Bits and Bridles

Steve Edwards: These days you can walk into a tack store and you see all kinds of bits, pretty bits, ugly bits, and pretty ugly bits, all kinds of ways, because people think, “Oh, by golly, I want the one that’s pretty. Oh, look, it’s got some engraving right here. That’s the bit that I want, because it’s pretty. It’s got the engraving on it, really makes it neat.”

No, no, no. What works best for the mule? “But, Steven, looks like your bit has got a little port in it right here. It’s got some shanks on it, and it moves.” No, this is not a bit for a mule. Get rid of it.

“Oh, look, Steve. I got a bit like yours, that moves on each side, moves in the middle, too. I’ve never seen a mule yet with a square in the roof of his mouth.” That’s not the bit for the mule.

“Oh, look, Steve. I’ve got a snaffle bit where it breaks in the middle and it bends on each side, and I got some shanks. Now I got control.” You have control but you don’t have refined communication. When you start getting shanks, that means you’re going to be doing less. If you were really riding, you’d ride with a piece of hay twine right here and that’s all. That’s not the bit.

What I have learned over the years, watching these animals, number one thing that you do is you first balance their teeth. You go to a good dentist, get their teeth balanced, get their wolf teeth pulled. Now you’ve got the mechanical out of the way on the mule. Now let’s start building a foundation.

You first go with my Mule Riders Martingale, then you go into the finished bit. My Mule Riders Martingale is meant for two things, for building a foundation, and for fixing problems, because the communication comes from the corner of the mouth. As you progress, in three months, training four to six hours per week, that’s all. Four to six hours per week, over a three month time frame, you then can start progressing from the Mule Riders Martingale over to the finished bit.

By the time you have six months, training four to six hours a week. I’m not saying put that all in a weekend. Spread it out. You don’t have to train every day. Worst thing you can do is train every day. Spread it out. If you train at the first of the month on the fifth, and you don’t train again til the 25th, that’s okay. If you build a foundation that’s correct, the mule will respond accordingly.

You do not have to train every day. What do I use? I found out a long time ago, correctional mouthpiece. Notice how it bends in the center here, back and forth. It just whisks the roof of the mouth. It’s not a cruel bit. It’s a very nice, quiet, easy bit. Notice it bends on the sides, and notice it rust. It rust. Why does it rust? Because this bit has got sweet iron in it.

Sweet iron makes it feel good to the mule, and my shank. This happens to be my wife’s bit, it’s a custom bit. Yeah, we’ve added some gingerbread to it to make it kind of fancy, and this sort of thing. A little silver and some silver dots in it as well, but notice the military shank.

This right here gives me leverage, where I barely pick it up. Notice my reins are nice and light. They’re out. They’re an eight braid, and they’re done out of parachute cords, and they’re done in a round braid.

Notice no snaps. Snaps. Go home, take your spoon, tap on your teeth and tell me how good that feels. That’s what happens when snaps are bouncing on that bit and tapping on those teeth. No wonder your mule is gapping his mouth and throwing his head.

Go direct in there, nice and smooth and easy, have eight foot split reins. Do not tie them. If you tie those reins and it gets caught on a branch or if it gets caught on its legs. I’ve seen plenty of times, plenty of wrecks, to where they reach down to get a drink, they get their foot over top of the reins, you’ve got reins tied together. The animal flips over or knocks you down in the water, it makes a heck of a mess.

I like split reins. You could put a bat on the end if you want. Just something for some weight, but you don’t want a lot of weight on the bit. You want to just be able to just pick up on the bit, and you get results. I use a double wire chain, or a single. I start out with a double and then I go to single, and then I go to leather.

Notice I do not use leather or buckles. I use nylon and I tie a fancy knot in here, just so I don’t have to have leather to have to maintain, and I don’t have to have buckles that’s going to break. That’s my bridle. That’s my finished bridle. Split ear piece. You do not want a single ear piece that makes them always be worried about their ears, so you want a split ear piece, and you want a bit and a bridle to match.

A snaffle bit is going to have one type of bridle, and how the bit is going to hang, and a finished bit like this is, it’s going to have another type of bridle, so that the bit, again, hangs correctly into the mouth. There’s a little bit about bridles and bits.