bits, and definitely all snaffles, roll down into the tongue to a certain extent (depending on the cheek style used), when the rider exerts rein pressure. The main differences with the Myler system are:
a) that the pressure is as comfortable as possible and non-damaging and there is more tongue room to allow swallowing. (All mouthpieces are curved, some have ports, and they have barrels, or sleeves, covering the joints, to prevent pinching and to produce more of a "wrap" feel rather than the nutcracker action on the bars given by most snaffle-type bits);
b) that the horse is rewarded by the pressure being released more effectively when he does what is asked (eg. brings his head into the desired position);
c) that the independent side action (see below) allows a much clearer signal to the horse;
d) that the most appropriate bit is used for each individual horse at that specific period of his training.
Slotted Cheeks, or "Hooks"
Most of the cheeks are available with hooks, (like slots), to fix the position of the bridle and the reins on the cheek ring of the bit. The top hook (for the cheek pieces) does precisely what the fulmer, or full cheek, does when used, (as it was designed to be), with leather keepers. - It stabilises the bit inside the horse’s mouth and holds it off the tongue when the rider is not applying pressure. When used, the rein hook allows the rider to get more leverage, exerting pressure on the tongue as the bit was designed to do, - but more efficiently, - so less pressure is necessary. In this way the backward pressure on the horse’s mouth is less severe and/or prolonged. It also allows a little pressure to be applied to the poll. The hooks, therefore, allow the bit to be used as it was designed to be, but more effectively, more gently, and with instant release for the horse as soon as it does what has been asked of it. This will also help the rider to have quieter hands.
Independent Side Action
Most Myler Bits have independent side action, wherein one side of the bit moves without the other, using the barrel as a pivot. This gives a clearer signal when turning or working a horse that is stiff on one rein, or when lifting a shoulder on a bend, as it allows that side of the bit to be activated, without at the same time driving the centre joint down into the tongue, as happens with an ordinary snaffle.
Myler Combination Bit
The Myler Combination Bit is one of the kindest bits available. It spreads the rein pressure exerted by the rider over several different areas. Initially, it acts on the nose; poll and back of the jaw, with the mouthpiece "floating". 1/3 of the total pressure will be felt in each of these three areas. Only if the rider continues to pull on the reins will the mouthpiece engage, as it moves up against a little "stop" on the cheek ring and activates on the tongue and bars like a "normal" mouthpiece. At this point, the pressure exerted by the rider is spread over 5 areas - nose; poll; jaw: tongue; and bars. The Myler Combination Bit is available in 5 different mouthpieces and in a short, medium and a long shanked version. It is particularly suitable as the first bit for a young horse, which will be used to head-pressure signals from being led in a head collar. It is also a great bit for horses who are very nervous in the mouth; ex-racehorses who have been trained to "run into their mouths" and are reluctant to come into a schooled-horse outline; and older horses who think they know it all and will benefit from a very different feel in the communication they receive from the rider.
Levels of Training
Rather than just using one bit throughout your horse’s working life, the Myler system is progressive and different bits may be required as your horse moves through his training. The bits are rated according to the horse’s level of training:
These bits are designed for the young horse beginning training, where basic obedience is being asked for (eg. trot to walk, walk to halt, etc.) and where few of the body aids are understood. Level one bits use tongue pressure, bar pressure and, depending on the style of bit, some curb or poll pressure, but all are designed to release pressure on the horse’s mouth and head when he does as he is asked.
These bits are for horses with a basic training, which are progressing in a certain discipline, with some degree of balance and collection. At this stage the rider wants to refine and define his aids for more precise work while still using the tongue to a certain extent.
These bits are designed for more "finished" horses from whom quite a high degree of collection and athleticism is expected and who have a comprehensive understanding of all the aids. Mouthpieces at this level give more tongue relief, working on the bars more than the tongue, depending on the horse’s disposition.
The Myler approach is that you allow a horse more freedom gradually as he progresses through his training, rather like gradually allowing a child more and more responsibility as he matures. The Mylers point out that we do not communicate and interact with a small child in the same way we do with a teenager, or indeed another adult, so why should we seek to use the same communication tool throughout our horse’s training? Most snaffle-type bits are level 1, and if a horse is resisting a traditional snaffle, there is not much point putting him into a Myler level 1 bit, because it will act in a similar way, (albeit more comfortably). The horse is probably trying to communicate that he needs more tongue room, so a level 2 or 3 bit, depending on what stage he is at, would probably be more suitable.
It is vital that horses are bitted individually for their specific needs. All Myler Retailers are trained to be able to help their customers select the most appropriate bit for their particular horse; further advice is available through Belstane if required. The Myler's book "A Whole Bit Better" is a good, straightforward read, with lots of information on how bits work in the horse’s mouth in general, and about Myler Bits in particular. It costs about £10 and really does help to identify what a horse is trying to tell us about the bit in his mouth. A video of the same title is also available. This covers a comprehensive seminar given by Dale Myler, includes interviews with top riders, drivers and trainers from all disciplines; and uses detailed graphics to explain the principles of good bitting.
The Myler Team
The Myler Team UK was formed in 2002 with a group of well-respected horsemen from across all disciplines, both amateur and professional, including both top and up-and-coming junior competitors. The Team members are all enthusiastic proponents of The Myler Bitting System and are working with Belstane to promote better understanding of The Myler System, and, indeed, bitting in general.
Team Members include Christopher Bartle; Nicky Barrett; Jeanette Brakewell; Beccy Broughton; Gary Docking; Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks; Richard Maxwell; Bob Mayhew; Robert Oliver; Nick Skelton; and many others.