Stop Blaming Your Bit

Stop blaming your bit.

Your bit has a bigger impact on the clock if you are in the approx 7-8% of elite riders that have a honed feel to the most minute pressure, but for the rest of the 91-92% of us in barrel racer land, there are a lot of other factors that are a more likely culprit to your end time on the clock.

How dare I suggest that a bit doesn’t play a critical role in whether you win a barrel race or not?  Well I have some facts on my side to back me up.  Here is a FACT – you don’t need an expensive bit to win a barrel race.  The price of your bit won’t make you a winner (and an expensive bit is going to eat up entry fee money).  How do I know this?  Thanks to other article writers who ask winners what gear they are using as questions, the results are pretty easy to find.

Lets take the 2018 NFR contestants and their mounts as a prime example.  Thank you very much to for compiling and reporting on this data, it made it easy for me to regurgitate it.  This info was taken from the following articles, which you can read here:

Barrel Racing Report Nov 20th

Barrel Racing Report – Nov 27th 

Barrel Racing Report – Dec 4th

These prices are in US Funds:  Rider – Bit – Price – where I found it:

#1 Hailey Kinsel –  Combo – $59.95 – Teskey’s website

#2 Nellie Miller – Sherry Cervi Twisted Wire Snaffle – $69.99 – Teskey’s website 

#3 Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi – Professional’s Choice Pozzi Collection Hackamore $93.95 – Professional’s Choice Website

#4 Lisa Lockhart – Simplicity snaffle $59.99 for Louie- Equibrand, 3 piece Elliot gag for Rosa $150.00 – Facebook

#5 Stevi Hillman – Cody Cearley $150 (through facebook) and Kathy James $75 (through facebook)

#6 Taci Bettis – Simplicity $59.99 – Equibrand site

#7 Kylie Weast – Unspecified dog bone

#8 Jessica Routier – Goostree chain snaffle $59.99 – Equibrand Site

#9 Ivy Conrado – Dave Elliott slow twist with a roller $185 on Facebook Bit Auction

#10 Tammy Fischer – Simplicity 2 twisted mouthpiece $59.99 – Equibrand Site

#11 Kelly Bruner – Varies but chain bit of some kind

#12 Tracy Nowlin –  L&W Gag $69.99 – L&W Site

#13 Amberleigh Moore – Ed Wright 3 piece smooth medium shank locked $99.99 – Teskey’s

#14 Jessie Telford – Sherry Cervi short shank twist with dog bone $69.99 – Equibrand

#15 Carman Pozzobon –  Dave Elliott Bits, Spur Up $125.00 – Facebook search

We have 15 bits listed here, the least expensive being $59.95 and the most being $185.00.

5 of the 15 bits are from custom bit makers and 10 are factory made. Simplicity and Elliott bits tied at 3 each, Sherry Cervi 2 and all the rest of the bit makers had 1 bit each in the top 15 of the world. 

What does this tell you?  Well, nothing or everything, you choose. There is no cookie cutter solution, but the 2018 WPRA world champion at the end of the day is winning on a bit that is about $60 new and last years WPRA champion bit tops in at $69.

Oh but wait, next you are going to say, “well those are seasoned rodeo horses, futurity horses are different”.  I’m one step ahead of you:

Paige Jones won the 2018 BFA with a short shank snaffle $69.95, Adrian Bolin won the BFA juvenile with a twisted O-Ring snaffle $69.95.  Cody Bauserman won back to back Futurities in January 2019 in Arizona on a standard pattern with a short shank lifter $60.  He used a rope nose combo in Vegas a few weeks before that $59.95-$89.95.  Molli Montgomery won the Extreme Futurity in Texas with the Kathy James Gag $75.00.  Tiany Shuster won the 2019 Isabella Quarter Horse Futurity with the L&W lifter $79.95.  None of the top futurity horses at the top of the 2019 season won with a bit over $90.00

The most important thing about a bit is not in the price, but making sure you understand its mechanics and that it is communicating effectively with your equine partner.  There are a lot of other things that require a lot more of your attention and focus and we talk about that in depth in the Performance Horse Academy Lessons.

Our body, our voice, our legs, our arms, our saddle all send communication.  You choose what importance to place on any and all of the tools of communication.  We’ve seen the You tube videos. There are gals that can run the pattern bridleless.  Every year I help at a race that has a Saturday night bareback challenge.  3 years ago the winner rode bareback with a halter and ran the fastest time of the whole weekend.

Contrary to popular belief, if you sell your horse the odds of the bit not working with the new person are very high.  If you are built with the same human ratios as the new owner that is a great start, but how much you use your hands is another area completely. The mechanics of the bit in the neutral position and when a bit is active varies greatly with how/where the riders arms are situated and their upper body position and balance.  We talk about this in length with some really cool reference pictures to successful competitors in our Riding Aids Lessons.  The rein itself transfers your energy at different rates based on the thickness and what material it is made of. 

All bits can have success and function if it is comfortable for the horse and the riders arm length allow the bit to be neutral or active/engaged when it needs to be. 

The metal composition can play a big role in whether it is comfortable in a horses mouth or not.  Lower frequency metals don’t transfer reverberation and energy the same as higher frequency. If the horse isn’t sensitive to this, it won’t ever make a difference, but if they are, it can be a constant irritation, kind of a like a high pitch noise, someone rubbing a balloon or nails on a chalk board (insert shudder, I hate that noise).

“You are what you believe yourself to be” – Paulo Coelo

If you convince yourself you need a $300 bit to be successful, you best get to spending your money.  If you tell yourself that $300 bit is the only thing standing in your way, you will make that happen with your subconscious, even if it isn’t a real time reality.  Keep in mind that if you tell your subconscious that as long as your equine partner is happy with what is in their mouth, regardless the price, you can win too, you can make that happen.

Anyone who has ever had to wear a mouth guard or retainer will agree with me on this: 
Too big will make you gag, too small pinches your gums, both options make your brain squirrely and you can hardly see or think straight if either one of these scenarios is going on in your mouth.  This is the same with a horse.  Make sure the bit fits the width of the horses mouth, the horse is comfortable with the metal composition and is happy with whatever makes it up, be it a chain, slow twist, roller, dogbone etc.

If your horse is happy with the gear in his mouth, but you feel you are lacking communication, look for every other possible option (ESPECIALLY yourself) to change before the bit.

Originally published on the Take Time off the Clock Site – Feb 14, 2019