Something I have struggled with, with Union is what bit to jump him in. It's hard because he is VERY different on cross country at a competition than he is in the ring, and even schooling cross country. I rode him in a segunda for a long time, but with the faster speeds and more demanding questions at intermediate, I didn't have the control I needed.
Last year, I tried a myler combination bit, and that seemed to do the trick. I had to use a lever noseband with it, since he tries to cross his jaw. I still show jumped in the segunda, since his aggression isn't usually a problem in the ring. This bit seemed to do the trick and I loved it, it gave me more control and I could actually be softer with it.
At my first event this year, Union warmed up great, he was rideable, wasn't pulling, and seemed very adjustable. When I came out of the start box, he put his head down and just ran. I could barely steer him and had little adjustability. I had to go pretty slowly to make sure I could set him up for the fences. I was so disappointed; clearly the myler combination bit wasn't going to work.
I went back to the segunda, because at least with that I could keep his head up. This still wasn't ideal and I started looking for other bit options. I talked to Annie at Strafford Saddlery and she said she had some new Stubben bits that I should try. She sent me the EZ control German D ring bit. It has a French link mouth piece that doesn't collapse, rings on the side so there is a little bit of leverage and a curb chain. I was pretty doubtful that the bit would work; the mouth piece seemed so mild I thought he would just run through it.
The first time I used it was just jumping in the ring, I absolutely loved it! Union was very responsive and was cantering much more up, which allowed me to be softer and release more in the air. The pictures Denny took, showed how round Union was jumping over some bigger verticals. I used it a few more times, each time liking it more than the last, but I still wasn't sure how it would be on cross country.
We have had a terribly wet spring and the cross country course was constantly soaked. Less than a week before my first Intermediate of the year, I was finally able to gallop a couple fences just to see how it worked. Union, was nowhere near as aggressive ad he is on course, but still, it seemed to work, so I competed him in it at Plantation.
We ended up jumping clean in stadium and cross country. I couldn't have been happier with the bit! Instead of his usually downhill pull in the gallop he was up and light, and I didn't have to pull and fight with him! With the combination of the softer mouth piece and me being able to release more (because he isn't pulling until the last second), he is jumping much rounder over the fences! I am so excited about this bit and what it may mean for the rest of our competition season.
Thanks Annie! I would never have thought to try the bit without your recommendation!!