Visiting trainers often leads to surprising discoveries about their favorite gear.
If we’re making confessions, here goes: I’m a bit nerd. I have a small collection amassed through years of owning different horses with various needs. So going into a trainer’s tack room when we’re out on assignment is one of the perks of this job for me. Sometimes that leads to surprising—or maybe not so surprising—coincidences.
A correction bit is one of the handiest and most popular tools among trainers. Whether they’re riding cow horses, reiners, cutters or versatility horses, many say that’s their go-to bit. Last year, while working with cow horse trainer Ben Baldus on an article (“Divide and Conquer,” June 2015), I also gathered information for an Essential Gear to be published in a later issue (November 2015). True to his trade, Ben grabbed a correction bit.
Then, while visiting reining trainer Trey Pool a few months ago for a how-to article on using the fence to help your horse run straight into a stop (“Straight Ahead,” October 2016), I asked him about a favorite piece of equipment that could be spotlighted in Essential Gear.
The bit Trey immediately pulled out of his tack room looked familiar. And sure enough, it was exactly the same bit that Ben said was his favorite. Their reasons were slightly different, but both said the bit works well on most horses.
“Jim Edwards built this bit,” Trey says. “I love correctional bits and have a bunch. Jim had told me to try this bridle for a while, and [reining trainer] Casey Deary had told me to try it. I kept saying, ‘I’ve got almost that exact bridle.’ But I hung it on a horse I was struggling with, mostly so they would leave me alone! I loped down the pen and went to steer, and that horse just folded over and steered. I rode over to Jim and told him I was taking the bridle with me. He wanted [the headstall] back, but I said, ‘No, I want this bridle.’ And it’s my favorite bridle now.”
The shanks are medium length with a slight sweep. The mouthpiece is slightly V-shaped, and Trey says he thinks horses like it because as soon as the rider pulls on it, the mouthpiece moves up and away from the horse’s tongue, and there is more pressure on the bars. He adds that he moves a horse from a snaffle into this bit, often after just 30 to 60 days of riding.
Edwards, based in Blum, Texas, has been designing and building bits for more than 30 years. Trey says the nature of these bits, with their slight imperfections from being handmade, adds to their functionality.
“This bit has enough play in it, and I think a good correctional should have a little bit of play,” he says. “It gives the horse enough pre-signal, so it doesn’t grab him out of nowhere. The mouthpiece is worn just enough. Those good bridles, once they get kind of seasoned, that’s when they’re at their best. The little imperfections give any bridle feel. The more perfectly machined a bit is, the more dead it will feel in your hand.”
Although he can’t pin down one reason this bit works better than many others, Trey just knows that it’s never leaving home without him.
“For whatever reason, every horse gets soft in this bit,” he says. “I’ve got several with mouthpieces like this—a gag, a shorter shank, a longer shank. But someday they’ll probably have to bury this one with me!”