A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Horse Slaughter Debate

Yes, I'm going to touch on it.  As any one with Facebook knows, slaughter has been re-legalized in the US.  My Facebook wall is already filled with the "we need to stop this" type of comments.  Sadly, I'm not sure that's really true. 

Let me explain.

In 2006, horse slaughter was made illegal.  (Edit at the end of article, and thanks to Linda from Facebook for the correction) It is now 2011, and the reduction in breeding horses with little to no value has not stopped.  The reduction in horses being sent to slaughter has not really decreased either, but the market value for horses has.  Instead of shipping horses to local slaughter facilities, horses are instead shipped longer disstances, in just as poor of conditions as they were hauled before, to slughter plants in Canada or Mexico.  Now, I'm not sure about the horrors of Canada's slaughter houses (I'm sure someone will know, and likely fill us all in on them) but I do know that Mexican slaughter plants have much worse regulations for the welfare of the animals.  Things like stabbing a horse in the spine until it's paralyzed are considered 'good enough' there. 

In American slaughter facilities, there were at least some (basic) rules about the standards of death.  Was it perfect?  Oh Hells NO!  But 2 shots (which is still bad) of a captive bolt is much better then 30 something stabs with a knife I think.  But, that's a very small portion of why I personally am OK with slaughter facilities reopening.

You see, what people forget, is that US citizens have some things we can do to prevent our own horses from suffering this fate, IF we are willing to do a bit of work.  I know back in 2005, I could register a brand, and then list that brand as "no slaughter".  If a horse branded in that manner hit a kill pen, it would have to be inspected.  A brand inspector would see that, and then the facility would have to contact me to remove the horse.  Yes, this means that I need a "safety net" fund for any horse of mine I sell, but I would still be able to get that horse out of the slaughter pipeline.  I like the option of that!

The problem, as I see it, is that we don't like death.  Granted, it's an ugly thing, but oddly we accept it in some forms, and not in others.  Humane euthanasia is the best option for a horse with no future, or so many people believe, but lets be honest here: people suck.  Do you really think that we can simply wish for a better world, and it will happen?  No, people suck, and there will always be people who suck, and who care very little about their animals.  With out some form of government (of some type) regulations/laws we will never be able to completely reduce the unwanted horse population. 

You see, we're free to breed horses.  Any one can do it, and it's not hard.  Producing quality horses on the other hand, then training them, fitting them, and screening homes for them IS hard.  It takes knowledge and work.  There's this mentality out there, that you can get a foal, and sell it for lots of money, and so people are willing to try.  Besides, babies are so CUTE!  (They really are, trust me on this one).

So, if there's no way to force people to stop breeding, then there will always be the people who just have to breed, who are completely unprepared for the results.  Horses live a long time.  Horses take a long time to grow up.  Horses take a lot of skill to make desirable (training, etc).  Babies like the one here are not something that just happens.  They are made, with skill, love, knowledge, and attention to detail.

So what do we do with all the extra horses that are created?  Will society absorb them?  Sure, in about 30 years, during which time millions of horses will suffer.  There simply aren't enough GOOD homes out there for all of these horses.  Lets not even talk about the big breeders poping out 400 foals each year, with no care as to their future!  The numbers quickly become mind boggling.

So, what can we do?  Well, we can accept slaughter, that's the easy and brainless solution.  Because it's easy, it's the solution that so many people will naturally want.  No effort on their part, and they can simply ignore the ugly side of the mess humans have created.

Or, we can work to form a safety net for animals of all types.  No solution is going to be nothing but sunshine and butterflies, I'm sad to say.  When there aren't enough homes for an animal, then there needs to be less animals, and that means killing some, in some manner.  We do this with small animals, and even with spay and neuter laws, the public sensibilities changing to embrace altered animals, and the systems in place to destroy excess animals, we still have people breeding them.  And no, I'm not talking about the good breeders here.  I'm talking about "hey, lets have chihuahua/boxer pups!" type of people.

The question isn't "should we allow horses to be slaughtered" but rather, "what are we willing to give up in order to prevent any horse from being unwanted".  Are you willing to pay more taxes?  Are you willing to know that horses die a horrible death?  Are you willing to simply ignore the problem, and become numb to your own love of the horse?  Are you willing to spend money in order to help reduce the number of unwanted animals?  No matter what answer you want, there's something you have to give up, because we simply don't live in utopia.

See, horse gelding clinics are not cheap.  Horse euthanasia is not cheap.  Holding facilities for "unwanted" horses are not cheap.  Horse slaughter though, makes people money, and unethical horse people prefer to make money not spend it.

With all that said though, reinstating slaughter in the US does protect MY horses a bit more then they were before, and for me, I like that.  I'm willing to do what is needed to keep my horses in good homes, even if that is mine.  I'm willing to spend the money to take care of my responsibilities.  Sadly, I can't control everyone out there, and there's a good chance that horses I have sold, will eventually be sold on to homes that I did not check for quality.  That's the nature of a long lived animal like a horse.  The safety features in place with local horse slaughter give me a means to keep my own horses out of there.  Sure, it's a hell of a lot of work, but I chose to make those lives, hence I'm responsible for them, and I owe it to those horses.  I'm glad to have the option to protect my babies back, in some small way.

Correction: The recent bill did not re-legalize slaughter. Horse slaughter never been illegal on the federal level, just in a few states.  See Chapter 149 of the Texas Agriculture Code which makes it a criminal offense for any person to sell horse meat as food for human consumption, possess horse meat with the intent to sell it as food for human consumption, or transfer horse meat to a person who intends to sell it as food for human consumption

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Here's hoping for a merry feast, good friends and family to share it with, and a wonderful safe and happy holiday.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day 11.11.11

Today is a day to show our thanks and appreciation for all those who serve.  With out the men and women who are willing to risk their lives for what they believe in, none of us would have the ability to take so many of our freedoms for granted.

Today, I would like to say thank you.

Thank you to those serving now, and the families they leave at home praying.

Thank you to those whose lives will never be the same, so that mine could be.

Thank you to those who gave their all, and those who fought beside them.

And most of all, thank you to those whose service is no longer blazing in the front of our minds. With out you, we wouldn't be here.

Words can not express the debt we as citizens and civilians owe to you all, but today, we stop to say Thank You.  It's such a little thing, and doesn't seem like enough, but it comes from the bottom of my heart.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good things come to those who wait

I think it all started about January.  My good friend Kris H (not to be confused with Kris K) decided that she had a desire for a champagne version of Scorch.  This lead to a few days of fun "shopping" the pony classifieds, and long nights of horse crazy girl talk.

Well, then she stumbled upon the American Cream Draft horse website, and the classifieds listed there.  Some weren't the best images, others weren't exactly what she was looking for (great driving horses, but not dressagey riding types) and there, screaming ME ME ME, was a picture of a little pale colt.

Now, Kris wasn't really thinking about buying a COLT.  I mean, she and I both own stallions, so what did we need yet another boy for?  But something about this one just screamed at us.

Here's the picture that made us day dream of little champagne drafties:
There's nothing about that baby that isn't just nice.  So, Kris decided that she HAD to have him.  THEN she decided that she would stand him at Iron Ridge (here).  Of course, she really had to talk me into it, and twist my arm all the way around.  (It didn't take much, what can I say).

So, buying him was the easy part.  After that, we had the EHV-1 outbreak, right in his area.  In fact, his mother was quarantined.  Yep, not shipping him HERE if he's been exposed!  That lasted through the summer.  By this time Kris and I are about to pull our hair out.  Once everything is given the all clear it was the end of summer!  Our "baby" had spent most of the year in the Pacific NW, growing up with out us.  So we start looking at rides, and WOW, the cost of fuel, and hence transport, has skyrocketed.  The price had almost doubled from the previous spring.

Well, doing what 2 horse people do, we snagged him a ride to Worlds in Ft. Worth.  That trip takes almost any one right past my place.  We thought everything was good, and were expecting a Halloween delivery.....

And then she cancelled.  AHHHHHHH

So now, it's almost November, and our bay is almost a 2 year old!  How did that happen??  Well, of course we wouldn't give up.  Stephanie got onto a group on Facebook, and began looking for transport headed this way.  She found us something that looked promising.  Kris and the hauler, Kim, worked it out, and while it was higher then the spring haul, the price was VERY affordable.  Basically, the cost of fuel.  I couldn't haul him myself for that price.  Being sane, we jumped on it.

And then NY got hit with a freak snow storm.  Kris couldn't get out of the house to get the payment to the shipper in time.  She asked me if I could, and I said yes.  The next day, my dog gets seriously sick.  I refused to leave him.  But eventually it worked out for Red's ride, although sadly not for my poor Anvil.

So last Friday, we got the news that Red was being picked up, and had loaded onto the trailer.  I don't know about Kris, but I had a moment of panic.  We have been so cursed with this horse's trip, that I was paranoid.  I had visions of horrible accident, and cream colts dieing on the side of the road.

Thankfully, it was nothing more then my imagination.  Yesterday, Kim thought she would arrive in Texas, but an accident, which did NOT involve her, closed a highway, putting her behind.  She thought about pushing through, but by 2am, she was wiped.  We decided to wait for morning, and let her catch some shut eye.

At 6:30am, I got a text "Hitting the road, headed your way".  At 7:34, a rig pulled past my drive.  WEEEEEE!  He's HERE!

Red unloaded like a pro, and walked so nicely into the barn.  He did scream in my ear twice, but a verbal correction was all he needed.  Not bad for a baby that had been on a trailer for 5 days (with breaks and all, but still).  Got him settled, filled his water bucket (twice) and gave him breakfast, then went in to share the news.  By the time I was done letting everyone involved know that he was here, Red was ready to get OUT of a stall.  He had his land legs back.

So, I did some moving around, and turned him out with the geldings.  He was VERY excited to meet the other boys.
The first one to say HI to him, was Leah's boy Jaz.  Mr. Prancy pants there thought the idea of a new buddy was awesome.  He of course drug Red right back to meet HIS baby.
Daltrey though, wasn't quite as sure of the new guy.  But within seconds he realized that this was someone HIS age who he could play with, who also thinks running is pretty stupid.  Ah, drafts!
And then, Red wanted to meet the others.  Boo, Doodles, and Diesel weren't nearly as pleased about having a new guy to deal with, especially a baby THIS size.  From left to right above is Diesel (grey), Doodles (chestnut), Boo (bay), Red (white), Daltrey (red and white) and Jaz (mud and white).  Red was so excited to have buddies, but the older boys were being stuffy.
Boo let him know right off who was the big guy... er I mean, um... Ok, so Boo is the meanest horse here.  This picture is really funny to me, because Boo is all of 14.3 hands, and about 900 pounds.  Compare that to Red, the "little" yearling, who simply dwarfs him.  But Red responded by chomping at Boo like a good baby.
So hey, he'd spent the day next to Diesel, maybe he'd be friends?  Yeah, not so much.  Diesel took his hints from Boo, and tried to be all tough.  Sadly, Diesel is the world's wimpiest horse, and this was about as mean as he could get.  I do love the trailer marks on Red's behind though.
It only took about 15 minutes for them to sort it all out, and these pictures are the "most violent" behavior that any one showed.  Not bad!  Not a single kick or charge in the whole meet and greet.

So, Red is a very happy kid right now, and Jaz just LOVES having 2 babies of his own.  Never mind that BOTH are bigger then he is now.  He's such a good momma!

It may have taken us many long months of waiting, but he's finally here.  Our American Cream Draft colt has arrived, and he's everything we could have hoped for.  He's in his "uglies" and still is rather pretty!  His personality is better then we had hoped for, and while he might not know a lot yet, he's very willing to learn.

And I feel like I should probably explain his name.  Trying to call a horse "Joker's White Russian" all the time, well, sucks.  We hadn't met him (his purchase was made by calling in a LOT of favors to check him out for us) so we really didn't KNOW him to give him a personality based name.  So that leaves colors, right?  Kris and I are both complete genetics dorks.  Red is genetically ee AA CRcr CHch, or Ivory champagne.  But, the ee, means that with out the extra modifiers, he'd be red based.  Now, his name has Russian in it, you know, Red, commies, and all that?  I'm seeing a theme here.

Considering that I'm the person with a white stallion named "Spot", a cat named "Fido" and thought it was a great idea to name a Second Chance horse "Red Rover" well....the irony of calling him "Red" just seemed to fit.  Doing most of our coordinating over texts, emails, and Facebook messaging, well, Red is a nice easy name to type.  AND, I like to have a single syllable name, that doesn't sound like someone else's name here.  Red fit all those criteria.  At first, it was a stop gap name, but in the months of trying to get him here, it seems to have stuck.

All in all, I'm on cloud 9.  Seems the old adage really is true.  Good things DO come to those that wait.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Getting back to Normal

So, losing Anvil has hit me pretty hard.  There's a few reasons.  First, and most obviously, I loved him. Secondly, I have had just too many deaths this year.  Hex, followed shortly by Rowdy.  2 of my cats have gone "missing" (I know, they were outside cats, and that happens, but still) and now this.  And thirdly, because it was so unexpected.

Unfortunately, it's much easier to accept the loss of a 17 year old dog (Hobbes) or a 14 year old Rottweiler with strange medical issues (Calvin) or even my almost 10 year old Rottie mix who had been on serious levels of medication that we knew would kill her early (Rowdy).  Having a dog that is playing one day, and dieing the next is just so hard to accept.

Anvil was never a "do much" dog.  I always called him my sofa dog.  He made sure the sofa didn't move!  But, since he's been gone, it's the strangest things that just get to me.  Hearing the dogs howl in chorus when I come home, but not having his voice in the mix.  Walking into the bathroom, and not having him look up from the bathtub (he did love laying in the tub!).  Or even feeding the pack, and having to remind myself that we need one less bowl.

The hardest thing has been realizing that I only have 4 dogs now.  I've always had a pack, and a pretty big one.  Yeah, I wanted to slim down, but not like THIS.  I was hoping that old age would be the cause of death.  So, instead I cope. 

My friends have been a boon though.  Saturday they all arrived for pony time, and made sure it was FUN.  Ojo, the young lady who owns Melody, celebrated her birthday on Saturday.  She rode Boo, and I must say she rode very well (Since Mel is still on medical leave).  Her father rode Midnight.  I was so proud of Midnight for doing her duty.  She packed him around behind Boo, and even carried him for a few very smooth trot steps.  Such a good girl!

And then, when she was between riders, I climbed on, and rode around.  I found myself smiling, and actually enjoying myself.

Kris worked with Voodoo, and they both did very well.  Nothing overly complicated, just trying out a new bridle, and getting back into the swing of things. 

And Rachel managed to finally keep her husband off Moon long enough for HER to get a ride in.

Moon trucked along carrying a rider for almost 20 minutes before she showed the least sign of fatigue.  At which point of course, she was done, and praised to the hilt.

I have to say though, that I find pictures of her kinda amusing (Moon that is).  Her black areas on her top line make it look like that horse's hip is only 3 inches deep, and like her hip doesn't match her fore hand.  Oddly enough, in person, I was shocked at how nicely she's sized for Rachel (Who's like a million feet tall, and all legs).

Sunday, I decided to hop on Sweetie again.  This time I didn't do any warm up.  I just pulled her out of the pasture, tacked her up, and climbed on.  No ground person, no baby sitting... just riding.  It was Sweetie's first time to do this ever.  She did really well too!  Ok, so I learned that she will walk, stop, and turn left with out a problem, but back is confusing, and right hand turns are simply impossible.  Poor Sweetie is very left hoofed it seems.

But not a big deal at all.  In the past, she'd been using a ground person to give her the reassurance of what that command meant.  With no visual aid, she was baffled.  Her default answer:  stop and stand.  Can't complain about that at ALL!

So that brightened me up a bit.  It was a good weekend all around.  Moose is still acting like velcro, and won't leave my side.  Suzie is better, but is now needing extra attention (she was depressed for a few days there) and Hobo and Sharra are, well, Hobo and Sharra.

But, the best thing to cheer me up is ....

Well, do any of you remember this picture?
That's the little American Cream Draft colt that will be used in the future to help revive 2 rare draft breeds (the ACD, and the SDH).  Well, on Friday, I got this"
My how he has grown!  He also got on a trailer Friday afternoon, to begin his journey to Texas!  I am expecting him mid week, and yes, there will be a lot of pictures of him.

This little man "should" be in his gangly fugly awkward stage, but even so, he's still rather attractive.  We're all so excited to have him here, and to start working with him.

I will begin getting back into my discussion of tack again in the next couple of days, and I promise that I'll over load you all with pictures once Red, the ACD colt, arrives.

Friday, November 4, 2011

It didn't work.

Yesterday, the test results came back.  There was no good news.

Anvil's PCV went from 20 to 14 in less then 12 hours.  He was still losing his red blood cells, and it was speeding up.

I decided to have him humanely euthanized.  My options were to try strange and creative things that wouldn't work, let nature take it's course and wait for him to die slowly, or give him the respect he deserved.  There was no possible positive outcome.  Even a million dollars and the best vets in the world wouldn't have been able to help him. 

I admit, I'm devastated.  We thought we were seeing improvement.  We had hope, right up until the test results came back.  Of course, in the time we waited for the results, Anvil was beginning to decline, and rapidly.

So now my baby boy is not suffering, but I am.  That's part of pet ownership.  We enjoy their lives so much because they are so brief.  They give us so much love in the little time they have.  I will always remember the good times I had with him, and treasure them.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I need a day or 2 (because onions + dogs = VERY bad)

My darling Anvil is a very sick dog right now.  Friday he got into the garbage.  I got angry, but didn't think much of it.  Friday night, he didn't eat well.  I thought "serves you right!"

Saturday, he was lethargic, but he's called "meat lump" for a reason.  Saturday night, he didn't eat well.  I realized we had a problem.

Sunday morning he got up to go out, and stumbled on the stairs.  I thought he's a kluts with hip dysplasia.  Sunday night, he wouldn't even get up, and urinated on the floor.

Monday morning we started testing.  Diagnosis hemolytic anemia.  His red blood cells are blowing up like baloons.  My baby boy is bleeding to death with no wounds.  We began treatment.  Prognosis: Poor.

Anvil began to improve.  He was very pale (gums, inside his eyelids, etc) on Monday.  Over the next few days, he seemed to gain color (in my very biased opinion) and become more active, but he was still a very sick dog.  He would only get up with help, and slept more then anything else.

Last night, he puked all over the carpet.  While cleaning it up, I recognized bits (yeah, gross I know).  Onions.  And rather a LOT of onions.  Jae and I started talking, putting things together.  He had thrown out some left overs, which had  alot of onions.  He had thrown out some onion tops, and he had thrown out food that was pretty much smothered in onion salt, and garlic salt.  We really like to eat onions and garlic here.  Sadly both are very toxic to dogs.

Now with a dog his size, a few bits of onion isn't exactly going to make me panic, right?  Well, it should have.  Seems that it only takes half a pound of onion, or one moderately sized onion, to cause this problem.

In helping to treat his nausea, we gave Anvil some Ace.  Yes, like the horse sedative.  It has some nausea reducing properties, and I happen to have some on hand.  Seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Anvil had a VERY small dose.  He shouldn't even have been drowsy from it.  Instead, it knocked him out cold.  I checked the meds, I double checked the meds, and it was a bit less then what was perscribed!  The anemia mixed with low blood pressure, lack of eating for so many days (well, eating anything that counts) and a limited ability to transport oxygen through his body resulted in Anvil passing out on me.

Naturally, I called the vet.  Of COURSE it's one of the rare nights he's not on call.  So, off to the Emergency clinic we go.  Downside, it's an hour drive, and I have a dog that is completely comatose.  Some how we made it though.

Blood work shows that he's not done trying to kill himself slowly yet.  He's even more anemic then the first time we checked.  Vet highly recommends a transfusion.  I agree.

Anvil needs about 4 units of blood.  He got one at the emergency clinic before they closed for the day.  My wonderful vet called me at "why are people up at this hour'oclock" and we made plans for treating him through out the day.

My vet doesn't often get dogs whose owners will pay for a transfusion, so he doesn't really keep blood on hand (because it expires).  So, enter the hero of the day:

Moose, my adorable Great Dane.  He's about the same size as Anvil, and was more then willing to donate some blood to Anvil.  Ok, maybe he just wanted a car ride, but still.

Right now, Moose and Anvil are becoming blood brothers, and I'm sitting at home waiting for a phone call.  I'm pretty much a mess.  Besides the fact that I love my babies, I also haven't slept in over 24 hours.

If this works, Anvil will recover.  If it doesn't, you will be reading a memorial to him in the next few days.  And in all honesty, I'm not sure I can take that.

You see, Anvil was part of a contract on Suzie (his mother).   When I was given her, I agreed to have ONE litter by her.  We thought all the pups were spoken for before they were born, but my 10 pups turned into 15.

Puppy number 4 was still born, and in a birth sac so thick I literally had to grab a knife to cut it.  He wasn't breathing, so I began puppy CPR.  It didn't take long. Of course, Suzie also proved me right (I didn't really want to have a litter, but had agreed.  And there aren't many well built herding rotts in the world).  She was a terrible mother, physically.  She didn't produce enough milk.  So there's me, bottle feeding a litter of monster puppies!

And, naturally, the wonky pup was wonky.  He had bad hips, bad ribs, and just about bad everything.  I couldn't sell him in good conscience, so I kept him.  He learned to be a truck dog (put on your seat belt) he learned to be good in the barn (no don't lay in the alley) and he learned that he REALLY likes the sofa.

Anvil is now 9.  That's old for a Rottie, but young for MY rotties.  His mother is still herding ponies at 11.  He's pretty much a medical nightmare, but I love him with all my heart.

So if you have time, pray, hope, cross your fingers, or do what ever.  Positive thinking is about all I have left to try.  I'm a bit of a mess right now, and just hoping against all hope that something will work for him.  My baby boy is a very sick dog.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Parts of the bit: The Mouth Piece, wide and thick

Ok, carrying on from the discussion on bits, lets talk about the part that the horse feels most.  The size, shape, and angle of the mouth piece can matter a lot to a horse, and can give very different results.

First, and most importantly, is the size of it.  There are 2 measurements to this, width and thickness.

The width will vary from horse to horse.  Now, I grew up as an English rider, and we have bits in 1/4 inch increments usually.  Since i have begun playing around in western, I've noticed that everything is the same size.  Your horse had better wear a 5 inch bit, if it plans to ride western, or you will be spending a small fortune in custom bits!  Ok, that's my initial impression, and layered with a touch of sarcasm.  Regardless, not all horses have a 5 inch wide mouth though.  My drafts wear 6 inch to 6.5 inch bits.  My arab wears a 4 and 3/4 inch bit, and most of my sport horses sit in a 5.5 inch bit.

If your bit is too narrow, it will pinch the horse's lips, or rub.  If this happens enough times, the horse will have open sores.  Now, any one who has ever worn a new pair of shoes that left a blister, tell me how fast you pulled those shoes off once the blister popped.  Now, imagine just how much it would hurt if you kept walking in them, open blister and all!  Well, that's how a horse feels who is wearing a bit that is too small for him/her.

The best way to measure your horse's mouth is with a section of garden horse, or other similarly sized object.  Mark the measurements out on it (I use tape) and wrap a rope around one end of it.  The rope should be on the 0 inch side.  Slide this into the horse's mouth, and loop the rope over the horse's poll, then back around the hose.  The rope does nothing more then allow you to stabilize the "bit" in the horse's mouth while you get the measurement.

Once you have the "bit" sitting where it should, make sure the 0 side is directly flush with the horse's lips.  Read the measurement, or mark the width (more tape, or a pen, or even simply holding with your finger) and remove the silly looking contraption you just put on your horse's head.

Here's a really bad picture of what the bit measuring contraption will look like:

Now, I highly recommend that you do this when you are alone, with no one watching, and be kind to your horse and make sure their pasture buddies can't see them in that hideous contraption!

Once you have a measurement from lip to lip, add 1/4 inch to it.  That is the size of bit your horse needs to be wearing.  Round up to the nearest 1/4 inch size (so a 5 and 7/8ths mouth would wear a 6 inch bit).  See, you want to have a bit of space between the horse's lips and the side piece, but you don't want to have a lot of room.

A bit that is too small will pinch, but a bit that is too large can gag.  There's a lot of extra metal there, and especially a jointed mouth bit can flex up inside the horse's mouth into the back of their throat.  If your horse is chewing on his bit, then it's probably too wide for his or her head.  A properly fit bit will allow your rein commands to translate more clearly to the horse.  Bobbles on the reins will not be as annoying, and a steady pull will actually put pressure where it is designed to.  Just like we want our shoes to fit (too big feels funny, and too small hurts) your horse wants a bit that fits too.

If you want to know about all the bad things that can happen with a poorly fit bit, I highly recommend this site.  It's filled full of information, and has been a go-to source for me for a long time.

The next measurement that matters most, is the thickness.  "Common Knowledge" says that the thicker the mouth piece, the more kind the bit is.  While that idea is good on the surface, the theory doesn't always pan out for every horse.

Some horses have itty bitty tiny delicate mouths.  For one of those horses to have a nice fat, thick, gentle snaffle shoved in its face makes it feel like it is choking to death.

Have you ever seen a dog get something caught in their teeth?  The dog flips out, pawing and scratching at its face while it gapes its mouth open, and will even fall over in its attempts to remove the object?  Well, that is how a dainty mouthed horse feels with a gentle but thick bit in their mouth. 

It doesn't matter if it is a snaffle or a curb, a solid mouth, mullen mouth, twisted mouth, or what ever else you can think of.  The thickness of the bit needed depends upon the depth of the horse's pallet.

My point here, is that if you're putting a nice fat bit in your dainty mouthed quarter horse thinking that you're being kind, well, think again.  For some horses the thinner option is the more kind.

But your horse will (or should) give you a hint as to how it feels about the bit you have it in.  If your horse is always fussing with the bridle, nosing, rooting, rubbing, etc, or if your horse just isn't listening to the rein commands, then you might have a bit problem.  So often I hear people say that they need to get their horse's teeth checked because of how the horse is acting.  Well, your bit can give similar responses if it's not a proper fit.  Check that first (because usually you don't have to go any further then your tack room).  Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have your horse's teeth checked as well, but some times the answer really is as simple as being too kind.

Now, I'm hoping that some one here knows a method for measuring a horse's mouth for its thickness.  I have never been taught one.  Instead, I just base the bit size on a guess, and change things around subtly as I work with the horse.  Start with my "completely medium" bit, and move to a thicker or thinner one based on nothing more then my gut feeling.

Of course, there are more options on bits then just thick and wide, but rather then type out a whole book, I'll cover more tomorrow.