I took two weeks to trial the Transform from the Saddle Fitter vs the Thoroughbred that Austen so generously lent me.
They are both 5.25" wide mouths with 12mm mouthpieces with 7cm shanks (mouthpiece to middle of the curb ring). They both have 45 degree angles... but in different directions. That's the only difference between the two, which apparently makes a big difference.
Screenshot from the website.
NS Thoroughbred: (from the Neue Schule website) "Does your horse suffer from bar sensitivity? This mouthpiece traces out a subtle convex arc angled forwards at 45° to the cheek shanks resulting in gentle even pressure over the tongue and a reduction in bar pressure. Promoting comfort for breeds such as Thoroughbreds and Arabs who usually possess thinner skinned, more sensitive, angular bars. If a horse is not taking the contact forwards, a thicker bradoon may be employed in order to encourage the horse to stretch into the contact lengthening the neck."
Screenshot from the website.
NS Transform: (from the Neue Schule website) "Is your horse overactive in the mouth? Is he inwardly fixated on the presence of the doubles and not focusing fully on the rein aids? This design is often beneficial for the “short smile” (small distance from the corner of the lip to the muzzle), the busy mouth, tongue evasions or horse’s that experience difficulty in breathing and swallowing when in an advanced outline. The NS Transform depresses the whole of the tongue, much further back, creating larger airway enhancing the horse’s ability to breathe and swallow. An indication of a restricted airway may be a tense horse that is over salivating or even making a gurgling sound. Also beneficial if tongue evasions are habitual as there is a lot less room for the horse to successfully draw the tongue back, push down on the mouthpiece or get it over the top."
It's hard to tell from those two pics, but they are each tilted 45 degrees. The 360 view wouldn't work on my computer, and was a hair difficult to use from my phone. The Thoroughbred is tilted forward, the Transform tilted back.
|Transform on the left, Thoroughbred on the right, both viewed from directly above.|
The horse's nose would be to the right.
I'd been using the Thoroughbred exclusively until I met with the saddle fitter. I was happy with how Penn felt, and he seemed happy too. The mouth fussiness he had originally had gone away, and he was happy to go to the bridle and work.
I tried the Transform, and immediately liked the sense of 'up' it gave Penn. I had read somewhere that the transform was good for horses who like to lean, only I can't seem to find it now. Either way, Penn was not going to lean on my hand whatsoever. He became very fussy in the mouth, but I wasn't sure if he was frustrated by not being able to lean, or unhappy with the bit. More time was needed.
|Penn on a cool morning before heading to a show in summer 2017.|
The next thing I decided was to ride twice with the double, once starting out with the Transform and switching halfway through to the Thoroughbred, then again starting with the Thoroughbred and switching halfway to the Transform. This seemed like the best way to test the bits since Penn isn't always the same horse every day and I had limited time to test the bits. This way, both bits got a shot at the "good Penn" (Penn before we take a break) and the "bad Penn" (Penn after our mid-ride break), but they both saw him on the same day.
Test Ride 1: Transform First, Thoroughbred Second
I started out thinking ugh, I don't like the Transform at all! He's so fussy. He wanted to curl a bit in the walk and then a hair in the canter. I loved the trot work though. Overall, everything was more "up". I swapped it out to the Thoroughbred, and he was definitely happier, but he curled more and didn't want to come up in the canter. I thought this was a 'second half of the ride' problem, so I decided to do test ride 2 for an even playing field.
(Between Test Ride 1 and Test Ride 2, I implemented Charlotte Dujardin's "yeehaw" method at the canter, and applied some rein fluffing that GP Trainer mentioned to another student whose horse curled. Both methods applied together made the canter infinitely better in the snaffle.)
Test Ride 2: Thoroughbred First, Transform Second
We started out and I had to work to get Penn 'up' while keeping him focused and on the bit. He fought me a bit in the TOH work, but was happy enough to do all of his work. We had some great canter-walks, some nice lateral work, and in general, everything was good. I had to work to get Penn up, but I figured that was because he had a lovely school in his snaffle the day before. I swapped out the bits and hopped back on. Penn was NOT HAPPY. He wouldn't lean on the bit, if anything he didn't want to be on the bit at all. I pushed him forward to meet the bridle and gave him some half halts, and he eventually went on the bit in walk. I had eyes on the ground, and I had her confirm my curb rein wasn't too short, and she commented that he was much more up in the shoulder than with the first bit, and he mostly looked pissed about having to work properly. I was able to do both TOH, with less struggle about bend. I went off to trot and WOW. He was way up in the shoulder, very light, and was very hard to sit (yay suspension!). The canter was good- I used the yeehaw to get more sit, and did a few of GP Trainer's collection exercises. I even asked for a half pass, straighten, position the new direction, and then cued for a flying change. He stayed up, listened, and did a change where I could actually feel him step up with the new inside hind and skip into the new lead.
Verdict? We're going to keep the Transform as Penn's weymouth. He's pissed about it yes, but we'll keep working on strength and it should get easier.
A side note, in my trial of the Thoroughbred vs Transform, I realized in the TOH right (and left), I need to really sit on my inside seatbone... like, a counter intuitive amount. When I do that and keep my inside leg timed with the inside hind, he steps wonderfully in the TOH.
|The setup! Now to buy a new double bridle because Mikey's is way too big for Penn's face!|
I'll be traveling to GP Trainer's barn this weekend coming up, I'm just trying to decide if I have the guts to bring the double to lesson! It's just we've never talked about when to switch to a double bridle, and I don't know her "rules" for switching to one. It seems all of her own horses go in a double at 3rd, but I noticed not all of her students go in doubles at 3rd/4th. I'm sure she won't be mad, as she's said, this isn't a dictatorship!