Were you taught that the bit should be placed in the mouth so that there are three wrinkles in the horse's lips? If so you may want to re-think that antiquated rule, every Mouth is Different......
In some horses the upper and lower bridle teeth are very close, some are broken, others are removed, some don't grow in completely, and some grow right next to the front molar. But in the majority of cases, it is possible to adjust the bit low enough to keep pressure off the corners of the mouth while not allowing it to rest on any teeth. With this adjustment the horse will naturally gather up the bit and hold it in a comfortable place. At first he may chew on the bit and salivate excessively, but if the bit isn't bumping his teeth and he's not forced into a "smile," he'll be able to carry it comfortably.
You'll rarely see any horse impose wrinkles on himself with this adjustment. In fact, with his mouth nice and calm there's no need to buckle it shut with the noseband. The main benefit of adjusting the bit this way (especially with a green horse) is that it eliminates baseline pressure in the corners of the mouth to be overcome when I take up the reins. The weight of the bit and reins is carried across the poll. He can feel what I ask him to do the exact instant I move my fingers or hand.
What he feels in his mouth directs his mind to position the bridge of his nose or shift the angle of his head and neck in the direction we need to go. Meanwhile, the feet and body are shaping up to move forward or backward in response to the direction and support provided.
This is the beauty of the whole thing: it works just as well with a spade bit as with a snaffle. Do less, get more -- a peculiar and wonderful equation.
When you lower the bit on a horse whose experience has been in the ?three wrinkle? school, it might take a few rides before he adapts to the new feel. But, after you do your homework, the pressure required to influence the mind through the body to the feet will be measured in ounces. The lightness, willingness and natural flow of form to function in the horse's body are retained in this scenario. The life is available, the feel is tangible, and best of all, the horse is right there. What a great feeling!
Reprinted with permission of Leslie Desmond. Published in the February 1997 issue of The Trail Less Traveled. Copyright © 1997 Leslie Desmond, Diamond Lu Productions. All rights reserved. http://www.lesliedesmond.com