I’ve gotten so many questions and comments about Presto’s leather bit, I thought we’d talk about it today!
This experience is my first foray into the world of leather bits. Mine came from Sweet Billy’s Bits (after ordering I figured out that I actually know the lady that runs this shop, small world!) and is the loose ring rounded version.
Admittedly I went for it at first because I was just a little perplexed about Presto’s bitting. I tend to start everything in a Nathe and go from there, and for Presto the Nathe was a bit too thick to sit comfortably in his mouth, he couldn’t quite close his mouth around it. Since that was the case I went for thinner, to a Myler comfort snaffle. I didn’t hate that bit on him, but he was still chompy and hesitant to really go INTO it. I tried a mullen happy mouth (too thick and he didn’t seem to like the rigidity). I tried tongue relief bits, which were a big hell no. I tried Henry’s Neue Schule, because it’s not too thick, but something about that link in the middle made Presto start playing with it and almost fall into a trance-like state where he just couldn’t stop. His mouth was busybusybusy fussyfussyfussy. My trainer had mentioned a leather bit, because one of her horses was very particular/fussy and they went through a lot of bits trying to make him happy before settling on the leather one. For less than $40 I figured what the hell – worst case scenario is that I add to my bit collection.
And while it wasn’t a quick fix, instant rainbows and daisies type of situation, there was no doubt right off the bat that Presto’s mouth was MUCH quieter in the leather bit. After a few wears he also started reaching for it when I bridled him, too, something he had never done with any other bit. He seemed more comfortable just wearing it, at the very least, and was instantly less chompy when he was bridled. After the first couple weeks as he settled into it, he also got steadier in the bridle and less fussy with his mouth. Definitely not perfect, but also a lot better than anything else I’ve tried.
Now that I’ve owned it for a couple months and have gotten familiar with it and how it works, I can 100% see why fussier horses like it so much. It’s got a nice soft warm feel as soon as you bridle them, much different than putting metal in their mouth. It’s super flexible, like you can completely bend this thing back on itself. As you use it on the same horse it also starts to mold to their general mouth shape, taking on a bit of a curve that makes it sit in there like it’s custom. If you have a horse with a larger tongue, fleshy lips, low palate, or smaller mouth space, I think the thinness of this bit also makes this sit pretty comfortably in their mouth.
The only real cons I’ve seen with are two fold:
- It’s only legal for eventing dressage, not for regular dressage. I mean, this isn’t a problem for ME, but it’s a problem for other people. Also for eventing dressage you need the rounded style, not the flat one.
- If you have a horse that chews, they can destroy it.
Naturally, Presto is a bit of a chewer. If you have this issue Sweet Billy’s suggests that you wrap the bit in Sealtex, something I haven’t done in years but am familiar with from back in the day. I ordered Presto a new one last week (because caveat – as the bit starts to mold to the horse’s mouth and takes on a curve, it will fit a bit smaller. I originally ordered his normal size of 5 1/4″ but really he ended up needing 5 1/2″) and this time I wrapped it in Sealtex to try to keep him from chewing on it.
It’s pretty straightforward, and didn’t seem to make any difference in how he felt about the bit. The Sealtex is still soft and flexible so there’s no difference in the action, but obviously it does make it a little thicker. How thick depends on how much Sealtex you use and how tight you wrap it. I didn’t want to go with too thin a layer of Sealtex lest he chew through it immediately, but I tried to avoid going so thick as to make the bit not sit well in his mouth anymore. We’ll see how well that approach works, and I’m sure it’s something I’ll have to dial-in as we go along. And we’ll see how long the Sealtex lasts before I need to cut it off and re-wrap it.
The only other slight con of a leather bit is that it does require a tiny bit of maintenance. Before I had the Sealtex on it, I wiped mine with water after every ride and then used a little bit of oil every couple weeks to help keep the leather from drying out. It’s not a big deal, but a little more maintenance than a regular metal bit.
Overall I’m glad that we tried it, and for now it seems to be Presto’s bit of choice. I’m for sure glad to have yet another tool in my toolbox going forward, in case I encounter another horse like this. Having more options is always a good thing!