I was able to put in a second ride on both Chewy, Kash, and Kitt and rode Bud in them as well this week.
Here are my overarching observations that one might consider with these bits:
This is not a bit you let the horse just "hang out" in. Some might be okay, but most will start playing with it to some extent and will end up dropping it given enough time. I discovered this as I had to get on and off resetting poles as students knocked them over. No problem if you have a headstall, which is an option with these as well, but just as the jaw bit you don't want to leave them alone with it too long.
It's also not good for grass snatchers and drinking (having to swallow and move feed around makes them push the bit down because it doesn't have anything holding it up). It is also not good for leading unless your horse is SUPER light. I didn't push trying to lead with it because I knew the mechanics of it were non-condusive. If you need to lead a horse either leave the halter on or wait to put on the bit until right before you mount up.
On to the working thoughts: I have been able to use them with four horses at this point, Chewy the Haflinger, Kash the Arab, Kitt the Fjord, and my client's Haflinger, Bud. Chewy was the initial driver since she as the facial nerve that misfires. I know it is the trigeminal nerve and not the caudal, but I figured it was worth the shot at least. She still had some head shaking so that theory is out. She does wear a nose net on her usual bridle, which does help so I'll either need to put on a cavesson with it or put one on her halter. She was pretty good in it, though might have been slightly offended as she hasn't worn a bit in almost a year! There was a good amount of mouthing the first wearing and she dropped it a couple times (see above!). She didn't feel too different from her bitless and I would have to pull out her bitted bridle to see if there is any difference there (takes a double-jointed eggbutt with copper lozenge). The second time she was less mouthy and I was able to trot and bend and turn a bit more. She was wanting to fall in on the turns to the left, but that's more her than anything on her face or in her mouth.
A rare picture of the little mare. Biggest eyes I've ever seen on a horse of any size.
For Kash the first thing I noticed was how QUIET he was in his mouth compared to every other bit I have tried on him (and over 12+ years I have tried a lot of bits!). Yes he played with it a little to start, but he wasn't constantly jawing is as he is wont to do when not actively engaged in anything else (he goes pretty quiet when his brain is engaged). I got two rides in it with him thusfar and I'm pretty pleased with how he felt in it. He was off for other unrelated reasons (stepped on himself and biffed it a couple weeks ago and is still just a little sore), but so far as bit function goes he felt really good in it and it was so nice not hearing "Ka-clack, Ka-clack" and he chewed on his bit. I think it's also pretty hard for them to suck it up into their molars (no scratches, yay!) because of the snugness and the fact that the jaw gets wider towards the molars. Kash also neck reined beautifully with it and he was lovely and soft in it. He's not a very stiff horse in general and tends towards bending too much, but I think he was more responsive because he wasn't so distracted with trying to chew on it as he is with his conventional bits.
The first time with Kitt she played with it a moment, but then was pretty quiet until she got a bit of grass in her mouth to chew on and had a hard time figuring out how to work around it. I didn't do much hard work either ride with Kitt so it's still in the "wait and see" column. I did note she fussed with it a little more the second time, but I did leave her alone with it too. When I picked her up into a trot she responded pretty well with it. She did want to drop her head a bit more, not quite rooting, but not quite an honest stretch either. It'll help if I get the time to put in a "real" ride on her. We worked turn on the haunches and forehand today, which was good and she bent pretty readily.
I wonder with my three if any of the initial weirdness is due to them not working bitted at all for almost a year. I imagine there would have been a more notable difference going from a metal bit to the the biotbane jaw bit and less of an offended "why are you putting things in my mouth?!"
Bud went okay in it, but I think I had some other things going on with him too.
I thought he might be a little lame in his turnout so I took him out to the road where I would have a flat, straight surface that would tell me clearer. The neighbors down the road had some workers in their yard and a big stack of pallets that he was giving The Eye. He bowed out terribly and was sticky going forward and since I didn't have the whip I had to kick, which he was pretty dead to and was pretty exasperating. Once past it and turned around he power-trotted towards home dead-even. I was able to back him off pretty well with the bit and tried getting him the other way again with marginally more success. He wanted to rush home again and I finally picked up the whip and threw on my vest (I like having my vrst when riding on the road). The whip seemed to help since I wasn't throwing us off balance kicking him. He might
have been a little
less responsive than his usual low-port Kimberwick, but it can be hard to tell with him if you don't ride him in two bits side by side. Considering I had to work him past a super scary pile of pallets and didn't have the whip like I usually do he did very well! He came back from his power trot home well enough so that was the important part.
I think the Stark Naked Bit is an interesting option to have. It seems that no one is objecting horribly to it (yet). My horses who haven't had bits for close to a year were more skeptical than Bud who works in a bit all the time, but they all seemed to settle fairly quick so long as they don't have something else in their mouth or are left alone to play with it. I like that it molds easily around the tongue and while the stitches provide some texture there are no points, nubs, or joints creating possible pinch points or poking into the roof of the mouth. It also has a softer feel on the skin than any metal bit could, especially thinking about how this might feel on the bars of the mouth compared to metal.
The construction was nice with sturdy stitching. I also liked that they gave you options for strap width as well as ring diameter for a customized feel for both horse and rider. I went with the 3/4" strapping because I thought that the 1" might be a little too wide and isn't comparable to any bits I've ever used with my crew. They also offer a 1/2" which was narrower than I was wanting for my group.
I plan on continuing to try them now and again and hopefully get more of a ride in on them, but as most of the rides have been while I'm teaching there does end up being a lot of standing and observing than actively riding the horse.